So, where is my happy ending?

February 3, 2010 at 18:51 (General)

Have you ever read a book with a fascinating plot, and fallen in love with the characters only to see them all die in the end?
I have.
Hence, the question, where is my happy ending?
Where is the point to all this?

I know writers (and readers) who take unimaginable pleasure in making their characters suffer.
I do not argue with this.
I am a fan of Die Hard series and detective John McClain who is being pushed and pulled through hell, kicking and screaming.
But at the end, no matter how bloody, no matter how beaten he is, he always wins.
He collapses at the end, but he is victorious.
All his troubles where not for nothing.
He has saved the day.

And what if he where he to die at the end, at the feet of his enemy, not accomplishing anything.
Fighting only to fail when it matters the most, would anyone watch that movie?

With books, it is the same.
As an example, I will mention Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher.
I love this saga, although it took me a couple of years to warm up to it. To read it.
The book is dark. War, blood, betrayal, constant struggle of powers are the main ingredients.
The main character is torn and beaten by life, betrayed by love.
He is caught in intrigues that are larger than him.
He is fated to die.
It cannot end well.
And yet I cannot help but feel that the ending is a happy one.
I will give no details of course, I do not want to spoil anyone the fun of reading the books.
I encourage you to read them.
They are a magnificent example of how to make character’s suffering meaningful.

I often find myself feeling strongly for characters in the books I read. If they are well written, and likable, that is.
When the character is in trouble I find myself chanting Don’t die. Please be alright.
It might stem from the fact that I am a woman and I am supposed to be emotional.
I have not noticed that in live, but maybe it manifests itself when I am reading.
However, I know I am not alone in this.
I know for a fact that my friends don’t like it when the main characters die at the end without accomplishing anything.
When they suffer for nothing.

As opposed to The Witcher there is a series of books, that I will not mention by title, that starts fairly ok.
But everything goes south from the middle of the story.
And it all ends in a disaster.
No hope. No victory.
Everything happening thus far becoming meaningless.

Please don’t do this to your readers.
Unhappy endings sometimes have a reason, a meaning.
They are sometimes necessary.
But remember that even in the darkest moment, there is place for a ray of hope.

Never kill the hope, never take away the meaning of your character’s actions.
If they fought till the last drop of blood, at least make it worth something.

Don’t forget that books are read for fun.

Thank you for reading.


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