Betcha thought I was going to say editing.
I’ve never been a fan of the Happily Ever After (or HEA) ending in books. Not that I mind if people are happy; by all means, please. Have at it. I can’t stand a series that leaves readers miserable after they’ve been through hell with characters over three or seven or twenty books. What I mean is the actual, “And they lived happily ever after” ending that so many fairy tales either spell out or imply.
Really? I don’t buy it. I’m willing to bet that Cinderella had issues after the wedding. Maybe she turned into a huge slob after so many years of being forced to clean up after people, or maybe she’s constantly nagging Prince Charming about leaving his socks on the floor. Sleeping Beauty seems to have married a guy she hardly knows, and you can’t tell me that’s not going to lead to some problems.
The idea that we should aim for a happy ending in our own lives is problematic too, isn’t it? Romantic comedies take us through the ups and downs of dating, but everyone’s happy at the end. It’s often implied that a big, beautiful wedding is the thing that really pulls a girl’s life together, and the rest is just details. Sure, we know it’s fiction. But we also kind of believe it. Of COURSE we’re going to find eternal happiness! Isn’t that what life is all about?
And if life’s not perfect after the wedding… where did we go wrong? Did we choose the wrong Prince? Was the wedding not Pinterest-perfect enough? Or maybe it was too perfect, and everything after is a let-down. Maybe the happy ending is IT, and it’s all downhill from there, and THAT’S why they never show the rest in movies and romance novels! *gasp!* Shouldn’t life be better than this?
It’s not just weddings. I’m sure most of us have a big goal in our hearts, and we’re sure that when we reach it, we’ll have our Happily Ever After.
The perfect mate.
The book deal, or the X-number sold.
The (insert career-related goal here).
The bank balance.
The house on the beach.
The pure-bred dog of our dreams.
All of the whatevers available of the thing we collect.
But it’s not so, is it? There’s always something to disappoint us, some difficulty that the fairy tale didn’t prepare us for, one more hill to climb. Constant happiness is an unrealistic expectation.
But if we understand that, we can find our happiness among the slips and the falls and the failures and disappointments. We can understand that life’s not perfect, but it’s still be a wonderful adventure. We can laugh at the beautiful, messy imperfection that is real life, ride the waves, and find joy even when we know it doesn’t last forever.
The real problem with Happily Ever After is that it’s the end of the story, and who wants that? I say screw HEA. I’d rather keep living my story, whatever it brings.
(Special thanks to a few of my characters who taught me this lesson)
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