Space for Rent: In Defense of the Happy Ending

Tweet of the Day: Cult of Popularity


No, I am not in favor of the out of nowhere happy ending where everyone ends up paired with somebody else and they have babies ever after, just because. I’m more of a “Earn Your Happy Ending” kind of guy.  The kind of story where the plot heaps challenge upon challenge on the hero(es). He has to climb every mountain, she has to cross every sea. They must slay all the demons from without and within. But at the end they earn the fruit of their labors. It may be bittersweet but is theirs to keep.

I don’t get that satisfaction from such stories as The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones. No matter how compelling the characters are, and I have to admit that these franchises are shock full of interesting characters, the unremitting sense of doom just makes me want to put the book/comic down and walk away. It may work in episodic TV, the viewer gripped with what happens in every scene, but in a long running franchise or even a long book, somehow it turns me off. Give me a little, blood soaked victory once in a awhile. Or a place to catch my breath. I mean the suicide rate in Westeros must be astronomical.

By all means, give me setbacks, dead ends and false leads. I want to see the heroes stumble, doubt themselves and rage against the heavens. And no, not all stories require a happy ending, that makes it just as boring as the Sisyphian Abyss of the modern gloom and doom story. I can read one Greek tragedy and enjoy it. Five books worth of them and I am out of here. Cervantes and Shakespeare knew how to balance the story elements. A few laughs mixed in with the blood and madness and boil to perfection.

The tunnel may be dark and twisting, the light at the end a single candle beside a dead canary, but as long as the fresh air flows, I know there I can make it across to the other side.



8 comments on “Space for Rent: In Defense of the Happy Ending

  1. “the unremitting sense of doom just makes me want to put the book/comic down and walk away”

    OMG, thank you! I thought I was the only one who couldn’t stand Game of Thrones because not only did it drag ON and ON without anyone (even the bad guys) having a success, I had to listen to the foul language at the same time and I really don’t need that many cocks in my fantasy, thankyouverymuch.


    • I don’t mind the swearing (although everybody has their limits) but for majesty’s sake, can ya give me a little hope, something to look forward too, maybe? 😉


  2. I just found you on Absolute Write and I am glad ! did. You can write! I thoroughly enjoyed this post because you summed up my thoughts on a good story. “Boiled to perfection”!! Gratuitous happy endings and gratuitous everyone dies and no good comes of it are equally uncompelling and I am so glad someone pointed this out! Thank you!


  3. I agree totally. There’s a reason they left Hope in the bottom of Pandora’s box. Every story needs it.


  4. I like my happy endings, too. Longtime romance reader here. Give me a little hope and don’t make me want to slit my wrists. But if it’s a sad or gloomy ending, at least make it a satisfying one.


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