Satisfyingly Ever After

I’ve always been a sucker for a happy ending.  I want the guy to get the girl. I root for the underdog. I long for the rags to become riches.

Lately though I’ve become bored by stories that neatly tie up every loose end.  It feels like lazy writing.  It smacks of cliché.  Worst of all, it’s predictable. I blame it on turning 40.  My body is falling apart, so why shouldn’t my literary preferences come crumbling down too, right?

The problem with “happily ever after” is that life doesn’t always work out that way.  Many people, including me, read to escape reality so there’s a very strong argument to be made in favour of the entertainment value of the Cinderella ending.  But is a happy ending a requirement for a great book?  Could an unhappy ending – one in which the guy doesn’t get the girl – be just as satisfying?

What do you think?  Vote for your preference below – and feel free to leave a note in the comments section!  I’ll post the results of the poll next week.

13 comments on “Satisfyingly Ever After

  1. Miss Valerie, as you can imagine, I prefer an ending that knocks me over with surprise. Whether the characters are happy or not doesn’t really matter, to be honest. The books that stick with me, the ones I think about for years after reading them, the ones I recommend to friends, are always the ones that shock me. This of course can all be explained by the fact that I’ll be 48 years old in August. Hee hee hee…

  2. Ah yes, the unpredictable, shocking ending! Great stuff, but it certainly rules poor old Cinderella out. I mean, her story ends the same way each time. Some genres (like romance) thrive on the predictable ending. The audience knows WHAT will happen before they start chapter one. It’s the HOW they’re curious about. But then, I’m not writing a romance … so my ending can go either way. 🙂

  3. I’m normally against happy endings, but I’d be lying if I said I never enjoyed a satisfying conclusion to a well told story, like say the movie version of The Shawshank Redemption. I guess it depends on the quality of the story. Of course, I’m a horror fan, where unhappy endings are predictable and an actual happy ending would a Sixth Sense level twist.

  4. I’m okay with a satisfying bittersweet or even tragic ending but it has to be truly satisfying to me. It’s easier to satisfy me with a happy ending. To satisfy me with a bittersweet or tragic ending you have to pull it off perfectly, and “realistic” doesn’t cut it. I know in real life sometimes people have careers or marriages that just fizzle out inexplicably, but in fiction I demand that it feel like it had a meaning or a purpose or at least some kind of poetry to it or else I do feel cheated.

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