Sunday, November 23, 2014

HEA or the Highway - Why I Like 'Happily Ever After'

I have a confession. As cynical and snarky as I am, I adore 'happily ever after'. Well that's not quite true... I mean forever is a long time. So let's say I love 'happily for now' endings. Good should conquer evil, and of course, love should conquer all. So unrealistic, I know. But there's a very good reason behind this minor obsession of mine.

Life can be hard, full of strife and struggle. Turn on the news... it's scary out there. I think one can only take so much negativity before it spills over into regular life. Your annoying boss who won't get off your case, that loathsome commute, the neighbor who leaves their dog outside to bark at 2am... the list goes on and on. It batters our defenses, creating small cracks that will ultimately result in an explosion of epic proportions.

I read to escape. Plain and simple. There's nothing quite like becoming so engulfed in a story that the surrounding world disappears. Want to ruin that experience for me? Kill off a main character (or a beloved secondary character). Add in too much turmoil. Create an inescapable prison. Throw in tons of random stupidity- like an unrealistic love triangle- or a fight that could be resolved if the characters talked to each other for two minutes. Sure we need tension, otherwise we won't care about the characters. But too much of a good thing is... well, it's just too much.

If you're going to make me cry while reading, they better be tears of joy. Don't get me wrong. Some tearful situations are fine, but I certainly don't want to sob through half of the book. I cry enough over my own problems and those of my friends/family. I don't need to cry buckets for a fictional character. When I finish a novel, I want that "I just finished a great book" glow. It's warm and cozy. It makes me want to hug the book to my chest and thank the author. That happy ending helps assuage whatever crap is going on in my life at any given moment.

Quiz time! What's worse than a sad ending?

No ending at all!

Sure I understand the trilogy and the series. I like them. Readers get to spend more time with the characters. Authors have more time to develop the world and people within. BUT I despise the rash of cliffhanger endings out there. Last year I read a book that ended mid-sentence. I had to check and make sure the book downloaded properly because I couldn't believe it. Until this dropped ending, I enjoyed the book. But since I don't like being toyed with, I chose not to continue the series. Novels ending mid-action or with the capture of the hero/heroine have become an annoying trend.

This is me all excited about a book then finding the cliffy at the end

Newsflash- a cliffhanger ending does not necessarily make a reader desperate for the next book. Sometimes we just become annoyed and turn away. The key to a good ending for a series is to resolve whatever minor plot point occurs within that book, while leaving the rest open for future books. A reader needs at least some resolution to feel good about the reading experience. There's nothing worse than reading 400 pages of buildup to a moment that never occurs because the author chose to leave us hanging. I take that back. There's nothing worse than a cliffhanger ending with the next book two years from publication. I can practically guarantee that I won't be continuing the series.

So to sum up. I want an ending. The author doesn't have to tie up every loose end in a series, but throw me a bone. Please. Give me some semblance of peace until the next book is available.

I would prefer if that ending was HFN- happily for now. If an author plans to kill off a beloved character, then there better be a damn good reason for it. If it's just shock value, I'll pass. Give me something to smile about, something to create that warm inner glow. Cut your characters some slack and give them a little happiness. We all need more hope and less sorrow in our lives.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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