Saturday, April 07, 2007

Not Necessarily Happy Ever After...

One of the great things about writing Young Adult novels is that there is not necessarily a reader expectation about a happily ever after. I mean, when did life ever guarantee happily ever afters anyway?

A lot of YAs do end with a HEA, especially when it comes to stand alone romantic comedy, but when you're talking about series or other sub-genres outside of romance, there is the latitude for other kinds of satisfying endings.
One of my favorite teen TV shows, as you probably already know, was My So Called Life. The episodes didn't end with a happily ever after. They ended with more questions or some realization for Angela about her life. I loved that.

In my upcoming debut, there is a mixed ending -- happy, but not necessarily ever after, with new questions raised. That doesn't mean it isn't satisfying. You *have* to satisfy the reader. I can remember a few times reading a book only to get to the end and say, "What the heck?" because the ending a) doesn't make sense or b) cuts off .

As a writer, you have an unspoken contract with the reader. You're on a journey together that must come to a fitting ending. That satisfying ending is part of your building a relationship with your audience. And that relationship, no matter what artistic stance you take, is what writing is all about.

Don'tcha think?

Happy Endings... or not,


Heather Davis is the author of
Never Cry Werewolf
coming from HarperCollins in 2008


Me said...

I totally agree! You can have a satisfying ending without it being happily ever after--or you can have the HEA--in YA fiction. I mean, think about TWILIGHT. Happy, but... ever after? Definitely more questions raised in that case.

The tricky part comes, I think, when an author writes a stand-alone book with an HEA that then turns into a series. I'm not a huge fan of the heroine getting the guy of her dreams at the end of one book, and then when the next book opens that relationship is long over. Makes me feel like the first book was... well, insincere in some way.

But that's just one of my pet peeves. =)

Authorness said...

I like to see the heroine pull through, not necessarily get everything she wants, but still know she's going to be all right well after the book ends. Does that make sense? Anyway, I agree with you, Heather!

Happy Easter.

TinaFerraro said...

Heather, I saw your Blog Bulletin on MySpace! Cool, and I hope we get lots of visits from it.

For a long time, I was targeting adult romance, and one of the breaths-of-fresh-air that I find with YA is just that--not necessarily HEA...

While my books end "happy", occasionally I leave a thread dangling for the reader to ponder and resolve herself. And I'm fine with that, feel like it shows growth in my writing, and, I hope, strikes a realistic chord in readers.

stephhale said...

I like my endings tied up in a neat little bow by the time I get done reading them. I'm okay if I know that it is going to be a series if I don't get ALL the answers in the first book but if it is a stand alone and things are left dangling it drives me crazy.

Dona Sarkar-Mishra said...

I think I might be evil, but I love not-happy endings :) Isn't that sick? I like endings where the heroine loses something major and learns a lot about GONE WITH THE WIND.

BUT when I write, I always have a satisfied-for-now ending, meaning the heroine defintily does NOT get what she wanted at the beginning, but she gets something else that she needed at the end. In my current WIP, the heroine goes through a lot: a one-weekend fling, a friends' death, and a few other terrible things.

I have an ending in mind, but I have to see if my editor will let me keep it :)

Heather Davis said...

You guys had some really good thoughts. Tera, you are right about continuing characters and the happy ending... If everything's perfect at the end of book one -- then in book two it's over or there are problems, etc... that can spoil the satisfaction of the first HEA. (See Bridget Jones' Diary and then Bridget Jones - The Edge of Reason for horific examples -- both book and movie.)

When there's stuff to be worked out between hero and heroine (Twilight, for ex) then it's a little easier to follow the couple into a second book, I guess.

Authorness, Tina and Steph make good points, too. And Dona you are a sick puppy! (in the BEST way.)



Marley Gibson said...

Looooooooooved MY SO-CALLED LIFE and you're right about the episodes ending more on a lesson note than a happily ever after note. After all, teens still have the rest of their lives to live. HEA isn't necessary for a 16 year old as much as in, say, an adult romance. I'm doing happily right nows in my sorority books. I mean, my girls have four years to date and get to find prince charming...right?

Marley = )