You Don’t Always Need a Happy Ending

When I was little, I loved fairy tales. From the “Once upon a time” to the “And they lived happily ever after” and every bit in between. I loved that all so much that when I got married, Cinderella was our “theme”!

But in my writing, I’m not always content with the happy endings. I don’t know what it is really, maybe that little sadistic bent I have buried deep inside of me, but some stories scream out at me, “no, no happy ending for this one.”

Sometimes I just don’t want to let that evil go. Depending on the story, the characters, plot, feeling, I will either let everyone off at the end of the day or off everyone at the end of the day! (hee hee, see what I did there?)

It used to be in writing there were all these “rules” (gag). One rule seemed to be that you just could not end a book without a happy ending. Everything had to be wrapped up nice and pretty and tied with a bow. Then Alfred Hitchcock came along, and the rules changed, thank heaven! Hitchcock would let you think all was well at the end, then smack! Not so fast! The killer was still alive, or the main character discovers he’s now in a zoo for humans on another planet or some such thing. (okay, that one is the Twilight Zone, but you get my drift!)

I can remember watching that stuff as a kid, and my mom would get so pissed! She read mostly romance, where you do, of course, want a happy ending. She didn’t get my fascination with this creepy horror/mystery/suspense stuff, and when the show didn’t end up in that neat package, she’d go nuts. “That stupid Hitchcock! I hate that man!” she’d scream, then she’d stomp off to her room to read her latest happy ending book.

But I loved it! I will admit, there is this little moment of “noooooooo!” at the end of these things when the main character is not only on that cliff but pushed off to his death. But then it’s like, hmmm, interesting. Because it’s different. It’s not predictable. And it’s brave, and I sure do like writing with guts.

So the next time you sit in front of your computer to start that new story, ask yourself. Are you going to give your readers a tidy ending, or are you going to send your characters off that cliff?

Let your gut decide. It won’t steer you wrong.