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Thursday, 6 January 2011

How Should A Story End (Happy or Realistically)?

Happy Endings?Image via Wikipedia
Are you a reader who likes happy endings? Or do you prefer tear-jerkers? Perhaps you want a story to close in a satisfactory manner that suits the topic, regardless of whether that makes the ending sad, happy or shocking. Certainly, the latter is my own approach when I'm writing. But, as a reader, I admit to a preference for  an ending that leaves me feeling 'up' rather than 'down', which may explain why I tend to read fewer books in certain genres.
Romance, of course, usually ends with a feelgood episode, leaving the reader feeling happy, satisfied, content and warm. And critics have a tendency to be more robust in their comments if the story has a happy ending. It's as if the general feeling is that such a pleasant finish to a story takes it out of the realm of real life and places it into the fantasy arena. That may sometimes be true, but is it a fault? If readers want to finish a book on a high note, isn't it the writer's job to ensure such an ending is possible and plausible? After all, the reader's the prime arbiter of taste in such things. Those writers who suggest that the reader is secondary must surely be writing for themselves, and therefore should perhaps not be seeking publication. And those writers who feel they know better than the reader what is best for them, might be accused of patronising the very people who support their creative efforts.
Of course, this is all to oversimplify what actually goes on with both reader and writer. But, as my intention is to stimulate discussion here, I think a few contentious statements are valid, don't you?
So, let me have your responses to my ideas. Tell me what you think as a reader, as a writer, about the ending of a story.

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