In the writing world, there’s always a controversy blowin’ in the wind. Recently, I read about one called HEA v. HFN or Happy Ever After or Happy for Now. This question, on whether romance readers prefer a romance’s ending to be “and they lived happily ever after,” or “They were happy for now,” seems pretty equally divided, as far as I can tell.
Writing Tip for Today: Romances are driven by the quest for relationship/marriage, and so they depend on the ending to tell the reader this goal has been achieved. For all novelists, whether your novel’s ending is happy or not so much, here are a few things to think about:
- The 5 Endings. There are only 5 ending possibilities: the main character gets what she wants and is happy, gets what she wants and isn’t as happy as she thought she’d be, doesn’t meet the story goal–but is happy anyway, doesn’t get the goal and isn’t happy about it, or doesn’t give a rip either way. This last one isn’t usually recommended–hardly any reader wants to end a story not caring.
- Make that Character Grow. Most readers, while not demanding a perfect ending, want some sort of satisfaction at the end. This usually entails growth of the main character, redemption from some evil or unwise choice, forgiveness and reunion, or some combination of these things. In some genres, readers don’t mind (too much) a sad ending, but they demand the character be older and wiser. In romances, readers demand a commitment by the two principals. This can be either implied “ever after” happy, or more subdued “for now” kind of happy.
- Climax Scene Test. Whether you tend toward idealizing characters ala sweet romance stories, or you’re more realistic as in mainstream, women’s or literary fiction, it might help you to experiment with two different climax scenes. Write these as if the character wins, and then as the same character loses. This can help you deepen your characters and your story, learn which is more true to your way of writing things and even help you decide what kind of fiction suits you best. I’ve been trying to learn to write romance, but it isn’t easy for me, and I have to practice a lot. How about you? Are you are HEA or a HFN type writer/reader?