Happy endings…

happy_endings“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” Orson Welles

Sometimes when I write I think too much. I worry about things I shouldn’t worry about, and I write as if I’ve got something to prove to someone. That’s a mistake. Over thinking, trying to outsmart the reader only to outsmart yourself.

When I wrote Jazz I wanted for the ending to the story to deliver a certain message. Throughout the novel there’s some talk about happy endings, about what we want to get from life, and stuff like that. Of course, those characters are mistaken in their belief that happiness is a destination, but nevertheless… they want and try to reach for something, and they’re not even sure what that something is.

Actually, I find that we spend an awful lot of time living in a world of vague concepts. My characters often live in such a world, trying to make sense of the world by applying a series of strange principles. And they abide to those principles no matter what.

Now back to the ending. Half-way through the novel I felt my main character didn’t deserve a happy ending. As much as he wanted it, as much as he was willing to fight for it, I just felt that it wouldn’t be just. After all, life is constantly teaching us that we don’t always get what we want.

So I wrote the ending I wanted, an ending that was supposed to make the reader realize something I just couldn’t really comprehend myself. Some sort of karma, I suppose.

The truth is that I just didn’t know what a happy ending meant for that particular story. I just didn’t know what a reader would feel as being a happy ending. Or a sad one. I just didn’t know who they should be rooting for, or even if they’d root for anyone at all.

So I did the next best thing. Gave the story a new ending, an ambiguous one. And I gave the reader the choice.

It’s my favorite question to ask those who tell me they’ve read my novel: what did you think of the ending? Was it a happy one or not? Did the characters deserve for their story to end the way it did?

It’s quite a lot of power for a reader to have, and I’m well aware that some didn’t enjoy it. Because my ending does not give them an answer, it just raises a question.

Personally, I’m not sure if my ending is a happy one or not. And it doesn’t even matter what I wanted to say. All that matters is what you think I said.

Or something like that.

What I’m really trying to say is that we don’t always get the ending we want. In life and literature, we don’t always get what we want, and most times instead of finding the answers we’re looking for we find more questions.

***

Purchase Jazz on Amazon.com here.

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8 thoughts on “Happy endings…

  1. I’m not sure who it was who said it, but the comment was, “Life is the ultimate joke, and it’s got one heck of a punch line”..
    I, like everyone else, enjoys a good happy ending. But sometimes the happy ending leaves a person exactly as they started. As human beings, we’re built not through the triumphs, but often times through the defeats. We either change for the good afterwards or allow it to destroy us. When it comes to endings, I prefer one that transforms me or my characters. Then choices of what to do next becomes vitally important.

  2. I confess that many of my stories do not end happily although I try not to make them end despairingly (there is a difference between a non-happy ending and a despairing one). But I think my endings show characters that have gone through some kind of transformation psychologically, emotionally, and/or spiritually or at least have had an “a-ha!” moment that has the potential of making them see things more clearly. I know many readers seem to prefer happy endings (especially in some genres) but I think every story must end in a way that fits the story and the characters and sometimes that just isn’t a happy ending.

    Tam May
    http://www.tammayauthor.com

  3. It all depends on how we, as readers, or we, as authors view life, existence itself. If we see it as linear time, then, as our folk tales did it long before us, a story started ar point A, delicering the characters at point B – usually after a road of trials during which our protagonist had to undergo a transformation. These having been said, I kept asking myself, how was Cinderell-s kide after her marriage to the prince, how was Snow White’s, or maybe Santiago’s, from Coelho’s Alchemist’s? Did they just fall into a pool of “happiness for ever after”, which, no doubt, would have become a dull, tern life, or after “The End” line, life continued with new chalkenges, new ups and downs? After all, Orson Welles saw it right, ending on a positive or a negative note is just a matter of where, at what point in the eventful Story of Life does the author choose to end the story – then it is reader’s turn to find his\her own meaning of the “forever after”, as no matter the way the Story ends, there’ll always be a reverse of things. For the greatest good of writers, readers, of all the beings ser on the path of the Journey of Life.

  4. Sorry. I wish I could edit the comment I made on my phone screen. Since I can’t do that, I try to amend it here, with my excuses for the inconvenience.

    It all depends on how we, as readers, or we, as authors view life, existence itself. If we see it as linear time, then, as our folk tales did it long before us, a story started at point A, delivering the characters at point B – usually after a road of trials during which our protagonist had to undergo a transformation. I kept asking myself how was Cinderella’s life after her marriage to the prince, how was Snow White’s, or maybe Santiago’s, from Coelho’s Alchemist? Did they just fall into a pool of “happiness for ever after”, which, no doubt, would have become a dull, tern life, or after “The End” line, life continued with new challenges, new ups and downs? After all, Orson Welles saw it right; ending our story on a positive or a negative note is just a matter of where, at what point in the eventful Story of Life does the author choose to end the story – then it is reader’s turn to find his\her own meaning of the “forever after”, as no matter the way the Story ends, there’ll always be a reverse of things. For the greatest good of writers, or readers, of all the beings set on the path of the Journey of Life.

  5. I so agree. Stories go on beyond their endings. I think we become too fixated on wanting an ending to be what we want instead of being open to what it IS. And what it is always has something to teach us whether we like the lesson or not. Well written. Thank you 😊

  6. My life seems to be a series of bookmarks so I can catch my breath and lick my wounds. The only endings in my life have been someone’s death. I like the page-turners better.

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