Do you prefer a happily ever after in your romance books?
I'm a happy ending kind of girl.
If I read or watch something too intense before bed, I have a hard time sleeping. The lingering weight of gloom sits in my gut, twisting and roiling. My mind keeps going over alternatives that would have resulted in a more satisfactory resolution.
"But that's not realistic," my friends argue.
I don't care. I read books to escape reality. I want to feel good after reading a book. Warm and fuzzy, or uplifted and joyful. Or that long sigh of unrequited love finally realized that makes your heart lighten.
Not everyone agrees, of course. There is a theory of eudaemonia, first used by Aristotle, to describe meaningfulness, insightfulness, and emotions that put us in touch with our humanity. Some psychologists, like Aristotle, believe in the eudaemonic rewards of unhappy endings. They make us more human; possibly more empathic or in touch with ourselves.
I will admit, there is something to be said about having a good cry after reading a moving story. I remember reading a book written by my cousin. It was unpublished, and needed a bit of fine tuning, but the story beneath was fabulous. It did not have a happy ending, and I could not stop crying over everything the main character was forced to through.
And it was rather cathartic. It did make me appreciate my own blessings more, and realize how much worse it can be.
I still think of her story, which I don't believe she ever published. (Diana, if you're reading this, you need to publish that story!)
We associate happy endings with fairy tales. But the irony is that most fairy tales originally had tragic endings, to teach children lessons about morality and making good choices.
Take Hans Christian Anderson's Little Mermaid, for example. She disobeys her family and tries something forbidden. In the original story, she dies of a broken heart and ends up as the sea foam. A cautionary tale about listening to your elders and not chasing romance.
What kind of endings do you prefer? Happily-ever-afters? Happily-for-nows? Open-ended? Tragic?
While I can see the value of a tragedy and a good cathartic cry, I still prefer books with happy endings.
In my youth, I disliked unsatisfactory endings so much, I would sometimes flip to the last page and read it, just to make sure I wasn't going to be disappointed. Reading an emotional investment, and I didn't want to make a poor investment in a book that was going to leave me feeling bad after reading it.
I haven't changed that much. I resist reading the endings of books. But I still read the plot summary for Game of Thrones before watching an episode, because I need to know beforehand who is going to die so it isn't such a shock. It might be spoiling the surprise, but at least I can sleep better at night.
Do you ever lie awake after reading a book, rehashing the ending, bemoaning the characters' choices and thinking about how they could have had a better ending? I would sometimes create my own endings for books when I wasn't pleased with what the author provided.
The most important part is the end. Like the old saying "All's well that ends well." Studies have found that people judge experiences based on the ending more than anything else. Even if an experience is highly unpleasant, if it has a more pleasant ending, they will judge it less harshly.
Let's take childbirth as an example. How many women think back to the day their child was born with fond memories? After all, the ending more than justified the experience they needed to go through to get there.
The same can be said for a book. A great ending is necessary for us as readers to feel complete; fulfilled. A bad ending, regardless of how amazing a book was, leaves us with a bad taste in our mouths. Just like a great tasting wine can be ruined by a lingering bitter taste, a good book is ruined by a bad ending.
After going through harrowing experiences with a character, seeing them suffer and overcome those experiences, to me, I need to know they find joy in the end. Otherwise the story sits with me, like a bad meal, heavy in my gut. Undigested. Unresolved.
After all, doesn't everyone deserve a happy ending?
I want to know what you think! Happy ever after or reality? What is your favorite kind of ending?