Tag Archives: happy endings

From Hopeless Romantic to Sceptical Cynic to Something Inbetween

When I was young all I wrote was romance. I was obsessed with the idea of love, with the beautiful emotions captured upon the page in a story that had a central romantic plot. My friends would tease me, commenting on how my works always (and I do mean always) ended up with happily ever afters and marriages and everything else in typical Disney story fashion.

And then the years passed. And something inside of me seemed to die.

Hopeless? I’d always been quite hopeful. In many ways it was as though the hope died out. But I suppose four years of college without a single boyfriend made me start to realize…made me start to wonder if I’d been lied to and if there was more out there than a wedding ring on the finger to signify ultimate happiness. And besides, out of the works I’d read in class, it was rare to find one that actually ended with the characters getting everything they wanted. And the few that ended somewhat happily usually were picked apart by my professors anyways.

As a result my works started to become more depressing. My fifth novel I finished ended in utter despair. Dead characters and the protagonist locked away in a mental institution. Part of me felt proud for actually having made some progress. Actually having said goodbye to the naive little girl who’d always written love stories.

And then over the summer I just stopped trying. I’d worked hard on my “senior thesis” a somewhat depressing novel that I had shown to several professors and fellow students for criticism. After having worked on that for so long I needed something new.

So I began working on fluffy romance. Things that made me smile and laugh and feel good again. I’d spent so long during senior year feeling depression build up over the inevitable end of the school year, that it felt good to relax a little. Write things that weren’t serious that I’d never send to a publisher. But there was more than that.

I had a friend who I was sending a few chapters to when I’d finish them. And she made a point of saying something to me one day that struck me.

She told me that my last two updates were both during horrible life moments. Apparently one came in right after her mother’s passing, and the next while waiting in the hospital. She told me “I actually laughed with happiness when my email came that you had updated, because I needed something lighthearted right in that moment.”

I cannot even express how much that meant to me. How deeply moved I was to think of this friend reading my cheesy ridiculous love story in the hospital and smiling.

But that’s the beauty of happy things. Sure, a depressing story might have some great messages in it, or be written beautifully. But happy stories have the power to make people’s lives better.

With this in mind I decided I might rethink the depressing college novel if I ever get started on it again. Because I know now that while there is value to a story that has tragedy and sorrow…there is also beauty in a story that helps other people remember to smile. I don’t think writers should forget that too quickly.

 

What do you prefer to read or write? Do you think there are advantages and disadvantages to comedies vs tragedies?

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Digging Deeper

I’ve been in a bad mood all week. Let’s just start with this. I hate sad movies.

This piece that has been a week in the making shall finally come forth. It all began one rainy Thursday night with the supposed delight of watching a movie. It began with The Fault in our Stars.

For anyone thinking this will be a commentary on the movie/book it will not, so if that’s what you’re looking for read no further. Rather, I’d like to make a broader commentary. I also warn that I still only have vague understanding of what I’m about to say in spite of deciding to post a blog about it.

I tried to hold out through the movie. I really did. I played on my phone through most of it, kept whispering over and over again “don’t get attached, don’t get attached” and even tried to sneak off to the bathroom when I assumed it would begin to become truly sad (this backfired and my friends paused the movie on my behalf). I giggled at funny pinterest posts rather than truly immersing myself, and I was fine throughout the film. I proudly sent a snapchat to my cousin of my clean face, no tears in sight. But my confidence was shortsighted. For it was after the film that my true feelings became known.

An attempt to go to sleep proved futile as I tossed and turned. I tried distracting myself, but suddenly to my utter surprise, there were tears. Lots and lots of tears.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a pessimist. I’m critical, cynical, sarcastic. I don’t particularly tend to look on the bright side all the time. In fact I often tend to be the gloomy reclusive depressed type, an Eeyore rather than a Winnie-the-Pooh. I am told to smile more. I have people think I’m hateful and mean-spirited in fact simply because I hide behind a somewhat serious and cold exterior. And I think that’s why negative films and books always have such a hard hit on me.

I need a bit of hope in my life. I need some little bit of light peeking through the dark gray clouds. I cling to the bits I have. And when I watch movies like The Fault in our Stars, I have a hard time remembering that there is any good in the world. It makes me question the realities of life around me. And even more it makes me wonder what could possibly be wrong with me that one movie I paid barely any attention to can make me spend an hour curled on the couch crying rather than getting the sleep I so obviously needed.

I’m depressed. I don’t usually admit it readily. But I am. And it’s hard. This past month I’ve struggled to write at all, only surviving thanks to the expectations of the challenge I’m currently participating in. And this week was one of those “I don’t want to be a writer, I’m terrible, I will delete each and every piece of works” type weeks. No worries, my works are safe in my recycling bin for now and will likely be moved at some point. But I still am stuck pondering why my mind works like this, and above all the same questions raised by watching the films. Why do bad things happen? Why is there disease and death and suffering?

I just so happened to be reading King Lear this week as well, which fed rather well into my ponderings. For any who haven’t read it, no worries on spoilers…I’ll just tell you most everyone dies…especially the good characters. The play is rife with suffering. And yet there’s a beauty in it, a questioning just as I’ve been questioning. How is it we live in a world full of such evil? If there is/are (a) higher power(s) then why do they not intervene?

A most poignant line in the play is said by the Duke of Gloucester “As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport.”

I’m not writing to tell you whether there is or is not a god, or fate, or a higher power, or anything of religious nature. I’m not writing to tell you why there is suffering or what it does. I’m not writing to say there is a way to escape the pain and horrors of this life. Were this a religious blog maybe, but instead I’m forced to approach it from a literary perspective. And that is to appreciate that a man in the Elizabethan era pondered the exact same heavy questions I now am dealing with.

Is there good? Why do people suffer? Why why why?

And that is a beauty of literature, to question these weightier issues in ways that move and touch people. It creates something in us that resonates, even through the ages. I doubt Shakespeare knew he’d do something funny to the heart of a twenty two year old woman in 2014, sitting alone on her couch pondering why, if there was good, she could feel so miserable and depressed.

I have only ever written happy endings, though I’ve been pondering the possibility of writing a sad one recently. Because I think there is something valuable in them, in questioning the difficult elements of the human existence that are universal and unchanging. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll inspire someone as Shakespeare inspired me.

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All’s Well That Ends Well…But is it?

Anyone who looks at my Goodreads on the sidebar can see what I finished reading this weekend. That’s right. Divergent. The series. All three books.

I don’t want to give anything away (no spoilers). So I’ll just try to be unspecific and dance around the idea more than any of the details, but still if you’re worried I might ruin something for you then you might want to stay away from this post.

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My roommate had warned me. I suppose I should have known what was coming. She’d tried to be careful about it, but as she said “let me know your reaction when you get to the end” I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Because that meant the ending had to be worth reacting to.

And that scared me.

And it was. It kind of left me in one of those book hazes, where I just sat there staring at the wall for a while trying to process. I had to give up doing any homework and just watch a movie instead. It was that baffling. I certainly couldn’t just go to bed. The truth is that I found the conclusion of this series riveting. I’d been warned by others that I’d hate it like I hated Mockingjay. But it wasn’t the same kind of feeling in the least. Mockingjay I hated because I lost interest. It became a blur of action that didn’t appeal to me in the least. Allegiant I couldn’t stop reading. And for good reason.

It’s certainly not a high work of literature. The writing is fairly poor. However, I found the storyline interesting and found that unlike some trilogies, I didn’t lose interest by the end. With Mockingjay, or with Inheritance (the Eragon cycle’s last book) I found myself skimming to merely find out what happened at the very end simply to know, not because it really interested me all that much. But Allegiant was different. At least for me.

But I think there was confusion in the fact that I was left with such a shocking finish. It made me confused about my overall feelings for the book. But at the same time questioned my own writing skills with ending books. Made me wonder what realy is best in terms of how one wraps up a novel.

If my question on endings wasn’t enough I came to my first literature class to be greeted with the question on the board “Were you satisfied with the ending?” referring to the book we’d just finished for class Jane Eyre. I found myself saying yes, though some classmates seemed less pleased. Again, no spoilers don’t worry.

But it continues to make me ponder how a writer goes about ending a novel, or even worse a trilogy/series. It’s a challenging business. On the one hand, ending tragically might make it seem more complex and worthy of study (as many books in the cannon are), but at the same time may anger or upset readers. A happy ending can be nice, but also may seem a bit too cliche and, of course, predicable.

The End

My roommate hit the nail on the head in some ways in my opinion. A good ending is worth reacting to. That can be in either a positive or negative manner. But books that I’ve read in the past where it’s just been a skim for the facts aren’t worth it at all. Books like Jane where I put it down feeling thoroughly satisfied, or books like Allegiant that leave me pondering, those are the worthy endings in my mind. And while both are very different, I think they both managed to maintain an element of unpredictability and surprise in how events came together.

But it’s a challenge that any author knows. Loose ends should probably be tied up. Feelings have to be dealt with. Even if going for tragic, authors might like to pull in a small bit of hope (or not depending). As readers and viewers we witness all too often the fault of stories that can’t quite seem to figure out where to end. While I love Lord of the Rings, can we all agree the movie had five different parts that seemed like the end and weren’t?

It’s perhaps the greatest struggle of a writer, the greatest woe of a reader, and the dread we both share in common. Putting characters to rest, saying goodbye to old familiar places, moving on, wrapping up, ensuring that there is no suspicion for further books (because don’t we all hate books that end that seem like they should have sequels or epilogues or something more!). And finally and most importantly figuring out what exactly the book is going to leave us with.

Feedback time: What do you like in your endings? Are you a happy ending book lover? Do you prefer books that make you think? Is there an ideal combination of both? What other elements do you think are important? List a few favorite book endings (add spoiler warnings if need be!). I always am glad to hear from my readers.

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When Stories Don’t End “Happily Ever After”

“NOOOO!!!!” I cried, tilting my head back and letting out a howl of horror.

“What?” my roommates asked, looking over to make sure I was alright.

I let out another soft groan as I sank downwards in my chair, the book in my hands coming up to cover my face.

“Emily, what happened?”

“Whhhhhhhyyyyy!” I moaned as I continued to sit slumped in my seat.

One roommate glanced at what I was holding over my face. “Um…problem with the book you’re reading?” she guessed logically, figuring, as an English major, that might be the cause of my distress.

“Yeeeeesssss!” I chose to whine. “Everyone dies! Five pages from the end everyone who is important diiiiieeeeesss!” I knew I was sounding pathetic, going on about a book and its tragic ending. Nonetheless I was distressed. I had become attached to characters, formed bonds over the three hundred pages so far. Why did things have to end like that?

Tonight I went through a similar dilemma. I was watching a French movie, simply enjoying  a film. And as the film began wrapping up I got this weird intuitive feeling that things were simply too happy and a movie like this one couldn’t end so peacefully. As the woman walked out into the street I immediately knew she was going to be hit by a car. Sure enough a van comes by and smacks her onto the pavement. Her friend sadly looks down at her body before covering her face with his coat.

I’ll admit it. I like happy endings. A majority of the time I would rather watch a Disney movie than some tragic artistic film. Now admittedly sad endings have merit. Some of those stories are the classics, the canon…what we consider the best! But my poor little heart simply can’t take it.

It’s a matter of preference. One of my roommates continually makes me watch movies she calls “amazing” that end up making me feel depressed and hopeless. I have another friend who is averse to any kind of tragedy. I fall somewhere in between the two. While I admittedly do not pursue sad movies and books on my own, I can enjoy them every so often. I just like it best when there’s a bit of hope in the end too.

Sorrow is a part of the human experience and humans have always been drawn to trying to capture and portray pain. We question it. We wonder why it exists. We try to figure out how to escape it if we can. We sympathize with other’s experiences. And we simply sit and sink into those feelings in a small bit of helplessness, and yet holding onto the glimmer of hope that we are not alone.

I think in many ways that is why we are so drawn to sorrow. One of my friend’s favorite movies is The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Though certainly not a tragedy, it is a sad story. The first time I saw it I cried throughout and felt depressed for a good week. The second time I admittedly felt a little better about it afterwards and held back any tears. And perhaps if I watch it again my experience will continue to improve. The story of a struggling high school student who is lonely and confused and finds refuge in books and writing speaks to my own experience. The first time I watched all I felt was the raw pain, the reminders of what it was like to be bullied, isolated. The second time I watched I felt more of a sense of peace. Others understand. Others get it. I am not alone.

There are benefits to both types of stories. One reaches into the joy we feel, touches those places inside us that yearn and hope. The other brushes across wounds, reminds of hard times, and lets us remember the human experiences of grief and pain. Which do you prefer? Perhaps like me it is a combination. At times it is hard to read the sad. But sometimes, it speaks to me in the right way and in spite of my obvious annoyance at the story not ending quite the way I want, I can appreciate having a better sense of the struggles all humans have. And I can enjoy a story, even if it doesn’t have the traditional Disney happy ending.

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