Saturday, April 18, 2015

And they all lived happily ever after ...

And they all lived happily ever after.

Or did they? How is that even possible? They lived happily until she realised that she would have to spend the rest of eternity picking up a trail of his stinky socks and ignore the eye-watering Google internet history? Until he discovered her penchant for lies and her acidic, nasty barbs if she was even in the same room as a gin and tonic? I don’t know. I’m quite new to this romance lark. Yet, I have a book out very much in that genre category. I notice that the vast majority of publishers demand a HEA (Happily Ever After) ending or, at the very least, a HFN (Happy for Now). Black Eyed Boy sits within the latter. But, I did know that I was writing the first book of a series of three so it seemed preposterous to try and tie everything up too neatly.

It has made me think about book endings, generally. When I write horror, I almost always have to have a dismal end. The monster usually wins. The dark power rises and the poor, pathetic human rarely stands a chance. But, that wouldn’t really work for romance would it? People might be upset if I went round killing off the couple that the story revolves around.

Then it got me thinking about some truly abysmal book endings. Once, I was so angry that a book ended with the clich├ęd it-was-all-a-dream theme that I launched that paperback right across the living room in contempt and disgust. You can’t take a reader through such an intense journey and then piss in their face at that crucial moment at the end of the book. No. You just can’t.

The same applies to films, of course. I have lost count at the amount of times that I have felt utterly robbed and cheated by the final scene. I openly wept a year or so ago when I didn’t remotely get the ending that I was hoping for. I had watched that bloody film on the edge of my seat, completely absorbed with the storyline and the main character. And they just let him die. It can, of course, work much the other way. Sometimes I want the bad guy to get away with it. Sometimes I root for the bank robbers instead of the cops. But that rarely happens either. Because of morals, lessons to be learned and a twee longing for the right thing to happen. Law and order must prevail. Even if the cop is a massive jerk.

So, yes, I am a mess of mangled contradictions. Sometimes everyone should snuff it. Sometimes I want it all to be sealed up, nice and pretty with a silky bow on top; no unanswered questions. Sometimes I want it to be open to my own interpretation. I want to have my cake, scoff it, down a bottle of wine and sink down a whisky chaser, with the promise of more cake after that. I want it my way, which is irrational as what I think I want changes, depending on what I am reading or watching.

What do you think? What kind of ending makes you pull your hair out? What do you prefer?

For anyone interested, this was the book that went for a flying trip around the living room:

And this was the film that had me wailing about life not being fair:


  1. Great article. Have to say, I was a mess at the end of reading "My Sister's Keeper". Prior to that I don't remember a book having such a profound affect on me so you can image how I felt when the movie came out. Apparently they said the ending wasn't "Hollywood enough". Are you frickin' kidding me, was my answer to that! They got that one SO wrong!

  2. Stephen King has pissed me off with silly cliff hangers, and I also was not impressed with the end of the Dark Tower series, which showed he had watched the Matrix just before finishing writing it. I think that is the new cliche to the 'it was all a dream one' - it was all a turn of the wheel, in a line of parallels universes, so it all begins again till you find the one that works! GAH!!!! I like the dark horror endings, although of late I have put in hope at the end of some - maybe my writing mood is lifting! As long as I feel satisfied at the end, I'm happy! No matter the genre.

  3. Tanya, I'm so with you on 'My Sister's Keeper'...we watched it, I yelled with incredulity at the TV screen as it finished, and forced my family to sit still while I read the last few chapters of the book to them! I needed the 'real' ending, before I could relax again!

    While I love surreal movies, I generally want my endings tied up, not always neatly, and not always happily, but I don't like to be left hanging, wondering what on earth happened.

    Im trying to thing of the last film that annoyed me, but if it leaves me cold, I forget it really quickly!

    Btw, I don't mind cliff hanger endings, if I know there'll be a or movie, but don't leave me with a cliff hanger if there'll never be anything to follow it up!

    Great post, Laura x