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Happily Ever After?

It's a common discussion on writing forums that comes from those elbow-deep in their WIP. How should I wrap up my story? And it's not a question that can be easily answered.

Readers want, and deserve, a good ending. They've invested hours in a world with these characters, watching them struggle, cheering them on. Leaving everything up in the air at the end would just be unfair. But does a good ending necessarily mean a happy one?


Because sometimes the boy doesn't get the girl, the lost treasure isn't found, and not all vampires will be able to stick with their vegetarian diet (Sorry. Couldn't resist.). And. . . that's okay.

Disney-esque endings aren't a requirement in YA. In fact, the stories where everything doesn't come out sunshine and roses can offer young adults some insight into the harder lessons they're going to learn. This isn't to say those happy endings don't have a place in YA! But the ending should match the tone and subject matter that's been established from the beginning of the book. If you read the first five pages of Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott, you know that the possibility of confetti throwing and group hugs is slim, but that doesn't mean the book didn't have what's the most important part to an ending. Closure.

Whatever obstacles the main character faced should be resolved. The reader should be able to see that your character has been changed or has grown from whatever they've faced. Most importantly, the ending should be realistic, true to your story, and hopefully give the reader something to think about long after they've finished the last page.

Have you ever read an ending that left you unsatisfied? Do you prefer happy endings?
Amanda Hannah

Amanda grew up on a big farm in a small town with one stoplight, one school, and a handful of imaginary friends.She would’ve gone to college forever, but eight years and five majors tested her advisor’s patience. So she moved to Germany to explore creepy castles before landing in Spain where she’s perfecting her Flamenco.

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  1. I like this post because it says my thoughts exactly. The ending must, MUST fit the story. I can be turned off just as easily by a story with a fake, sappy, everythingworksoutperfectly ending, as I can an unresolved, unhappy ending. Great stuff to keep in mind while writing!

  2. I love how you differentiated good endings from happy endings. That's exactly what I prefer: a good ending that fits the story, whether it's happy, sad, or mind-boggling crazy. While I don't shy away from happy endings (and enjoy them when the story earns it), they're the type I've gotten angered at the most, because sometimes it feels like the author has tacked it on for the sake of happiness, which, in turn, makes *me* feel cheated.

  3. Great point! (Even though I kind of can't stand tragic endings. :P Bittersweet, okay. Tragic, not so much. Books where the MC or their LI dies at the end, *headwallheadwallheadwall* NOOOO!!) But that's just me, and I totally agree that a good ending must fit the book and does not necessarily have to be happy. :)

  4. Great thoughts. I think the most important things to a YA ending are closure, like you said, and hope. Even it's depressing, you still need an inkling that it's gonna get better - which is what I've seen in YA. Yay!

  5. I'm obsessed with sad endings. Disney must've seriously messed with my mind as a child, because my characters rarely get a happily ever after. But I hope the ending fits the story.

  6. I agree that the ending must fit the story and offer a sense of closure. Nothing irks me more than a story that ends while leaving everything hanging, especially if there is no sequel in sight (and even if there is a sequel, each novel must self-contained). Admittedly, I am a lover of happy endings, but I don't mind sad ending as long as it works.

    The problem comes when writers think they *must* break apart their characters in order for the ending to be "meaningful"... often times, it merely falls flat. It's much more difficult to do sad endings well than to do happy endings well, and the writer needs to choose one that's the best for his/her story.

  7. I'm such a sucker for tragedy. I love it. But, as you and everyone else has said, it has to fit the story.

    The endings that drive me crazy (sometimes in a good way) are the ones that leave out a big piece of the puzzle and I feel like I don't have any kind of resolution.

  8. Well said Amanda!

    The most important thing to remember with your story ending is that it must deliver on the promise(s) you made in the beginning. It can have as many subplots, surprises, twists and turns as you decide to put in along the way. However, whether the book ends happily or tragically it will only end satisfactorily for the reader if give them what they deserve, not necessarily the ending they hoped for or perhaps even the one they suspected, but the one that delivers on that promise.


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Item Reviewed: Happily Ever After? Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Amanda Hannah