In a good romance story, “happily ever after” usually means those beloved people who have filled the pages find their way to loving commitment. They choose to love beyond the challenges or hurdles or life problems. I love when that happens.
In a good romantic mystery story, “happily ever after” usually means that good has prevailed over evil, the “bad guy” has been contained, and the beloved people who were at risk are now safe (and in the best case scenario) ready to make that love commitment, too. Those stories give me a fulfilled, happy feeling.
So as a writer, it is my hope that my stories, my characters, can do the same for my readers. “Happily ever after” means a happy ending. I love to hear from readers who tell me when that happens.
So imagine my surprise (and dismay) to recently hear from a reader from Iowa who wrote that ending my book had made her really SAD. Sad? NOT a “happy ending?” I was stunned.
The “failure feelings” descended. I almost stopped reading the letter, but (with a nervous grimace) decided to keep going, if only to see what I could make do better the next time.
I was glad I persevered. She went on to say that she had truly connected with my characters. When they had committed to “happily ever after”, she had rejoiced. But they had become so real to her, that when she had reached “The end”, she felt dismal. Dismal?
“In life and love, there are constant challenges and growth,” she wrote. “I just didn’t want the story to end. It wasn’t enough to see them commit. I wanted to know what happened later. I honestly didn’t want to leave them. For me, it was a happy beginning, but a sad ending, because I didn’t want to say goodbye. Can you write more about them? And how about her friend? And how about his immature buddies? Are they ever going to grow up? I want to know.”
I felt so touched, and so affirmed by her words. And I, too, loved those characters.
So this, I see, is where series come from. They come from happy beginnings, not just happy endings. Who says we don’t listen to our readers? Thank you, dear reader. I don’t want you to be sad. So I am working on the sequel. Keep your letters and comments coming!
How does an author make their characters so real that you just don’t want to leave them?