I never thought much of how important the ending of a book is. The story is complete. What more could we want? Well, I found some people debating on social media about happy endings in books. Some people thought every single book had to have a happy ending. Others were sick of them. Never thought much about it. Now I will.
I want to note here that not everyone wants a happy ending, but it is interesting to talk about and look at our own preferences.
The Need for a Happy Ending
So many readers have to have a happy ending in their books. Why? Because life doesn’t always have happy endings. I like what Marie Bostwick said about why people yearn for happy endings: “Because happy endings provide hope, instilling the belief that obstacles can be overcome, love can last, fences can be mended, and good can triumph.” (https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/columns-and-blogs/soapbox/article/67175-unfashionably-happy.html#:~:text=Why%3F,noble%20occupation%20for%20a%20writer) We want what life might not give us. We long for the hopeful end to a story. Because that last feeling lingers with us.
What do we think about the most when we finish a book? It is typically the end. How it ends leaves a very long lasting impression with us. The rest of the book might be wonderful, but it is the end we think about long after we read the last words. A happy ending leaves us with positive feelings and joy. A more realistic ending leaves us with depression and thoughts so deep that we don’t enjoy them.
Yet there are some readers who comment that they don’t enjoy the happy ending that ties everything up in a “Ever After” theme. They want more reality.
I mentioned the author, Marie Bostwick, above. She noted in her article that while some reviews of her books were good they gave backhanded compliments about the ending of her books. They wished it all didn’t end like a fairy tale with everything wrapped up nicely so the reader could walk away with a smile on their face. What? People like happy endings. Writers like to give happy endings. But some readers yearn for reality.
Life is not always kind with a rosy end to a situation. Some readers like to experience the reality of feelings and know they are not alone in the feelings of despair, loneliness, sadness, or even anger. They don’t want to join the story; they want the story to meld in with their life. These readers want to see that even in the fiction world there is not always a silver lining and birds singing with joy at the end. They want to know that their life doesn’t suck compared to these “fantastical” fiction stories. It is a desire to connect and not dream.
Cliffhangers- Pros and Cons
I want to address one of the most controversial endings that are out there. These are usually not happy ones and can send even the realistic ending lovers into fits….the dreaded cliffhanger.
I have to admit that I love cliffhangers but only if there will be a conclusion to the cliffhanger in a subsequent book. Cliffhangers get me emotionally involved which, to me, is a good reaction when reading a book. When I get emotionally attached to a book, that good is a five star or greater book. Not many get that, but quite a few do. Some of them have cliffhangers.
Most readers seem to only want to read books that have a tidy ending with no unanswered question. Yes, most of them probably want those happy endings since a cliffhanger is not generally a happy ending. But many others don’t want to wait around. They want answers now in one book. So cliffhangers is generally seen as unhappy endings and not welcome.
Think about the kind of endings you like. Do you prefer happy endings or will you enjoy books that don’t have that “Ever After” feel to them? Why? Maybe we like the happy ending story when we need hope instilled in us. Maybe we prefer the more realistic, sad ending when we are strong and just need to feel connected. Maybe we have no idea what we want. Happy reading.