What's Wrong With Happy Endings?

I’ve been reading a book after I finish work every day.  The book is very well written, and I’ve enjoyed it up to the point where the protagonist is in deep trouble. With any other book, I’d continue reading, congratulating myself on finding such a suspenseful book, one in which the characters are so well drawn.

I have a feeling, however, that the hero is going to die.  But not just die – he’s going to undergo some truly horrible things before he dies.  Why am I so certain of this?  The book is a suspense.  Not a romantic suspense.  Not a romance. 

 You know what that means, don’t you?

What it means is that the writer wants the reader to form an attachment to the character, because he’s going to either cause the character irreparable harm or kill him off – brutally.  The writer doesn’t have a clue that he’s violating one of my Ranney Rules – thou shalt not piss off the reader.  Instead, it’s almost as if he’s writing for the critics.

I don’t like books and movies where someone dies and nothing is bright and beautiful.  Life is bleak, filled with despair, yet the book/movie/play is touted as a brilliant “tour de force”. 

I find myself holding back when I read books like this.  I’m never quite 100% involved. When I close the covers of this particular book, I suspect I’ll be sorry to have read the book. Heck, I’m sorry now, and I’ve only finished half of it.  Yes, I’m curious as to what happens.  But I’m also irritated.  I don’t want to invest that much emotional energy into a character for him to suffer or die.

Frankly, I see nothing wrong with wanting a happy ending.  I want people to have gone through hell and emerged, scathed but intact, on the other side.  As an incurable optimist, I believe in the power of the human will, the beauty of the human spirit, and the redemptive power of love. I want people – and characters – to triumph over adversity. 

Well, shoot, that’s why I write happy endings, isn’t it?

Maybe I should just stick to reading them.

If you’d like to read a true happy ending, for two people who didn’t believe in them, I hope you get a chance to read A Scotsman in Love. 

Warm fuzzies!

Karen Ranney

6 Responses to What's Wrong With Happy Endings?

  1. Kimber Chin

    Yep, I’m the same way.
    That’s why I only read two types of books
    Romance
    and
    Business.

    Romance always has a happy ending (if it is indeed a romance)
    and in business books (excluding bios),
    there’s no one to really get attached to.

    People do die in romance (especially in my books)
    but the hero and heroine are safe.
    I can care for them, risk free.

  2. MarthaE

    I recently read two separate short stories, both mysteries. They both had a sort of “gotcha” tragic ending! Ugh – left me with a terrible feeling in my gut! One, or actually two, of those “OH NO!!!” moments. I’d much rather have a HEA!!! Or at least happy for now!

  3. mammakim

    I so love happy endings. I am a sucker for a happy ending. I have to say I am so disappointed if it is not a happy ending. I am not sure if I can read one that does not have a happy ending. I read to get rid of reality and want happy thoughts I think.

  4. Mari

    I agree with you 100%. I only like books with happy ending. I spent my college career having morbid, morose and tragic books forced upon me in English Literature class. It seemed like my Prof’s didn’t think the book was worthy unless something horrible and jarring happened to the characters. When I look back I realize it was just academic pretention…ugh!
    I have had enough of that.
    Now I want books that make me feel good, that renews my faith in humanity and puts a smile on my face.

    Has anybody here read books by Abraham Hicks (not romance novelists)? Part of their teachings, that I have adopted, is that the key to happiness to to think better feeling thoughts and surrounding yourself with things that make you feel good. If you surround yourself with disturbing things you attract more of those things.

    So, I only read books that I feel good about, and I am a happy camper!

    Sorry about going off on a tangent!

  5. Pam P

    Real life is tough enough, I read to escape and enjoy, and want that happy ending too. I always enjoy your books, Karen, have them all and can’t wait to read the newest.

  6. Shannon

    Absolutely! Over at the Seductive Hearts blog, we want all women to find their own “Happily Ever After” in real life – so why wouldn’t you want it in your reading material?

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