Hopeful Endings: What Readers Want

GE DIGITAL CAMERAAs a writer, the advice is constant: create conflict. We are to make our characters overcome one obstacle after another, after another…

Because readers want hope.

Think about your favourite books or movies. Why do you re-read/watch them?

I personally re-watch certain movies to cheer me up. For example, I re-watched the 1973 Disney version of Robin Hood the other day. Apart from the character’s wonderful personalities (a seven-year-old rabbit shouting “Death to Tyrants!”, or a Scottish hen shouting “Run for it lassie! This is no place for a lady!” for example), I watch it because despite all the obstacles, they make it.

A different economic situation, intra-animal relationship issues, the order of being beheaded, being locked in jail, a friar being threatened in his own church and the whole “we were kids, will they remember me and still care for me?”… through all that, they make it. They pool together resources, fight for their rights, speak out in the face of death and get that happy ending.

And personally, that’s a comfort. If all these characters have to deal with life and death, with obstacles much more difficult that my own, and they make it… then maybe I can get through my life.

They don’t have to have a happy ending, as long as something positive has come from it. One of my favourite books, The Sight (David Clement-Davies) has a death at the end of it that I cried about for hours. However, that character left behind a legacy, a blessing and managed to save others. And it made sense. It was a satisfactory ending.

One day I’ll die, and it’s a comfort again, to know that maybe I’ll be like that character, and leave behind lessons and legacy.

~

So when you’re writing your character’s stories, bare in mind what your aim is as the leader in this character’s fate. Readers, in my view, will want hope. Throw in all the conflict as we’re often instructed – but make sure there’s SOME victory or positive outcome left behind them.

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4 responses to “Hopeful Endings: What Readers Want

  1. Could not agree with you more about happy endings. It is nice when you are reading a book to feel like no matter who much conflict there is you expect a happy ending.

    • Thanks for the comment. I think books play an important role in allowing us to think about our own lives – despite all this conflict, something positive can come of it.

  2. I can’t say that I agree with wanting happy endings. To me (as a reader), many happy endings seem too contrived, as if it SHOULDN’T have happened that way.
    A prime example is the end of The Transitions Trilogy by R.A. Salvatore. The Ghost King did NOT have a happy ending at ALL! I am not ashamed to admit that I cried. (A little difficult to explain as I was in the middle of class). But the ending felt RIGHT, despite the fact that it totally could have been made a “happy” ending. To make that ending happy would have cheapened it immensely.

    • That’s really interesting. Was there not something positive that came out of the ending though? The Silvering Series (Kenneth Oppel) is one of my favourite book series despite a few main characters dying (including the POV character) – but it was for the good of the rest of the characters. So that’s a happy ending, despite the fact I cried for two days afterwards.
      As I said in the post, a happy ending doesn’t need to be “happily ever after” but I don’t think people would read a book where there was no positive gain for SOMEONE in the book.

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