I love happy endings. I don’t mind hopeful endings, but I really want a happy ending. I want love found, treasure won, bad guys totally defeated, maybe just a hint of a problem to come back in Book Two. But in case there isn’t a Book Two – give me a happy ending now, please.
I loathe miserable endings and tragic endings and cynical endings which tell me something profound about the inevitable bleakness of life. No thanks. I can read the news if I want to be thoroughly depressed about human nature and how long we have left on the planet if we don’t fix our climate and try to live in peace – even with people who are, shock horror, different from us.
Books are my escape, whether reading or writing. It might be fashionable to be all gritty and tragic, but I hate it. Teen books are the worst for this. And cancer books. Yuck. I mean, critical acclaim, sure. But I really don’t want to read about cancer in my fantasy life, given how many people I know in my real life who have it. And I especially don’t want to read a cancer book with a hopeless message. Oh my god. Why would you do that?
Plenty of people love misery, of course. There is a whole section in the bookshop labelled Painful Stories. I kid you not. These feature tragic tales, usually true, of people who were abused as kids or captured into terrible cults or survived war or famine or torture. On the other side of the coin, there are the True Crime stories of murderers and mass murderers and serial murderers. Great. Just what I need to take my mind off wrestling outer-joins in SQL. A bit of gruesome death will surely fix my stress.
I’m not sure if the people who love misery have very happy lives, or very miserable ones. I really don’t understand the need to experience vicarious misery. “Contains distressing scenes.” Then why have you made it into a TV programme? Are there people who seek out distress?
By contrast, I have had enough excitement to last a lifetime. I don’t mean the kind of excitement you might class as ‘theme park’. I mean horrific excitement that I never want to repeat. I like my stories humorous and well-observed, plausible rather than realistic, and happy at the end.
Is that too much to ask?
Here are some of my favourite happy endings, the ones I turn to when I’m in need of instant cheer.
The moment when Olly Murs sings Superstition for his X Factor audition, and everyone goes wild, and Olly’s really pleased.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. All of it, but especially the satisfying end.
Victoria, by Daisy Goodwin – book and TV series are equally good, and they ended it at the right moment.
The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery. Now there’s a proper happy ending.
Howl’s Moving Castle. Or any of Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci series. Wynne Jones tackles some nasty areas, but never leaves you on a downer.
The Truman Show – this delivered the ending I wanted, even if purists would have preferred Blade Runner-style angst.
Any of the Jeeves books by PG Wodehouse. Despite Bertie’s incredibly complicated scrapes, you can be confident that it will all work out in the end, which is all I ever want in a story.
What do you think of happy endings? Do you insist upon them, or do you tend more towards gloom and doom? Do you favour gritty realism or the total fantasy of everything working out fine? Let me know in the comments?
I’ll be back tomorrow with I – Islands and writing