Beyond the Words Episode 16: The (Optional) Happily Ever After, with Brantwijn Serrah

Beyond the Words Episode 15: The Return Home, with Lauren K McKeller
August 11, 2017
Beyond the Words Episode 17: Planning for a Sequel, with Kathryn Berryman
August 25, 2017

In this second-last episode of Chapter 2, Holly and her guest discuss whether the Happily Ever After is required reading, or if you can get away without happiness on all sides for your characters. Includes a review of “Goblin Fires”, by Brantwijn Serrah, at the end.

To purchase a copy of Goblin Fires, click here.




Most books, in most genres, will have some form of Happily Ever After (HEA), or Happily For Now (HFN). Romances especially are good at this, being the equivilant of wish-fulfilment to the author and the readers. Fantasy are generally good at the HFN, as the story always has the potential to continue on. If someone survives a thriller, a horror or a crime-fic story, it’s considered a happy ending.

But do you need a HEA to round off your book? Consider the benefits of a book whose ending isn’t so rosey. Books such as The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, are an example of an Unhappy Ending – where the book doesn’t end on the ‘’and they lived happily ever after’’ finish that people most expect. Another, older, version of this, is Romeo and Juliet, Othello, MacBeth, King Lear, and any of Shakespeare’s tragedies.

It’s not strictly nessecary for a romance book, or any other, really, to end on happy tidings. I’m particularly adverse to leaving things rosey and golden for my characters. In the Holiday Killer, for example, the main character loses her family, her job and a few fingers to the experience of chasing down a serial killer. She ends up alone, stuck in counselling for the foreseeable future. In Blood Moon, after the final conflict, the story just… stops. The final line is “You are mine,” and that’s it. No HEA in sight there.

Maybe my English teacher was right about Shakespeare after all. I have soaked up more of his horrid, unhappy endings than I thought, to bolster my own writing.

I do admit, though, that Romeo and Juliet do strike a chord for both happy and unhappy endings. Sure, R+J die, but the Capulets and the Montagues live in civil peace for the coming days. Othello, however, is just plain sadness, with Iago’s plotting of Desdemona and Othello’s lives reaching their expected end.

So while your characters may yearn for the unending happiness of a HEA, don’t be afraid to give them a sad, lonely ending. After all, Shakespeare’s plays have been adapted millions of times over since they were written centuries ago. You never know, a great unhappy ending might just be what your book sales ordered…

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