Happy Endings

By Tommie Conrad, author of Heart Trouble

Heart TroubleI love to read, a fact to which anyone who knows me can attest. When I ventured into writing my first novel, I never had any qualms about writing a romance—because I wanted to craft stories with happy endings. Generally speaking, romance novels and romantic films are the only places to find happy endings. There have even been instances—more than a few, I’d wager—where the ending of a book will be changed to create a happier film adaptation. How do we reach this conclusion, though, this need for a happy ending?

Even the phrase itself seems like something of a misnomer—how can an ending be happy? As Sandra Bullock so eloquently put it in the movie Hope Floats, endings are usually sad. A person can’t get through high school or college, or life for that matter, without running across a book with a downcast ending, something that both teaches us and shapes our thinking but ultimately disappoints. Following the journey of two or more characters, only to have it reach an unsatisfying ending, can be a serious letdown.

Because of this, some works simply don’t lend themselves to film at all. As celebrated a book as The Great Gatsby is—it’s a personal favorite of mine—movie studios have tried for decades to bring it to life, and always with mixed results. In so many novels, the textures and collages of ideas and settings, of backstory and personality quirks, simply will not translate into a movie.

Reading a romance novel—or writing one, for that matter—always merits a positive outcome. You may become frustrated, upset, annoyed, or briefly disillusioned by your hero and heroine, but somewhere toward the end you will swing back to happiness, the conclusion you were seeking. To read is to be omniscient—you will be allowed, if the author deems it so, to venture into and explore and the inner lives of characters, empathizing, grappling, and hoping right along with them.

So why do I write happy endings? Because that’s what I want to read.