Happily Ever After

“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”
–Frank Herbert

Be they real-life or fiction, endings are hard, and I’ve had endings on my brain lately. Revelation, the final book in the Legacy series, was the toughest yet to write. For an author, it’s easy to create drama, to up the ante, to plot twist after twist, turn after turn. The middle is all about the build-up.

But, then comes the impossible. The ending. Tying up all those loose strings into a beautiful bow that satisfies everyone. Of course, the bow can’t be too beautiful or too perfect. It won’t be believable. And, if it’s not a bow at all, but just a hanging ribbon, that’s no good either. Too ambiguous. Too many unanswered questions. Creating an ending that satisfies the reader is daunting. Creating an ending that satisfies the author, even harder.

According to Writer’s Digest, there are five types of endings:

1. The Happy Ending: The main character gains his or her objective.
2. The Unhappy Ending: The main character loses his or her objective.
3. The Classic Tragedy: The main character wins his or her objective but loses something more valuable.
4. The Lesson: The main character sacrifices his or her objective for a greater good.
5. Unresolved: The ending is ambiguous or bittersweet.

As a reader, I must admit, I gravitate toward a happy ending. For most of us, our first books ended in “happily ever after,” so it’s no surprise we seek a satisfying (if not entirely unrealistic) conclusion to a story. Funny enough, it was a bitterly unhappy ending—Tris’ fate in Allegiant, the final book in the Divergent series—that spurred me to start writing creatively again. That’s why I adore the quote by Frank Herbert above. To me, it says there are no happy, unhappy, tragic, or unresolved endings. Because there is no real ending to any story. Only the spot where the writer decided to place their final period.

Real life is like that. Take for example, a recent case from my forensic psychology practice: a seventy something year old man recently incarcerated for a murder that took place over 30 years ago (**details have been altered to protect confidentiality**) End the story in 1980, and it’s pretty unresolved. Sort of a cliffhanger. A young boy is dead. The police are clueless. His family is left to pick up the pieces and carry on with no answers about who or why. Fast forward to the present day. Two eager detectives solve the cold case, bringing justice—but probably not peace—to the family. A happy ending? Well, the inmate, it turns out, desisted from crime years ago. He’s been working with troubled youth, making a difference in his community. Move that final period ahead another 30 years, and the story will take an entirely new shape.

So how did the fan of happily-ever-after conclude her trilogy? No spoiler alert here, but, suffice it to say, I like my fairytale endings with a dose of reality. And this ending inspired me to go back to the very beginning, penning AWOL, a prequel novella, narrated by Quin McAllister.

Perhaps we’re drawn to happy endings, because they afford us a finality not offered in life. As readers, we like to see the boy win the girl’s heart; the bad guy get what’s coming to him; the killer be unmasked. In the real world, we know it’s not that simple. Every day is an ending and a beginning. And the story goes on…

Ready for the epic conclusion to the Legacy series? Revelation is now available for purchase on Amazon, B&N, and iBooks.  A boxed set with all four e-books (including AWOL) is coming soon!

March 1, 2016

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