Writing in RWA/NYC’s Keynotes: April 2015 issue – “The Happy Ending, What Does It Mean?
Ay, there’s the rub.
For in those five little letters abides a world of differing opinions.
I once thought of “happy” in the Wizard of Oz/Norman Rockwell sense. And then I turned eleven, and have ever since been trying to come to terms with exactly what does “happy” mean. Never mind trying to figure out “ending.”
We know all too well what HEA means, and it better not have anything to do with Into the Woods, which is anything but. Readers, and editors and acquiring publishers, want a clean finish. No wobbling on the blades. Norman and Dorothy lock-stepping into the sunset destined to spend the rest of their days together in connubial bliss. Or at least canoodling bliss.
And if Norm happens to be a hunky billionaire with soulful eyes who can incite one to multiple organisms, and if Dot happens to sparkle like the cheerleader(s) who set your nether regions to flame in grade school, so much the better.
Then, the billionaire with a penchant for grey ties and blood red playrooms comes along and/or the cheerleader who has lost her cheeriness but who still boils your hormones like Old Faithful, and things start to get dicey.
The diceyness might not be all, but it has its place in the romance canon. There is room for the not-so-easily defined cowboy or city girl, musician or mechanic, or lord or lady of the manor. I believe my readers have been the HEA route and know it’s not paved with yellow bricks but would like to believe there are still good reasons for tromping on down it and seeing where it leads. I want to provide a route for that escape, by providing characters they can empathize with, get annoyed with, then cheer for, and hopefully in so doing also perhaps provide a little insight into themselves during the process.
I would like my reader to close the book and think not only was that a great read, but also, just maybe, subliminally, feel better about themselves, having been challenged to think a little deeper, feel a little something they hadn’t quite felt before, perhaps give a passing positive thought to an attitude they possibly had been dismissive of. To realize that “happy” can mean a lot of different things for a fictional character…and them.
It may not be exactly bridge crossing time, but every story we tell has the opportunity to plop another stepping stone down in the mire of human emotions. Give your readers characters with lives that matter, with depth and humanity in all its failings and triumphs, with whom your readers can relate, even the sketchy ones. A villain that touches us can open a pathway into a better understanding of our own badder nature. Every little bit helps.
And of course if those little bits are clothed like billionaires or sheathed like sexy cheerleaders, well, that’s what makes it a romance in all its wonderful ramifications and combinations.
That’s what makes it happy.
I'm right in the middle of learning and sharing stories that excite, challenge and give a chuckle—and occasionally a hearty guffaw. Try out my CoveHaven ménages, HAVING IT ALL, GETTING IT ALL, WANTING MORE and NEVER TOO MUCH in all their combinations: MMF, FFM, MMM, FFF and even HEA.