'Did you really, Miss Prism? How wonderfully clever you are! I hope it did not end happily? I don’t like novels that end happily. They depress me so much.'
'The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.'
-An excerpt from the play script "The Importance of Being Earnest" by Oscar Wilde.
Every reader has a different opinion on how they feel stories should end. Some people are just suckers for happy endings - which is perfectly okay - but what does a happy ending necessarily mean?
Does the underdog triumph in the face or oppression?
The hero gets the guy/girl?
Peace is brought to the land and the woodland creatures have a tea party?
...and they all live happily ever after.
Yet it's implausible that everything can end on a happy note. Every ounce of conflict can't be resolved by the end, surely. Not every story is a coin flip to see if you get the sugar coated or creepy version of the fairy tale.
Miss Prism says that the good end happily and the bad end unhappily. Is that true or is it as Cecily says?
'I suppose so. But it does seem very unfair.'
I don't set out to write characters who are represented as flat out "good" or "evil" because I don't particularly like to read about them. There are characters I know who are interpreted or seen as evil, but their own perceptions - regardless of whether they are empathetic - should be multidimensional.
Rather than "happy" endings, I'm inclined to want to read "satisfying" ones, which I'll admit sometimes means I am a sucker for a happy one. What it usually means is that I am pleased with the outcome.
The story might end on a sour note but the message is strong and impacting.
Maybe the hero doesn't get the guy/girl but gains a valuable experience and learns to live life in a different way.
Perhaps peace isn't brought to the land but there is a smaller, personal - but just as significant - triumph.
How do you believe stories should end? How do you want them to end?
Are you a sucker for happy endings or are you content with a satisfying one?