1. Georgew
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    Georgew Member

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    Are happy endings over rated?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Georgew, Mar 12, 2011.

    I've often found that a story with a shocking ending or even just a plain unhappy ending leave me with more of a lasting feeling than a story which ends with happiness.

    For example the film "Remember me" Ends with the main character Tyler dying in the twin towers, I had no idea it was going to happen it just happened right when everything seemed to be building into the generic happy ending.

    The emotion stayed with me for much longer than most happy endings.

    Although the emotion was a negative/sad one it was still present and it was very effective.

    I guess what I'm really asking is, are we ever going to get bored of seeing the man end up with the woman of his dreams every time?

    Because I can say comfortably from my experience there are far more happy endings than unhappy ones.
     
  2. jimboa26
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    jimboa26 Member

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    One of the ideas I had for a romance book would be about the long and lasting courtship between a guy and a girl (typical lovey dovey romance stuff), and with it ending with the girl just losing interest in him (he doesn't realize the subtle hints, but she's actually quite selfish) and walking away in the coldest way imaginable. I don't know why, but I just have this vision of a guy standing, holding a rose in front of a girl who simply says, " you mean nothing to me," and walking away.

    Somehow I don't think it it would go over well with the typical romance crowd. But it happens. I think a lot of people out there have had an experience like that and it would resonate.
     
  3. Lazy_Otaku271
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    Lazy_Otaku271 New Member

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    I don't know about over-rated, but happy endings are definitely use more often than sad ones. I sure that one reason the sad endings seem to have more of an effect is purely because of just how rare they are.

    As for the question of boredom, I don't think so. I think that endings will continue to be "guy gets the girl" endings for quite some time. It just how the story will logically end. The simple fact is that most people like to cry tears of joy rather than tears of sorrow.
     
  4. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    I liked mixed endings, such as, guy doesn't get girl, but they both realize it's for the best, or the logical thing to do. The Bridges of Madison County is one example (movie, haven't read the book.)

    Another movie example: Lost in Translation.

    There are endless variations of mixed endings to be had, and I just think they are more clever and realistic than "boy gets the girl," every single time.
     
  5. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Tragic endings can resonate and stay with us long after the story is read, but only if you have made the readers care for your character. Happy endings can have the same effect as the tragic ones if you can make the readers ride the roller costar ride of the char's journey/life. A char who went through one hell of a struggle to get to a happy ending can be just as effective as the char who died in the end. You might even cry when the char's struggles end. I remember the movie "Erin Brokovich" (spelling not sure) where the main char (Julia Roberts) and the victims of an unprotected factory struggled throughout the movie. When in the end they finally won the lawsuit and Julia Roberts gave the cheque to one of the victim, there were overwhelming emotions and the scene stayed with me. Happy or sad ending, it also helps to have a connection, resonance with the beginning of the story.
     
  6. Pallas
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    Pallas Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is very dependent on the genre and the structure of your piece; perhaps in a more character driven endeavor the ending writes itself and demands a mixed or tragic one; while other more action oriented stories might benefit more from a formulaic end; keeping in mind that predictability is not always a con.
     
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  7. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    Personally I like both equally well. I don't like being left hanging and not knowing what happens. Unless you have a sequel coming out to tell me what happens either end it or let them ride off into the sunset. I hate being left wondering. Jodi Picoult does that to a degree and it drives me insane....

    I guess that didn't help at all. Oh, I DO think it would be a genre switch though. Not typical romance if they don't ride off on that horse together.
     
  8. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    A happy ending ruins the entire experience for me, even if the rest of the story was great. It's like having amazing sex with a beautiful woman, but at the very end she lets out a gigantic fart.
     
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  9. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    :eek::D:cool:


    It all depends on the story. I tend to find most "Happy endings" feel a little easy (Writing wise). It's like they lacked any real imagination and took the easy road, rather then the challenging high road.

    Brandon Sanderson is the king of finishing off a story in my opinion. None of this expected crap. He goes out guns a blazing.
     
  10. Pallas
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    Pallas Contributing Member Contributor

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    I suppose the high road is thus challenging because the need for firearms, haha :p
     
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  11. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    An uncontrived happy ending that uplifts stays in the memory just as much as a shocking tragic ending. I happen to think it's harder to do--maybe, like a lot of writers, I'm a loner and slightly pessimistic person, I don't know.

    I've noticed with my 18-22 yr old students they gravitate toward disaster scenarios, like 'all her family was killed in a car crash, so...' but at the same time they tend to feel they themselves are invincible and will live forever! So maybe people prefer a happy ending more as they grow older?

    Like I said, IMO it certainly isn't a cliche or cop out to have an interesting happy ending, and the magazines--three--I've written for, prefer one.
     
  12. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    Bah! That's no excuse!
     
  13. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I seem incapable of writing a happy ending - so have taken to doing a short chapter/scene set a little time on to give a feeling of positivity. I like an ending that works either way - limp wristed I hate. I hate it when you get the feeling the publishers have insisted on an ending change or that the author looks at his calender and says crap deadline tomorrow and adds a few lines.
     
  14. Ice Queen
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    Ice Queen Senior Member

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    It was like that when I read Thomas Hardy's 'The Return of the Native'. I got really sucked in with all the tradgedy at the end, and I loved that the story ended so bleakly as to mirror the heaths that the story was set on- however at the end, Hardy's publishers made him include an extra chapter to tie a happy end together for the Victorian public (who preffered happy endings). Personally I disregard that chapter. >___>

    Back to the question; it really depends on how satisfying the ending is to the story in general, I think. 'Wuthering Heights' needed an ending with a LITTLE happiness in it to make up for the general depression in the bulk of the novel. Similarly, with '1984', the ending was utterly tragic and horrifying which fit with the story in general, and went back to :WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. It's supposed to make you feel hopeless.

    I like bittersweetendings too. The ending of Garth Nix's 'Old Kingdom' trilogy was good because they conquered the evil but in the process, the dog sacrificed herself for her mistress :'c which still makes me cry everytime I read it.
     
  15. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are films where the main character goes through so much pain and suffering, that only a happy ending will suffice, but I agree that a sad ending can definitely resonate so much more.

    However, very few endings are sad in the respect of bad prevailing over good. It's more often a case of the hero achieving his goal, but ultimately having to die in order to see his journey through to its conclusion.

    Some of Hollywood's biggest actors have realised the power of this type of ending in recent years and have employed it more than once, such as Will Smith in Seven Pounds or I Am Legend, or Denzel Washington in Man On Fire or The Book Of Eli.
     
  16. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've written an ending where whilst life goes on for everyone else I have destroyed both the antagonist and protagonist (neither can die)- the antagonist comes out of it slightly better in that they are not really any worse off than they were before the book started, except they lose their job. The protagonist is destroyed. Still contemplating adding a little ray of hope at the end, just a possibility that he will come out of the place he is in. Both have completely lost their sanity - and the book ends with the universe saved but with the two most powerful beings in a position where they may do something stupid.
     
  17. jimboa26
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    jimboa26 Member

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    I like endings where the protagonist comes out at the end tainted, scarred and tarnished from the experience. He or she might come out on top...but at a price. I hate contrived endings were the protagonist comes out of it with a sparkling white smile and not so much as dirty clothes.
     
  18. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Depends if you want to get rejected or published, I suppose. And like I said, it's not always easy to find a good happy ending. I'm not defending the cheesy ones. Writing uplifting, positive endings made my work more commercial, but also, it made me think in a more optimistic way! I agree with jimbo that the semi-happy ending is interesting, too.
     
  19. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Happy ending and unhappy endings fulfill different emotional needs. Did you consume the work of fiction in hope it would uplift you spirits, move you or provide catharsis? Depending on you needs, whatever does the job for you is subjectively the best thing right?

    I would say in our culture today happy ending is seen as the norm and was is most desirable by most people most of the time. But that unhappy endings is seen as a bit more high culture in some ways. (A movie with an unhappy ending is seen as "deeper" then one with a happy ending.)
     
  20. nhope
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    nhope Contributing Member Reviewer

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    I think it depends on your mood at the time and also, your age. Younger may favor "happily ever after" because their world seems to be full of angst and the unknown and they constantly need the reinforcement of "yes, things will / can / do get better. Us older folks know that happy isn't always how it ends, but as long as it ends as it should, it works.

    And sometimes in retrospect or as applicable to reality, what you thought was a not-so-happy ending turns out to be one.
     
  21. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    Bah!

    Reality has no happy endings.
     
  22. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    If that were true, there wouldn't be a single happy person on this planet. For obvious reasons.

    Lives have no happy endings, because 100% of the time, it ends in death. Life in general will not have a happy ending, because every living and non-living thing that exists, including the universe itself, will one day cease to be. But happy endings to specifics portions of life happen all the time. You've probably had one recently, so no example or explanation is necessary.
     
  23. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sure I've had happy moments, but they weren't the ending of anything. Unhappy comes shortly thereafter. That's life. My sister-in-law made it out of a quadruple-bypass surgery a few months ago. Happy ending, right? Wrong; she's back in the hospital now and her kidneys are failing. I married the most wonderful woman in the world a few years back, but it's been a struggle since then with a bounty of unhappy moments. Pretty sure life's that way for everybody.
     
  24. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    You haven't got to the end yet though, have you! But no offence, keep strong, I know the kind of stuff you mean (really, I do).
     
  25. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    I said previously that I had no preference, and that's still true, but here's the thing: I think some happy endings are relative. As some of you have pointed out the MC getting what they wanted or needed is not always a happy thing. It can be devastating to the MC or they can get it and then discover it's not what they wanted at all. A MC can struggle throughout an entire book not to die. To outrun whatever evil is chasing them and may have that work out for them; however the story may still end sadly by most people standards because nothing else good has happened and perhaps they have lost so much while running.

    At the other end of the spectrum some happy endings are like candy. Too sweet and gooey and unrealistic and although they may be an entertaining read (most romances for instance, and yes, I do read them) they are essentially fluff and I personally don't get much out of them except mindless entertainment. Most romance novelists insist they're being realistic and that their endings are too, but nothing in my life suggests that. I still read them though......then again I'll read a shampoo bottle if I'm desperate enough so make of that what you will.
     

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