I find when I read something new, I spend some of the time while reading wondering how this book is going to end. I don’t mean reading a mystery and wondering whodunit. I mean, I wonder how this can reach a happy ending. Granted, sometimes I’m reading something that might come to a rather ambiguous and not necessarily happy ending, but there’s always a conclusion.
With romance though, the desired ending is pretty basic. I don’t wonder so much about the lead characters getting together in the end. That’s the formula. Do any romance novels deviate from the formula? Not often. Maybe they don’t end up with you think they do, but in the end there’s a couple together, having overcome some kind of adversity.
My question today is, why is the most requested ending always marriage and kids?
I realize that that is the course most relationships take but why is marriage and kids such a widely required happy ending? What if a couple doesn’t have the ability to conceive? What if same-sex marriages aren’t allowed where they live? What if a couple agrees that they just don’t want those things together? Does that automatically mean that they won’t be happy in life without those things?
I’m not knocking those people who make those decisions in life, and I’m not saying that I don’t necessarily want those things myself. I’m just questioning why so often a story or novel is considered incomplete without these things concluding the story. I’ve written a few romances, mostly short stories, and only once did I end a story with a marriage and a pregnancy. And one other time, I ended a short series with a marriage proposal. Only those two times did that feel like the right conclusion for a story.
In my other stories, I’ve ended with declarations of love, sometimes a desire to move in together, sometimes just a promise to be better together, with no long-term plans. Yet. Did any of those stories – if you’ve read them, and I’m assuming you have 🙂 – feel incomplete to you? And I don’t mean, did you wish there was more to the story or that you wish it just hadn’t ended. Did any of my stories feel incomplete to you?
With my longer story, “Breaking Through the Ice,” it was a slower build-up to the main leads even getting together. The entire story was longer than my other work but I still feel that I brought the characters to a sound conclusion. That doesn’t mean their story, or their lives, stops right where I stopped writing, but for me, that’s where the story ended. I had a few comments asking where the proposal was? When the wedding would be and when the children would arrive? It left me scratching my head. Did I miss the part where their relationship progressed to the point where they were ready for those kinds of decisions? I finished with mutual declarations of love and commitment. No, that’s not a proposal or even a request to live together. But that story would have been another ten chapters at least before I even got close to that point. 🙂
Maybe I’m just being nitpicky about comments. I shouldn’t complain or make it sound like I am. I love my readers and I enjoy that some people feel strongly enough about my work to want more. It just makes me wonder why some readers need to see those things like marriage proposals or pregnancies to feel that a romance is really finished.
Except it’s not finished at that point. A relationship doesn’t stop and ride off into the sunset after that milestone. Anyone in a marriage or long-term relationship, with or without children, will tell you that the story is always going on. Always growing, always morphing into something else.
Yes, I realize I deal in fiction. I know my creations aren’t real and I can take them in any direction I want to. But they are based in reality, are they not? Don’t you enjoy reading my work because there’s a touch – or more – of real life? I like to write them for that reason. Although, I’ll admit, writing about hockey players falling in love with regular women every day is a bit fantastical. 😉
I’m not saying that I’ll never write another story that ends with those things – marriage, promise of kids, etc. – but to me, I end the stories how I think they should end. If, at some point, the urge to continue the story for those couples hits me, I’ll continue with it. In fact, just to tease the hell out of all of you, I’ve just started a sequel to what was quite possibly my most popular and well-loved hockey romance. I haven’t written about these two in so long, I’d forgotten how much fun they are and how much I enjoyed writing their back-and-forth banter and chemistry. 😀 There. Have you figured it out? What I mean by telling you this, is that there are some stories that beg to be continued. If it feels right, I will continue them. I won’t just do it to satisfy the popular notion that every happy ending is the same.
The truth is, every happy ending is what you make of it. For my characters, as well. Sometimes, a couple gets married. Sometimes, they don’t. Some have kids, some adopt, some live without children all their lives. The only way to know if it’s a happy ending is to decide for yourself. For me, I’m still figuring it out. I’m happy right now but I’m not at the end of anything. 🙂 How about you?
Take care and happy reading.