When I decided I was going to write novels, I had no idea what I was going to say but I was absolutely certain of two things; the first was that I was going to write about love, in all its forms but especially romantic; and the second was that I was going to write the kind of endings I want to read – endings where everything is alright in the … well … end. Happy endings, if you will.
In the inimitable words of that bloke from The Exotic Marigold Hotel, “Everything will be alright in the end. If things are not alright then that is because it is not the end.”
If the romance genre is a key example of feel good fiction that must mean delivering on the expectation of the reader. For me the baseline absolutely has to be the girl ending up with the boy. In my book (if you’ll pardon the expression) writers are free to set up a dilemma as to which of two or more men that might be. I personally don’t mind if it’s obvious ‘who’ as long as we are kept guessing as to the ‘how’. But there must be nothing more than a passing doubt over the ‘if’! It would feel the most awful betrayal if the writer were to whip the satisfying resolution out from under this reader’s feet by suddenly springing on them that the hero is a rapist, or – worse – cuts his toenails in bed. A romantic novel MUST be centred on the redemptive and resolving power of love.
I have a special fondness for the ones where the heroine overlooks the trusty, faithful lover because she is temporarily blinded by the glamorous cad – Colonel Brandon from ‘Sense and Sensibility’, for example, is a proper grown up hero for me.
I’m also not big on heroines being ‘rescued’ by the hunky hero as the end in itself. Don’t get me wrong – a bit of throwing the girlie over the shoulder and running from the burning building never goes amiss – but anyway, musings on what makes the perfect hero are a posting for another day.
What I can’t help noticing is that my own happy endings are at least partly about the heroine achieving her full potential, with the help of the supportive and frequently challenging and uncompromising hero who refuses to let her off the hook, rather than needing him to hold her up because she’s too fragile for this world. Didn’t Bella get soooo much more interesting when she became a vampire who was Edward’s equal, or even his superior? I was ready to poke her in the eye for all that stuff before, when she was a sulky little Miss who was always falling over and having to have Edward set her back the right way up. I thoroughly approve of how Stephanie Meyer’s journey for Bella was to become a fully realised form of herself – as well as hooking up with Edward, of course, and having mad, passionate sex in which the bed gets big bites taken out of it.
Which brings me to another important point – they don’t have to still be alive at the end. What about ‘Love Story’? OK so, from my point of view, the bit where she died WAS the happy ending … at last! No more whingeing and looking all pale and wan. You’ll gather I’m really not fantastically sympathetic about illness. What about (spoiler alert) ‘One Day’? Oh come on, you must have guessed …? Nothing more than ultimately unrequited love would make a satisfying resolution there. It would have had to run on indefinitely if she hadn’t bought it. And, as the exception that proves the rule, I have always been absolutely furious about the ending of ‘Gone with the Wind’. What was that all about? There should be a sequel with a proper ending for heaven’s sake.
So, satisfactory resolutions are essential, pat happy endings maybe less so, but you fob this reader off with ironic, ‘clever’ sour endings at your peril. You have been warned.
P.S. In the interests of research and of avoiding unnecessary gender bias in this post, I asked ‘someone’ for the male perspective on ‘happy endings’… He assumed I was talking about massage parlours (I wasn’t) and also that I was offering (I definitely wasn’t).
Glad we clarified that.
A huge thank you to Sarah for sharing this fantastic Guest post and to Lu at Choc Lit. ♥
Sarah Waights’ debut novel, Never Marry a Politician, is out NOW on Kindle.
In trying to be the model wife to Ralph, a fiercely ambitious politician, Emily has betrayed her heart and her principles. Once she was a promising journalist, but now reluctant domestic goddess is more her scene.
When unexpected events lead to Ralph becoming a candidate for Prime Minster, Emily finds maintaining the façade of picture-perfect family life an increasing struggle –especially when her romantic past comes back to haunt her in the form of tough-talking journalist, Matt Morley.
Matt is highly skilled at ‘digging the dirt’ and, sure enough, Ralph has a sordid secret that is soon uncovered. In the aftermath of the discovery, will Emily finally find the courage to be true to herself, or is she stuck in the world of PR tactics and photo opportunities for good?
Finalist in the 2014 Good Housekeeping Novel Writing Competition.
Sarah wrote her first book when she was five. With a father in the forces and the diplomatic corps she spent the best part of her childhood in UK boarding schools, joining her parents in exotic destinations during the school holidays.
After obtaining a degree in music she gave up classical singing and took up a career where she could indulge her love of writing. After several years in public relations, campaigning, political lobbying and freelance journalism she realized her preference for making things up and switched to writing novels instead.
She takes an anthropological interest in family, friends and life in her West Sussex village where she lives in a cottage with roses around the door, along with her artist husband, their children and other pets.
Never Marry a Politician, Sarah’s debut novel, was a runner up in the 2014 Good Housekeeping Novel Writing Competition where it was reviewed as ‘laugh out loud funny’ and ‘one to watch’.