Is there still love for happy endings?

I admit to having made that a click-bait title.

The full question is about happy endings in books where a happy ending is a little (or even very) unrealistic.

Happy endings are one of those things I’ve seen a slide in support for in genres I write and enjoy—particularly Fantasy. So the logic goes, a happy ending is unrealistic in a High Fantasy novel (for example), as there’s no chance the MC and all of their friends would escape the book’s conflict unscathed in the real world. So the argument goes, this shakes the reader out of the book, breaks their ability to suspend belief, doesn’t do justice to the horrors of war, etc. The remedy is to throw something in that turns the ending bittersweet, like a character death. In extreme cases, some will advocate for the rejection of a happy ending altogether. Kill the love interest! Kill the MC! Let the antagonist win!

I think all the concerns are valid ones. So that said, is there still love for unrealistic happy endings? Are readers (and critics) content to see the characters they’ve been rooting for make it out alright, or is a bittersweet ending the way to go? How strongly does it vary by genre? Or by target audience—particularly by age?

Speak for your genre(s) if you can! I’m interested in the variation, and in people’s personal experiences.

I love happy endings. My readers tend to ask for happy endings also so I don’t think they’ve slid. I do write romance, fantasy and paranormal. However, I will say that in the paranormal and darker romances as well as the fantasy, they want a twist with the happy ending.

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I like happy endings. That said, I do think true happy endings are a bit unrealistic in most cases, particularly in dark fantasy or fantasy involving war. It does depend on the story and target age group, for instance in MG books I’ve never seen a problem with everyone making it through unscathed (keep in mind I was fourteen when I last read MG as my main age group [is that what you would call this?] [Not trying to say younger teens don’t understand how life works or anything, just pointing out where I was age-wise when I consistently read MG] :joy:). I think that if the main cast is small, it could be perfectly reasonable for everyone to survive. If the main cast is bigger than, say, four characters, I’d expect one of them to be dead by the end, particularly in a novel dealing with a lot of war.

I’m honestly not sure how to classify my fantasy works, but I guess I’ll call them high fantasy for now?

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I write Dark Fantasy.

And they always end happily. With a few twists and not everyone comes out unscathed, but the main couple makes it through and stay together forever.

Considering what I write, I think I’d go batty if I didn’t end it at least somewhat happily. I don’t think I’d be able to pull everything off that happens (which usually involves mutilating and scarring my characters, physically and mentally) if there wasn’t a promise of happiness at the end.

So yes. There’s definitely room for happy endings. But I also think you have to not make them too perfect, depending on the genre.

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Is a realistic happy ending not an option?

I think it’s more to do with stakes and consequences. Most high fantasies deal with the topic of war. If you have a war and no one dies…then…it’s a little jarring and makes it seem like the ultimate conflict wasn’t as big of a deal as everyone made it out to be. Which isn’t ideal.

That isn’t to say I’m all for shitty endings. I actually prefer happy endings. But the higher the stakes, the higher the cost. If that cost isn’t there, then that’s where I think the lack of realism comes in.

Like I said, the higher the stakes, the higher the cost. The higher the conflict, the more impact you’d expect the consequences to have. A guy and a girl ending up together in a romance wouldn’t raise as many eyebrows as nobody dying in an ultimate battle that decided the fate of the world. Not saying romances, teen fics and similar genres can’t have bitter endings. They certainly can (except for Romances with a capital R, to my understanding). I just kinda think that those stories can go either way while with any story that deals with war (or a conflict as high-stakes as war) kinda feels strange when everything goes ‘okay’.

A lot of this is a generalization though, so…

Well, in a story geared towards a younger audience, I imagine the depiction of war would be comparatively ‘friendly’.

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I’d say that a happy ending should be deserved. I mean, it depends on the genre, intrigue and storyline. If there is a strong storyline and an impacting narration, the ending can be happy I wouldn’t mind, I’d be happy after the “tiring” plot, but if the story is boring and ends happily, I won’t be there to see the “happiness” happen. My readers outside of Wattpad don’t have a say on my works, those on Wattpad used to ask for happy endings with my previous books, I granted their wish only once and it’s because I intended to make it a happy ending in the first place. As a matter of fact, the books I remember are those that have broken my heart, my favorite book is a tragedy with an ending that 99% of the readers complained about… yet, happy endings have never moved my heart, nor do authors who like to please. I like it more when the author writes the book they want with the ending they want, that’s what makes writing agreeable.

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I love happy endings. Now, of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything or everyone survives. That just means that the good guys win in the end, even if there are some losses along the way.

There will always be a few that prefer a darker ending, like the one in The Mist; but there are others who still crave a happy ending because it instills us with hope.

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Personally, I think the happy ending is harder to write. People talk shit about them and call them “unrealistic” because for some reason we’ve been conditioned to believe suffering and despair provide more profound commentary on the human condition.

I say write the ending that fits the story you want to tell! Happy or sad, neither is inherently better.

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I mean, it depends on HOW unrealistic. If it involves someone who CLEARLY died and shouldn’t be alive coming back to life and everything being rainbows, yeah, I’m drawing the line. But if it’s something in which it’s very easily attainable, go for it. But at the same time, don’t force it. If you feel like it needs a sad ending, do it! I’m also a sucker for bittersweet endings

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I think that there’s some kind of misconception that Fantasy is only good and subversive and fresh if it’s gritty and dark and realistic. I blame the popularity of Game of Thrones.

You can have an emotionally gripping story and give it a happy ending. You can write deaths that make an impact without it being random or on a wide scale. If it’s a high fantasy novel, I suspect that I’m already suspending my disbelief. I don’t think there’s many genres where I would demand a downer ending, though I can usually tolerate bittersweet if it’s handled well and the author wasn’t just getting grimdark for no reason.

(As a side note because you asked about genres, there is some debate on if you can even call your story a Romance story if you don’t have a happy ending, so that’s a genre that probably won’t see a huge shift towards darker/sadder/etc endings.)

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Define “happy” … heck define “ending”!

The “everyone makes it out (with at most minor injuries) and the world is saved” sort of stories do tend to bore the Hell out of me. If that’s what happens in a story, in my opinion, there isn’t any compelling conflict or real sense of danger/impending doom that drives the protagonist through the story.

There’s a place for the classical “happy ending”. It’s in children’s books … sometimes. In adult literature? There’d better be scars, blood, and loss (even if only in the metaphorical sense).

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Happy endings can only be truly happy if the people has truly suffered

My perspective at least

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I don’t mind either, though the necessity to get a textbook happy ending in a romance for it to have a higher chance to be appealing to agents grated on me.

My preference runs neither with happy or unhappy, but with satisfying, making sense for the story/characters and full closure. Death is a legit ending.

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I love happy endings. My readers always ask what will happen in the end, cause the middle of the novel is terrible! :blush:

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I love happy endings, but even more than that, I like what I call Gray Endings. The Gray Ending sits between happy and bad, of course, because the main character doesn’t get what they want, BUT! They get what they need, which is a big difference. That’s what I have planned for the first book of my trilogy (could be more?). I like when characters have a certain goal in mind but are steered in a different direction so that they can make the realization of what they truly need.

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Personally, I’m a sucker for happy endings.

For some, they may seem unrealistic, but honestly, everything’s possible, as long as it is a just ending. By just, I mean, I wouldn’t want someone falling for someone who mentally or physically abuses the supposedly ‘significant other’. That wouldn’t be a happy ending, though some may call it so.

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I like happy endings. I don’t mind if the ending isn’t the most happiest one. I want though to be a logical reason behind the not so happy ending, a realistic one. There are some books and movies that you feel that your heart is constantly breaking during the whole thing and you don’t even get a happy ending in the end. Yes, that kind of books i don’t want to read them and that kind of movies i don’t like to watch. It’s like you know from the beginning that everything would go to hell and that’s what actually happens. The one tragedy after the other. I want to be entertained a little bit by a book, not to end up with a depression. However, if the tragedy and the bad things that happen to the characters have some logic, i would accept all the tragedy, some stories might want to shock you a little bit to want to change things and i like that too. And, i’m writing romance now and i would like to know that my character even if she doesn’t end up with the man she loves, she will be well inside her with whoever or with whatever she choose.

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I LOVE happy endings and absolutely hate character deaths😑
It’s because I write and mostly read fanfics . So when I see my fab idol+character got stabbed, I feel like I , myself got stabbed…the pain of an over dramatic fan😔

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I have finished my first book and gave them a cliché happily ever after. It wasn’t my first plan but I ended up doing it because I felt like all my characters deserve it. And I because I adore all of them, I gave it to them.

But I do understand why some people don’t want to read that kind of predictable ending where everything is all good and magical and so on. But I don’t understand that they said it’s not realistic. People fall in love, get married and have children every day and are happier because of that. Being happy is realistic, especially if you have fought for it.

Of course, fighting and getting a divorce is completely different thing. Although that also happen often in real life, it’s not written on books because it will disappoint the readers (“My favourite couple broke up, I hate you author!!!”) and that will probably disappoint the author. That’s why people have mixed feelings about happy endings.

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This is the best quote ever.

I write dark fantasy romance and I always have a happy ending in the sense that my main couple ends up together no matter what. That’s happy for me. I don’t kill off favorite characters, either (unless it makes sense and the character isn’t dead, like fantasy that takes place in the supernatural world where angels exist). In a crappy world, I want to believe in happy endings. I want the hope that I can find love. Nobody in my family has found love and that’s why I wrote romance. I use it as a way to write hope for my own future.

As for fantasy, I just enjoy the different worlds and creatures. I love being able to create lore. However, I also add darkness. There are violence and gore, and lots of suffering. I do this because I feel like this has been my life and it makes the happy ending much more worth it and deserving. You can always have a happy ending somehow. Happy endings are still preferred and adored on my side. I won’t be satisfied with a sad ending because I just don’t like to be told that even in my fictional world, happy endings suck. I am a sucker for happy endings and always will be.

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