Friday, April 8, 2011

H is for...

Happy Endings.

When I was in school, I loved a trick ending, one that implied there was more to come. I have no idea where this came from, why I was so set on it, but my horror stories always had a twist at the end. Horror was pretty much all I wrote back then; it wasn't until the last few years that I really got into fantasy.

I got married straight out of high school (going on 15 years now, so I've just dated myself). This meant, for us at least, that we couldn't afford college. In the interim, though, I found something called Longridge Writer's Group, where they placed the aspiring author with a published author and provided coursework to teach you how to write to get published.

The point in all that is that the author I was working with did not find my twist endings as clever as I did. She told me people don't like trick endings. People want positive endings. I scoffed, because I loved a good twist at that time. However, these days I get angry when there's a trick ending unless it's truly clever. I hate when they kill off the protagonist. Have you seen a Nicholas Cage movie in the last decade where he didn't die? It makes me angry every...damn...time. I feel like it's a waste of time. Those movies where some natural disaster comes along or someone gets left behind and they don't survive at the end kill me. Why did I sit there watching them struggle for their lives this whole time just for them to die unsaved at the end? Argh!

Having said all that, I still get that little itch sometimes, but I try to beat it down. Viciously. I don't think I ever flat-out killed a protagonist, though. Maybe just implied a not-so-pleasant ending? The only one I can think of involved my female protagonist being stuck in a sort of limbo, which isn't actually dead, if you want to get nit-picky.

Now that I've been on the other side of the coin several times over, though, I understand what she was trying to say. So why didn't someone tell all those film makers and writers who keep doing it? My husband and I term those books/movies "Perfect Storm" movies. If you've seen it, I imagine you know why. If one of us sees a movie first, we'll warn the other person if it's a "Perfect Storm" movie and not worth seeing.

What do you think of twists at the endings of stories? Do you write them?

Happy Writing!


  1. No, I don't write them, but I did actually enjoy Drag Me To Hell. Totally not my kind of movie, but it was Raimi, so I watched it. For a different kind of twist ending, there's April Fool's Day, also not my kind of movie, and one I would not have liked at all if it hadn't been for the twist at the end.

  2. I do enjoy a surprise ending, but not when it's obvious there's going to be one. I think you have to earn it by making it feel real and plausible, even though it's unexpected. Not just silly.
    Moody Writing

  3. I do love a good happy ending, but I don't mind seeing characters die, so long as it's not, as you say, a cheap trick at the end to get a shock out of the audience. I write urban fantasy, so I can indulge my inner child that wants to see the good guys beat the bad guys, but also tinge it with hardship so that the good guys don't get away unscathed.

  4. All the time. Used one recently in Thin Time, my latest children's book, and it happened without any planning. Funny how the subconscious mind works.

  5. I like twists at the end of stories if it story calls for it. Sometimes, I think the ending is what saves a story/movie.

    And yeah, I'll write them. I'm working on a series though so a twist ending at one will generally lead to another book so people can find out what happens next.

  6. The only time I'll write a twist at the ending is if there's a sequel and I want people to want to keep reading. But I am SUCH a happy ending gal. I want my happy endings. I put my characters through so much torment and pain and horrible things throughout the book; they deserve the happy ending anyway! ;) I'm the same way with reading--I typically do not read books that do not have happy endings.

  7. I've killed protagonists in short stories. Haven't had the guts in a novel yet. I like endings that make me think, but most of the population does not. So, I have to curb my preferences, too.

  8. Andrew, you know, I haven't seen either of those, but I do have Drag me to Hell on my queue, and I typically like Raimi. I don't think I'd even heard of the April Fools one.

    Mood, I agree.

    Paul, true, and in certain kinds of books/movies I certainly expect some of my favorite extra characters to die or be seriously injured. I'm not fond of the main characters dying, though. Torturing them is completely okay, though.

    Carole, it is, isn't it?

    M.J., I'm working on a trilogy, so the first one does have a twist at the end to draw the reader into the next book. I do wrap up certain issues before then, though, so there's resolution for some things and more questions on others to be figured out later in the series.

    Laura, I think I've been thinking in series/sequel process since high school, so maybe that's my problem. I always wanted the story to continue.

    M Pax, I also like an ending that makes you think. I guess it's just gratuitous twists, so to speak, that I don't like.

  9. Hm interesting points you make. I used to write sappy, ends-all-happy endings ALL the time...until my published work. It's in a true Shakespearean style (story-within-a-story) and I even tell the reader within the first two chapters that the main character is dying, yet whenever someone buys it and reads it all I get is "SHE DIED?!" ... sigh... Well, I guess I still haven't gotten the all-ends-well out of my system as I am writing a sequel and she kindof, sortof comes back... lol

  10. I'm not a writer, but I have to say I do love a good twist to the story, if it is very cleverly done. Stranger than Fiction would be one that I can think of right off, that I really enjoyed.
    I do also enjoy a happy, good feeling ending too. One that makes me want to read the book again, because not only will I miss the characters when I'm done, but I am excited that they had a good ending to their story. :)
    Have a happy day! :)

  11. I think it is harder to pull off a trick ending with a novel, but it's kind of expected when writing short stories.
    I get annoyed by romance movies where one of them dies at the end, or circumstances keep the two MCs apart, I always end up shouting 'What was the point in that?'

  12. No, I like happy endings, so that's what I write! Now I don't mind if an ending is challenging, but it has to satisfy in some way. To me, a movie with a really crap ending is like the film "Seven."

  13. I don't really care for happy endings most of the time, but I guess it really depends on the type of story.

    I usually don't write long pieces of fiction, so the twisty stuff is definitely more acceptable (Flash Fiction)... preferred actually.


  14. I like both happy and unhappy endings, but it has to stay true to the story. Like "My Sister's Keeper" by Jodi Picoult. Completely unrealistic. After her big twist, the family magically falls into happily ever after. I don't think so! An alcoholic father, divorced parents, and delinquent son would have been much more realistic. Another book, "The Mermaid's Chair," by Sue Monk Kidd. The MC has an affair, and there are no consequences in her marriage. Really? I guess what I'm saying is that sometimes a happy ending is just as contrived a twist as an unhappy one.

  15. Hey, Shannon! Thank you for checking out my blog. You have a new follower, too! I do love a good happy ending, but I think it's more that I like it when things are tied up, whether it's an actual happy ending or not. Example: Harry Potter. The last book ended with some casualties and sadness, but on a mostly happy note...there was hope. Great "H" topic!

  16. I DO love happy endings! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I look forward to reading more from you.

  17. The best twist of all time is the ending to 'The Sixth Sense'.Absolutely shocked the heck out of me and I usually guess a movie's ending.

    THERE'S a twist for you. LOL

  18. The ultimate twist ending is "The Sixth Sense"

    The worst twist ending was Prison Break. *SPOILER ALERT* I did not watch that guy struggle out of not one, but two prisons and all sorts of hairy situations just to have him die of damn brain tumor.

    Tom and I continually debate over the end of Breaking Dawn. It is a twist since you are expecting a huge battle and there isn't. He thinks there should have been bloodshed, while I feel the battle of minds/wills was much more intense.

    So yes, I like twist endings when they make sense in the grand scheme of things. If it's a deus ex machina type of thing, I tend to roll my eyes and get annoyed.

  19. I'm usually a fan of happy endings. I agree, when a protagonist dies at the end of a story, I'm pretty upset about it. Why invest all that time in getting to know a character if they're just going to die anyway?? Not for me. :)
    But I'll take a good twist every now and then!

  20. Lydia, that says they cared about your character, though, which is great! I am interested in the "she kind of, sort of comes back" part.

    Heather, interesting and great feedback. I haven't experienced Stranger Than Fiction yet, but need to.

    Angeline, true, it is especially frustrating in a romance, as the point of the story is sort of how they end up getting together and living happily ever after, and all that.

    L. Diane, I think, overwhelmingly, people want a happy ending. I wasn't delighted with the end of Seven, either, in terms of what happened, but the way the sins were wrapped up was thorough, I think.

    Tomara, I haven't tried flash fiction yet, but I want to. It seems it would do well with a twist when you're telling a story in so few words.

    Shelli, that is an excellent point. So true! The perfect happy, sappy ending can be entirely unrealistic and ruin a book/movie just as any other bad ending can.

    Sarah, also a great point. I think plot points need to be tied up, one way or another, for a book to be good. That's why we read, quite often, for resolution.

    Sylvia, hi, and thanks!

    Huntress and Michelle, I agree on Sixth Sense. I usually know the endings and even the twists before the end. I seem to recall being surprised at the end of Sixth Sense.

    Julie, I agree. But then I've noticed that the likable secondary character is often the one who dies, and I hate that. Sometimes I'd rather the main character die over the really likable co-pilot. I hated when they killed Goose, for instance.

  21. April Fool's Day is an old 80s horror flick. I got stuck watching it a friend's party, but I was pleasantly surprised once it got to the end.

    Stranger Than Fiction is great. I wouldn't say it has a twist ending, though. More like a twist plot.

    The best thing about The Sixth Sense is that the clues are there through the whole movie. He just does it so well that you never put them together. It's to bad that Shamalayan has done nothing but go down hill ever since.

  22. Andrew, I completely agree. Watching Sixth Sense after you know the twist makes for a completely different movie, and you wonder how it is you didn't know. Also agree about Shamalayan, but I'm holding out hope. He has a twisted and clever mind, and surely he can take us back there again.

  23. I finally gave up hope on him.
    Unbreakable was really good. I did figure out the twist before the reveal but it was late enough in the movie that it was still an "ah-ha" moment for me.
    I loved the theme of Signs, but the "twist," if you can even call it that, was lame.
    I enjoyed watching The Village and Lady in the Water well enough, I guess, but I had both of those pegged from the beginning, so neither story held any suspense for me. Lady was actually hard to sit through, though.
    I couldn't bring myself to watch The Happening, though. It was bad enough that Night wrote himself as savior of the world in Lady, so, after the reviews for Happening, I just couldn't watch it.
    The Last Airbender was... well, worse than bad. Even my kids didn't like it.

    Now that I've written this, I want to compare him to the housing market. You keep thinking it's hit the bottom...