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 clichéd 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: