Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wicked Wednesday - happily ever after

I know fans of romance love the Happily Ever After ending (HEA). Most publishers require the author to have it. It might be predictable, but it sells. Readers want to escape their lives and experience that HEA moment. They want the reassurance and familiarity of it.

The trick is to write the HEA in a way that is unexpected. Girl will get the Boy at the end, but how? It doesn't always have to end with marriage and kids. The reader just needs to be emotionally satisfied.

Paranormal romance opens the door to all sorts of ways to do the unexpected. Use the genre to create something that will surprise the reader. Magic, strange creatures, or mysterious non-human past resurfacing. You're not limited by conventional reality. Only what you've created for yourself.

A few examples:
1) Your protagonist is a ghost. It's known that once a ghost completes his/her unfinished business, their soul will go on to the next life. How to get a HEA ending from that? Perhaps the business really isn't finished yet. Or maybe the love interest dies and they can go on to the afterlife together.
2) Your protagonist is in love with a werewolf. Pack members are forbidden to take a human mate. Have the werewolf challenge the law and win. Or discover that the protagonist isn't fully human after all.
3) The Romeo and Juliet affair between a demon and an angel. That can't end well, right? Have the demon sacrifice him/herself for the angel and be resurrected an angel. Or have them find out that it was the plan all along to have demons and angels mate because they cannot do so amongst their own kinds.

Sometimes I have problems trying to write an unexpected twist. This is why I don't write mysteries even though I enjoy them. Those are the times I do a lot of procrastinating. Plot twist generators online never helped. (Yes, there are plot twist generators!) I have to wait for the inspiration to hit me. I tend to kill a lot of my darlings and let magic be born out of the sacrifice for a HEA. I need to learn a new trick.

I like the HEA ending, but I don't need it to be happy with a book. If it has a proper resolution even if it's sad, I can be satisfied with it.

Do you prefer a HEA ending? Do you have any tricks that you use for creating twists to surprise your reader?


  1. I always wonder about the ghost one and how the author will solve it. Great post!

  2. I don't mind sad endings if they fit the rest of the story. But I love a good HEA, so long as it doesn't seem too happy. (That's part of the reason I didn't like The Twilight Saga. The ending had too much buildup and then nothing happened . . .)

  3. Romance does seem to usually require the HEA ending. Personally, I don't mind sad endings. People don't always end up together. Of course, that might make the story lean more towards a love story than a true romance. *shrugs* If the ending makes sense, then I'm good.

    As for tricks, that can be the hard part, especially since probably everything has been done before.

  4. Wait, there are online plot twist generators? Seriously? I've used name generators, but I didn't know about plot twist ones...
    And I do really love a happy ending :-)

  5. Aubrie, the ghost one is hard to do.

    TGE, I totally agree with you. Overly happy endings are just too... annoying.

    Cherie, the fact that every trick has probably been done before is the difficult part. We all want to be original. Sometimes, with short stories, I'll try to work the twist, but then I keep thinking of other stories with the same twists and it keeps me from finishing.

    Rachel, oh yeah! Plot twist generators, character generators. You probably could write a whole story from stuff you get from generators!

  6. love a good twist. hate being able to predict a book, movie, etc. the end can be happy, it's the journey that needs to be exciting!

    here's a way i add spicy twists to a bland story, think of different choices the character can make, like they are at a fork. if they choose the safe easy path, this would happen, but if they choose not to do hat is expected of them, how would that change the story? and is your character capable of doing the unexpected or does the circumstance have to force them? the unexpected also brings emotions - fright, laughter or intensity...from other characters and reader too!

    sorry for rambling, now i'm hungry =)

  7. Like you, as long as the ending is satisfying, it doesn't have to be really happy.

  8. As a reader, I love HEA's and take great emotional pleasure out of it. As a writer, I love to spice it up, but still resolve it at the end. ;)

  9. I started a series with a ghost protagonist. Will jot down what you said ... lol

    Husband unit told me to quit killing my mc's early on. I still killed some anyway. It's easier to do in a short story than a novel. In a novel, I tend to get attached to all my characters.

    If the journey is unexpected, the ending doesn't always have to be, to still be satisfying.

  10. I do like a happy ending, but like you say it doesn't have to be all mushy and marriage - just a hint that things could be better is all I need:) Good discussion - I'm trying to decide now if my urban fantasy should be a HEA or not... hmmm such a hard decision

  11. Tara, that's a good way to look at it! I always have my characters take the unsafe path even if logic is screaming at them not to. I'll find a way to bring them down that path! BWUHAHAHAHA!

    Alex and Amy, spice is nice, and resolution is best. Loose ends annoy me.

    M Pax, I'm guilty of killing characters too. You're right. It's easier in a short story. Yes, you're right about the unexpected journey. Good point.

    tfwalsh, mushy I can do without. Oh, that's a difficult decision. A lot of the time, I wait until my story is near the end before I can see if it will be a HEA or not.

  12. Satisfying is a must. I don't want to read a book that will have me thrust it's little winged pages through the air because of an ending of tragedy. I don't like those. I find them unsettling. Guess what? I write the ending and staple it to the book. LOL!

    My son bawled over an ending and I cried along with him. So I promised an alternate ending and that's what I did. He was SO happy. I love my kids.... <3


  13. Plot twist generators make me shudder! Yikes. I think leaving readers emotionally satisfied is the key, whether or not that is a true HEA. Good post!

  14. Elizabeth, you're so sweet to do that for you son. It would break my heart to see my son cry over a book. I'd have to do the same thing!

    Jayne, thanks! Some of the plot twists I was getting on those generators didn't make sense. It was almost like comic tragedy!

  15. I admit to liking some form of happy ending, although occasionally an ending I couldn't precisely tag as "happy" still works for me. I would agree the emotional satisfaction element is the deciding factor.


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