1. Dreamer85
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    Dreamer85 Member

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    Feel-good endings vs mixed endings

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Dreamer85, Sep 16, 2009.

    I'm in a bit of a quagmire about my story, which is set to have a very mixed ending (the resolution is found in the end but at a tremendous personal cost).

    While I realise its crucial to reach a resolution at the end of a story, this raises one question: is it better to have a feel-good ending or is it also good to consider an ending that draws a very mixed set of emotions from the reader?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It's best to have an ending that fits the story rather than an ending that tries to please potential readers. Go with whatever ending you feel completes your story best.
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    And, for the record, it isn't at all crucial to have a resolution. Don't confuse conventions of fiction and conditions of fiction.
     
  4. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The endings of my stories are the ones where it feels natural. If I think it feels wrong to give a story a happy ending then I won't. If I think a sad and depressing ending fits better then thats the one I am going with.
     
  5. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Good comments, all three. Some people dislike conventional endings because they can often feel artificial.

    Every tangle miraculously unravels all at once, and all conflicts cease, and everyone dines on cream and stawberries, and cute pandas dance in jubilation as dragons weave pentagrams of fire through the sky, (for it is koala-riding diminutive witches who have won the day) and the leprechauns return all the gold they stole, grinning bashfully and apologising profusely, and the elves come out of the closet, 'cause gay is A-OK in this brave new world, and they all join hands and sing "I could make a living out of loving you" around a huge pink bonfire on the very top of the Tower of Love (renamed from Tower of Doom).

    Some people like it. . .

    Sometimes that's just how everything works out, and that is fine.

    But I always prefer the natural ending. After that, I tend to like the bittersweet or persisting-conflict type. . Everyone has their own preference, but the main thing is to keep it natural. Endings are only unsatisfying when they don't feel right.
     
  6. fandango
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    fandango Member

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    I'll just add my weight to the "most natural" ending.

    I do not like happy endings, they're sappy and too neat. Yet the piece I'm working on has a very happy ending simply because it's the most natural outcome. I'm far from happy about it, but there's not a huge amount I can do to change it.
     
  7. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    And for a masterclass in no resolutions, you can go no further than the films of Michael Haneke.

    Actually, for pretty much anything film or narrative related, you can go no further than Michael Haneke.

    //shamelessplug
     
  8. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    If you're expecting to be published, you shouldn't rule out tailoring it to your readership: If you're every at a crossroads and you don't know what to do, let the audience make the decision for you.

    If this is just for you though, write whatever you find the most fulfilling. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise =)
     
  9. p.sawyer
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    p.sawyer Member

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    the bottom line is you will never be able to please everybody, so end it how you feel is right regardless of what that ending might be. i absolutely detest happy endings, i extinguish all glimmers of hope, and read with contempt anything of optimism, but that's just me and my style. but if that's not your style, then you shouldn't tailor your creativity to match what someone else wants.​
     
  10. JZydowicz
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    JZydowicz Member

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    If your story is attempting to be as true to life as possible, then your story should have an ending that ties things together, but ultimately contains a varied combination of emotions. In life, things often turn out okay, but not really the best.
     
  11. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    I think it's "better" to have an ending that illustrates your own vision of the story you tell, unless you're trying to appeal to a particular kind of audience where one ending is likely to be more palatable. I have one short story, in particular, that, with independent, anonymous feedback, received both exceptionally high marks from many for its ending and criticism that the ending didn't satisfy from others. In general, it was one of my best-liked stories. So, I tried once using alternative endings (giving my readers a choice about which one worked and which didn't). None of my nine readers (all different from the first time 'round) cared at all which alternative was used.

    In another case, I wrote a story that essentially was written entirely first person. My critiquers thought it needed more of a story surrounding it with a better, more complex storyline--which I wrote and enjoyed writing, actually. The surrounding story was a 3rd person story about an entirely different MC, but including the 1st person narrative as coming from a secondary mysterious source. That iteration worked really well for a lot of my readers, with criticisms about other aspects--some of which I worked out and others I didn't agree with. Then, a year or two later, I finalized the story (yet again) and submitted it to a different group of readers for another critique. At that point, I had (from one reader) the suggestion to make it simply a 1st person narrative (which is how the whole story began)!

    As to "feel-good" versus "mixed" endings, I enjoy reading both or either, myself. It's all in the writing and where I am led, and what significance I detect at the end that matters. Maybe it's simply that I "feel good" about mixed endings (which is true, I do).

    So ... however much you decide to collaborate with your readership in some way, it is only you (or really the editor or publisher who chooses your story) who can decide which ending works better, and why. If you write well enough (and you're writing a novel), your agent, editor, or publisher may weigh in on that choice. If you're writing short stories, you simply must rely on your own instincts, IMO.
     
  12. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Sad endings without a light of hope or something happy about them seem to leave a sour taste in at least 50% of the people's mouth.

    Take the making of King's Myst. Nothing happy about that ending.

    However the ending to 7 Pounds, although sad, also had a happy vibe.

    If the editor just happens to be one of those people that hated Myst because of the ending, maybe he doesn't decide to give your novel the green light.

    Speaking of probabilities of being published, a more happy ending probably has a better chance, but who knows.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the 'bittersweet' ending is common... and is acceptable to readers, if it fits the story and the work is well-written...

    you should never consider any other reason for your ending than that it's the only way you want your story to end and the only way the story ends itself naturally...
     
  14. Dreamer85
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    Dreamer85 Member

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    Thanks for the advice guys :)
     
  15. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    Real life has no happy endings.
     
  16. Dean_Mehrkens
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    Dean_Mehrkens Banned

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    A memorable story is one that draws out of the reader an emotional response. Emotions are memorable. You can have happy endings or mixed endings or flat out sad endings as long as you draw the reader in to care enough about the characters and their eventual outcome.

    It's not a matter of how you end it, but if your readers care how it ends.
     
  17. lipton_lover
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    lipton_lover Contributing Member

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    I'll reinforce what everyone else said by repeating it :)

    Do whatever fits your story.

    What I think happens is a lot of writers want to make their readers feel happy at the end, so they give a fairy tale ending. But writing isn't about making the reader feel happy; it's about making them feel. Period. So whatever you make them feel is ok.

    Nate
     
  18. mistressoftheflies
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    mistressoftheflies Member

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    I tell myself that I want to read stories with happy endings, but it's usually the ones that end ambiguously that are seared into my brain. :] Of course, it all depends on where the plot leads to and how the resolution comes about.
     
  19. Dean_Mehrkens
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    Dean_Mehrkens Banned

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    That's what I was trying to say.
     
  20. sorites
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    sorites Senior Member

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    I'm going to disagree with some of what's been said.

    Happy endings are the way to go. Okay, maybe that's overstating it, and when you say something like "happy ending" people either think of fairy tale endings where all problems are wrapped up in tidy, little packages, or they think of massage parlors. Either way, wrong idea. The ending should be satisfying to the reader. You don't want the reader to get done with the story and say, "Well, that sucks." If you convince your readers to root for your MC, why do you want to disappoint them in the end? You don't. You want them to say, "Wow, that was awesome." And when you release your second book, they will already be hooked.

    Of course, there are good books that have sad endings or whatever. There are always exceptions to the rule. I think most readers want an ending that satisfies, which doesn't necessarily mean it makes them feel good, but it certainly doesn't make them feel bad or wish they hadn't wasted their time reading your book in the first place. A "mixed ending," as you call it, might be fine, so long as it satisfies.

    This is assuming you want to get published. And then the first person you have to impress is your prospective agent (I would guess). I think an agent is going to view a story with a good/happy ending as one that will be easier to sell than a story with a sad ending.
     
  21. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I think that assumption depends on genre. Romance novels generally work out well. Comedies by definition work out well. Most action and crime stories end with the antagonist being defeated (though that doesn't necessarily constitute a happy ending). However, in general/literary fiction I can think of plenty of examples of books with sad/ambiguous endings (or no ending at all). So it really does come down to being true to the story. That said, there's a reasn Hollywood blockbusters never have sad endings, so you do need to be aware of the audience you're trying to find.
     
  22. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Write it to a happy ending and then tear the last page from your manuscript :)

    Then the reader could choose to be optimistic and see things work out well, but can't really be sure, because the ending is always in the future. Like in life.
     
  23. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    The facts: Your ending should be natural to the progression of the story.


    Me: If it doesn't have a happy ending, then I'll probably never read it again. If the main character dies, then I'll probably never read it again.
    I don't like reading a story that ends with the main guy dying or ends with the implication that there will be an unending swarm of pointless conflict.

    I remember Valkyrie. Good movie, but with each subsequent viewing, I felt more and more like watching it was an endeavor in futility.

    "Everyone dies and they don't accomplish anything. The end."

    That's how I feel. It's all for naught.

    But I just felt like writing that.
     
  24. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    ^ You know that's a true story right?
     
  25. sorites
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    sorites Senior Member

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    Does it matter if it's a true story or not? Isn't the important thing the impact it had on the audience?

    Inglorious Basterds is also about a plot to kill Hitler. Even thought lots of the good guys died in that movie, it definitely had a happy ending and has great rewatchability.
     

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