Thursday, July 31, 2014

Thinking About the HEA Ending

In romance novels, the Happily Ever After ending is almost mandated. In fact, with some publishers and in some contracts, it is part of the requirements; no HEA = no publication. I admit that there is are many stories and novels written in the Fantasy genre, but, isn't the expectation of an HEA also something of a fantasy? I mean to say, "How often in real life does HEA follow automatically in the footsteps of a loving couple?"

It's nice when Happily Ever After really happens, but is it
really ever true? Does the inclusion of HEA make a
story into a fairy tale? 

Let's think about this for a moment. Rhett Butler walks out on Scarlett O'Hara at the end of "Gone With the Wind". No HEA there. Although Odysseus finally returns to the arms of his beloved Penelope in "The Odyssey", every other man who sailed with him died before arriving back to Ithaca. Odysseus may have had his own HEA, but there were a lot of other houses where that didn't happen. And let's not even get into the fact that in "Romeo and Juliet", both lovers die - separately, by their own hand, and weeping over the dead body of their one and only love. Some HEA there, hmmm?

Romeo and Juliet, a great romance, ends up with both
title characters dead by their own hand. Hmmmm - how
does that work with a Happily Ever After clause? 

So why push drama into a back corner for the sake of the HEA? Well, for one thing, it is the 'romance' genre, meaning the idea is boy gets girl (or other boy) through a process of many trips and stumbles and finally, after soul-searching and deciding they truly are worse apart than together, boy proposes to boy (or girl) and another happy couple is born. The romance goes out of the romance if the HEA isn't there. But there are occasional contracts out there which allow the author a bit more latitude.

I came across this while looking for a good proposal
picture and couldn't resist. *waves* out to all of my
geeky and happy Tolkien-fan friends out there. 

Sometimes the contracts will allow for an 'implied HEA'. This would be one where the doctor and his wildly attractive assistant reunite after the deadly storm and a gleam is in their eyes as they greet each other. As they embrace (after damaging floods, tornadoes, and kidnapping), you know that all will be right with the world and that they will receive their HEA, even if the book ends on a searing kiss in the middle of the Emergency Room doorway. An author can sometimes get away with an implication.

Kissing in the rain. Isn't it romantic? It's also cold, wet, possibly
leading to pneumonia and/or other illnesses. But heck - it's romantic! 

To flip a position and query, does the reader really need to know that an HEA is imminent? Is the reader really silly enough to read a romance novel and expect that the chambermaid will end up happily pulled from charcoal obscurity to enter the life of the Duke gracefully with all of the trappings of a full education in the mores of London strictly class-based Victorial society?  Really? I know we all want the guttersnape to be comfortable at Ascot, but the Eliza Doolittle story can only hold water for so long before the holes in the bucket start to appear.

I have to point out here that Audrey Hepburn had perfect teeth - something
that a street beggar would be unlikely to have. Also, good bone
structure, a stunning body, and generally she was hot, Hot, HOT! 

So I am ranting here. "Give the reader some credit!" Don't assume that every romance novel needs a 'happily ever after' ending. Some of the best romances either go unrequited or require the sacrifice of one or the other protagonist. Instead, give us a good, solid romance that is based on personality as well as physical attributes. Build a plot that doesn't have holes large enough to drive a Mack truck through them, and allow some of the small realities of life (parents, former lovers, education, job requirements, etc) to come through and make that HEA a difficult goal to achieve. Acknowledge some reality. For instance, divorce is rampant in this country and that certainly is not stated as a predictable future for your romance novel's Happily Ever After. Perhaps Happily Ever After should be amended to read Happily Ever for the next X years with periodic contract renewals and no rose-colored glasses.

The woman standing is my Godmother, Vera Sears and
the man holding the violin is my Uncle Edwin. I'm so
proud of my cousin for putting this together and getting
it out into the public eye. 

Just mainstream thoughts for this Thursday morning. As an aside and add-on, a shout goes out to my cousin who published "Ghosts In my Mother's Closet" yesterday at Outskirts Press. Way to go, cousin dearest. Now, make it a NookBook and I'll buy it in a flash! I'm very proud of you, though. You got your book out much faster than my own which is 100,000+ words and still moving on.  Happy Thursday, everyone!

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