29 August 2011

Remember When “Happily Ever After” Was Enough?

Last weekend, I spent most of my Sunday eating popsicles, writing, and watching one of my favorite movies…Titanic. Hang on, I need a Titanic moment…

Okay, where was I? Oh, right.

Well, that got me to think about endings. If you haven’t seen the movie, you may want to leave for a second, because I’m about to give away the end.

The boat goes down.

What’s worse? Jack dies.

Remember that line, you Titanic lovers out there? (I know you’re out there) “I’ll never let go, Jack. I’ll never let go….” Here, just watch…

Ah, get’s me every time.

The thing about this movie, though, it represents the exact opposite of the traditional, “And they lived happily ever ending” type of endings we used to get from fairytales. When Cinderella meets Prince Charming, we don’t get to see how Mr. Charming gets on Cinderella’s case for not cleaning enough. Or how about Snow White? I mean, that girl had a following, jealousy alone is bound to get to Prince-y here when he realizes that those seven dwarves are a package deal.

But don’t you remember when that was enough? When it was satisfying to read that final line and not question it any further?

I would say that Titanic represents a “bittersweet” type of ending. It starts out with Rose being an elderly woman of about 100 telling her story of how the ship went down, while also talking about her love affair with a young man named Jack, who changed her course through life forever. Later in the movie, we get to see photos of her and how she became a daring young woman who truly lived every moment to the fullest.  So, while we don’t get to see her and Jack riding off into the sunset (and yes, I still watch in hopes that maybe I’ll find that alternate ending where he actually lives), it’s a satisfying ending. At least for me, it was.

It wasn’t perfect. And Rose even talks about how the man she did marry didn’t quite compare to the romance she had with Jack. Her character even changes throughout the course of the movie into being an uptight, rich girl to a girl who takes chances and goes against what her society expects from her. Much like all characters in a book, we want to see how their experience changes them. We don’t see that in those fairy tales. Did Cinderella ever go beyond the expectation of cleaning up after people? Did Sleeping Beauty ever overcome that awful sleeping disorder? We never got to know how they grew.

So, maybe it was Titanic, or hell, maybe it was the popsicles, but I wrote the ending to my story (I’ve told you before…not quite a book yet). And, I realized my story’s ending will be bittersweet. I felt though that my readers would be satisfied. At least, I think so. I found that by writing this ending, that I knew my character would have grown throughout the course of the (potential) novel (no details until it’s really off the ground).
And it was important for me to write this ending. I’ve been pretty open with you all about the fact that I have not finished a complete book yet. I want to finish one and I do feel this book might be “the one” (but let’s not jinx it). It’s one of the few books I have started where I really knew how it would end.

And to me, that’s a good sign.

Especially, because it won’t end with, “And they lived happily ever after…”

Today, I’m inspired to write because I am learning more and more about the writing process as I go along. I’m learning how important it is to grow as a reader, as a writer, and as a character. I’m inspired because I think that I have found the “one.”  I’m inspired because I think I am ready for it too.

How about you, my dear readers? How do you tackle endings? Do you accept “happily ever after” or can “bittersweet” be enough? (I’m liking this “ending with a question” thing..how about you?)


  1. I shoot for "happily ever after", will accept "bittersweet" (if its satisfying - as TITANIC's was), but will fight with every fiber of my being the dark 'shock-value" ending. I'm a glass half-full kind of guy and my writing/reading choices reflect that. :)

  2. I am glad you got the inspiration for the book ending, I am sure it was the popsicles. Just kidding.
    Life has tons of bittersweet endings, so we have to accept that "happily ever after" is not always the case. What is important, is how we move forward.

  3. I have to have a resolution, no matter what. In my last class we discussed a "no resolution" resolution and I just can't wrap my brain around that. :)

  4. I don't need a "happy ever after," ending heck, when life seldom is why? But I don't want something totally depressing either, after all movies, and books are for escaping the world to me.

    Glad you did find an idea for the ending for your book. I admire your getting it done!!

  5. I'm a hopeless romantic so I prefer happy endings, but I can also appreciate sad endings. In my own writing, I try and keep the reader's satisfaction in mind. There doesn't have to be a happy ending, but there does have to be some sort of transformation or justice. Like in the Titanic, her ex gets what is coming to him and she ends up living a full life even though Jack died.

  6. I don't like my endings to be happily ever after or all tied up nicely. I like a bit of a question so I can imagine what will happen. Plus, a bit of a question makes it more realistic--I think.

  7. @DL Hammons - YES! Shock value endings are the best! If I can worm my way into adding a shocking ending into this...project...I will! There is one author in particlar that I loved that does it masterfully (still can't think of her name)...I would love to emulate that!

    @Ciss B - Good point! I hate depressing endings! I look for an escape, not a dose of real life. I read a book once, where there was this big lead up to an endin and the author failed me! Totally depressing...at least give HINTS the ending may not be all that good (unless you can shock me...in a good way.)

    @Christina Williams - good point!! Definite transformation! For my ending, it goes to the core of who this character is...for her to against that I think may disappoint the reader more! But you're right, a transformation must occur!!

    @Optimistic Mom - Ha ha, definitely the Popsicles!! :) very true! Happy endings don't usually happen anyways...it's kind of a balance, actually!

    @Diane Carlisle - oh no!' worst nightmare!!! No resolution?? I don't mind CHANGING the ending, but I have to have an idea! :)

  8. I prefer happy endings, but the important thing is indeed that the ending be satisfying and logical -- whether it's happy or not.

  9. I think one of the things slowing me down as I work on my YA novel is that I don't know what the ending will become. I keep finding the characters moving things in ways that surprise me as they grow. I just need to let it unfold at this point—happy, sad or bittersweet. more will be revealed. thanks for posting on this topic...very helpful!

  10. Showing the transformation, the growth of the character, their ability to overcome is really important to me. If that works with a HAE (happily ever after) ending that's fine, if it works with a bittersweet ending - that's probably more likely with me. I write of real life, and in the real world, you don't get a lot of HAE. And if you do - you earned it.

  11. yay for popsicles! i love the kind with cream in them.

  12. When it comes to a book or movie, I love a happy ending.
    I absolutely hate the kind that don't really seem to end. The kind where I am wondering why I bothered.
    I can deal with an ending that I don't really like, if it is realistic and the rest of the story is good.

  13. First off, I've got to say: I ADORE your heart-world on your blog page. So creative and fresh. Second, Titanic makes me all weepy when I watch. It's so hard the moment that Jack slips away from her, but then the last minute of the film, she dies and the boat rises again in her memories and we know who'll be waiting for her, THAT is worth it. I love a story with or without a happy ending. It's all in how "it goes down." Sometimes our hero makes it out of the hellfires, sometimes, he or she doesn't. But they still save the world in the process. Yes, bittersweet endings work for me as well. I wish you a ton of luck on your book!!


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