Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Best Kind of Happy Ending...

 I love  “happily ever after” stories. There is nothing like a happy ending! I love to write them, but I also like to read them. A good plot is important, but most of all,  I love to read about characters who become so real that I sometimes feel like talking to them.  They become a special kind of friend.  Have you ever had that feeling? Do you know what I am talking about?

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? 


  1. We all want to write the book of our heart, but listening to readers is important. If a book is a sweet romance, the reader expects a HEA. If a book that's part of a series leaves your reader with questions than you have done a good job. They will be anxiously awaiting the next book in the series.

  2. I so agree, Christine. I think the belief that good triumphs over evil is essential to the human spirit.

  3. Ahhhh, a "happily-ever-after". It doesn't get any better than that. I think the thing I like most in an HEA, are characters who breathe, characters with good motivation for their actions, (good and bad), and characters that show some growth by the end of the book. I'm glad you finished reading the letter from your reader, Christine!

  4. Years ago, I read a wonderful historical romance, and really became invested in the characters. However, at the very end I wanted to throw the book across the room and scream at the author, "why did you kill off the hero? He didn't deserve to die!" There is so much tragedy in today's society, that readers deserve to read HEA's to give them a bit of relief. Good article Christine.

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  6. What valuable input by a reader! I want to hug her! Yes, HEA often make you long for more. My niece wasn't happy when I wrote a novella...and then the characters evaporated. Makes an author's day to hear this! Thanks Christine.

  7. Readers who feel emotions for our characters no matter if it be love, had, fear, joy, tell us we have done our jobs. I love the happily ever after stories and agree with Loretta. I am always annoyed when a writer kills off a perfectly good hero.

  8. Christine, I'm glad you hung in there and read your fan's letter right to the end. How special that her need for "more" prompted you to begin writing a sequel. Thanks for sharing an inspiring post!

  9. What a great letter! Must have made you feel terrific to touch a reader with your words. Isn't that what we all want?