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.

The First Book I Ever Wrote

Everyone remembers the first time they wrote a book. I’m not talking about writing you publish, I’m talking about the first time you put words to paper and dared to call it a “book.” My first book was written when I was in third grade.

The assignment was, quite simply, to write a book. If I remember correctly, the entire school was taking part, and it was some kind of a contest, with each grade having a winner. I used to regularly get sick back in those days; I was a shy, nervous kid who would later be diagnosed with an ulcer at age eleven. So for some reason, I missed like a week of school right around the time the books were being finished and judged, and by the time I got back, it was over. But the teacher wanted me to complete the assignment because it was also being graded. So I set about to write my “book.”

Now here’s where I should explain how dodgy I could be as a child. I was one of those “what’s the easiest way to do this and get it over with” kind of kids. And I already knew that the winner in our grade, a red-headed boy with freckles named Patrick who I had a crush on, had written a book about a horse. So that settled it. My first book was titled, “I Want a Horse.” Pretty much to the point. The whole thing was maybe five pages long, and the “plot” was about how I wanted a horse. Period. I don’t even remember if I got the horse in the end. We had to illustrate it too, so I drew some pretty horrible pictures of what was supposed to be a horse on every page.

I didn’t win, and I can’t remember what grade I got, but it was probably my usual C-.

The book obviously sucked and wasn’t my best effort (because I put no effort into it after all), and worse, I basically plagiarized the idea from another writer. I didn’t attempt another “book” until I was eleven, which is when my “career” truly began. The book I wrote at eleven was actually my own idea, and I was excited to write it, and my friends read it and loved it. I was hooked.

I think too many times we feel like we have to write what everyone else is writing. Because those people are getting reads. But when we do that, we forget to listen to the most important person – ourselves! Trust me, if YOU are not happy with what you are writing, if you are not super passionate about the idea and especially the characters, you will end up like everyone else. And where’s the fun in that?? I don’t want to write like Danielle Steele or Jackie Collins (as if I could!) Or write that romance about that perfect girl who meets this hunky guy and does whatever they do in nearly every other book I’ve read. Or write that horror story where in the end it all works out and everyone’s happy and safe. No, I want to write the book that sounds good to ME, with an idea that speaks to me and wasn’t taken from anyone else. I want to write the story differently, show the character’s flaws, and make them HUMAN.

Don’t be afraid to take chances with your writing. Don’t just copy that boring horse story or idea from another writer because it’s been DONE a zillion times. Make your main character a bitch who likes to swear and sleep around. Make her love interest a complete jerk with a lovable side that he only shows to her. Give your married couple’s relationship FLAWS – have one of them sleep around and then be forgiven. Write about sex – yes, it does happen after all. Let your characters feel lust and anger and jealousy and sometimes let them be great big douches. It’s OKAY!

I failed big time with that first story in third grade. I didn’t try, I just wanted to get it over with, and I stole another kid’s idea. It wasn’t fun for me. The fun came later when I discovered you could write and have fun while doing it, so long as you let yourself be YOU. It’s probably one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned.

Brigid 🙂