…and they all lived happily ever after. The end.
Happy endings. It’s the stuff our childhood. The goal of our lives.
But is it always the best ending for your story?
Certain types of fiction do lend themselves to happy-ever-after endings. Romance, for instance. And some contemporary fiction. Christian fiction, too, perhaps. Then again, maybe not. But what about historical fiction? Or science fiction? Or literary fiction? Or global fiction?
One of my all time favorite historical novels is Year of Wonder, by Geraldine Brooks. It’s a grim setting, to be sure, and a harsh topic–1665, during the plague years. But Brooks draws us into one village and focuses her story on one person. Not only are we pulled into a gripping tale, but we come away with a whole new understanding of a time and place in history. Unfortunately, she felt she needed to tack on a fanciful happy-ever-after ending.
Much of my writing is also set in the shadowy periods of our past. There wasn’t much happiness for slaves. The Indian caste system is extremely resistant to change. Becoming a Christian doesn’t necessarily mean one walks out of life’s oppressive fog and into no-problem, no-worry sunlight.
I do love happiness. And I am not a fan of downer endings. And I know an ending must be satisfying, or why go to the trouble of reading the book? But for me, the best endings are hope-ever-after. (Which, by the way, are oftentimes quite happy.) Even a novel set in the plague years, or in strife-torn Sudan, or on a slave ship, or in a nest of human traffickers, can end with hope. And hope is happy. And extremely satisfying.
But, of course, that’s just me. How about you? What type of ending do you find satisfying? Does your preference define what type of fiction you read?
“True love stories never have endings.”
Richard Bach, author