Happily ever after

I’ve been listening to Ellie Goulding’s Lights (the album) a ton recently, and as is usual whenever I really get into music, I tend to think of my characters when I’m listening to it. One of the songs in particular, This Love (Will Be Your Downfall), always makes me think of a specific duo. Here is a snippet of the lyrics:

Who are we to be emotional?
Who are we to play with hearts and throw away it all?
Oh, who are we to turn each other’s heads?
Who are we to find ourselves in other people’s beds?

Oh, I don’t like the way I never listen to myself
I feel like I’m on fire
I’m too shy to cry for help
Oh, I don’t think you know me much at all

In particular, what I think about is romances in stories that are “meant to be”. The destined couple, a prophesied love, whatever. It’s an oft-used hook and if done well, they’re alright. The version of this story that really draws me in when done well, though, is the one with the not-so-happy ending.

Final Fantasy X had a perfect ending. The world was saved, everyone was happy, but The Girl lost Her Love (he fades into nothingness).

Yes, I just spoiled the ending of an 11-year-old game, get over it. :P In other news, holy CRAP. It’s THAT old???


And then the abomination that is Final Fantasy X-2 came out and completely ruined it. Oh, there’s a way to bring him back, we can have a happily ever after, oh look we’re farting rainbows and butterflies. I don’t know, something like that. I’ve tried to block out that game as well as I can. (I still finished it to 100%, though, because all things considered, it was an excellent game. Technically speaking. Yeah.) What was so bad about leaving the ending bittersweet?

This is what I’m struggling with right now with my story. When it was first conceived, a decade and a half ago or somewhere around there, everyone ended up happy, yay hooray. (The preteen/teenage years were kind of sappy as far as romance goes, I guess.) The more I’ve worked on it, though, and refined the story, made it more mature, made the characters more realistic, what-have-you, the pair of characters that are technically destined to be just don’t feel right together to me. They’re the requisite “two-sides-of-one-coin” pairing (almost literally), they grow up together, they’re each other’s first loves. And then they grow up and one’s crippling shyness pushes the other away, and the other finds love elsewhere and matures in a much different way and when they meet again they’re completely different people.

So there’s the beginning and middle of their story. Now I’m struggling with the end. (Of course, the “end” won’t come for much, much longer, but I’d like to have things at least slightly organized in my mind before getting there.) As an author who loves her characters (even the asshole douchenozzle that everyone’s supposed to hate – and I have a hell of a soft spot for him), I of course want them to have that “happily ever after”. As a reader and lover of the unconventional, I want them to go their separate ways and show that even if love fails, something beautiful can still bloom from the ashes (an amazing friendship, in this case). The emotional side of me says “but if she doesn’t end up with him, she’ll be lonely forever!” and then the feminist side of me says “fuck that, she doesn’t need a man”. The tiny GRRM on my shoulder says “KILL THEM ALL!” And then the cynic in me says “who cares, you either won’t get that far in the story and if somehow you do, no one will read it”.

It’s all very complicated. Yes indeeeeeeeed.

Readers, writers, lovers, all of you with a vivid imagination: what do you think? Do you like happy endings? Happy endings that are forced, happy endings because that’s how it seems it’s supposed to be, happy endings that take a LOT of twists and turns and heartbreak to get to? Or do you prefer bittersweet endings? Bittersweet endings where hearts are broken and have to be mended, bittersweet endings that take a LOT of twists and turns and heartbreak that never gets resolved? Or do you enjoy something else completely? I want to hear your thoughts!


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