Happily Ever After
“And they lived happily ever after...”
I was six the last time that was the way a story ended. Because in real life, nobody lives 'happily ever after'. In real life, there is pain, sorrow, death, and everyone experiences something in their lives that puts a scar on the 'happily ever after'.
But that's life. It's real.
So it should be real when we write too.
The truth is, nobody wants to read a story that ends in 'happily ever after'. Why? I'm sure you can guess. If you're a writer, you were a reader first. Think about it a minute. I wouldn't want to read something like that, because it's fake. Because it doesn't resemble real life, and it's too unrealistic to enjoy.
Yes, fiction is a made-up story, something that never happened, and was imagined. But that doesn't mean it's supposed to sound that way. One of my favorite writers once said that, “successful nonfiction has to be unbelievable, while successful fiction must be believable”. I'm not sure which is harder to achieve, but here, we focus on the fiction. It's not that it has to be something that really happened, it has to be something that could actually happen.
And living a life without hardship, a life where everything ends 'happily ever after', is not something that could happen. Somewhere in that 'happily ever after', something is going to happen. Even if the characters have already gone through trials, it doesn't mean their lives will be perfect afterwards. It's going to happen again. Because that's life.
I've gone through trials, so I don't want to read about someone whose life is perfect. I don't want to read about the happily ever after. And I certainly don't want to write about it.
I want to write about life. I want to write about the struggles, the hardships, the trials. I want to write what is real. I want to write about the ups and downs, the good and bad, the joy and pain. I want to write that, because it's what I'd want to read. Because it's what I live.
But then, I don't just want to read (or write) about the bad either. A story that ends in pain and sorrow, with no hope, is not the kind of story any of us want to read.
Life is a complicated thing. It isn't perfect. In this fallen world, there is no way to see past the hardships, unless we know that there's an answer. We know the answer. Sometimes we have to be reminded of it, but we know what the answer to life's hardships is, and Who it comes from. We know that while life doesn't end in happily ever after, that there's more than what we see.
Living in such a complicated world makes writing about that world even more complicated than any of us ever imagined. The fine line between too unrealistic and too depressing is a tough one to walk on. But we must write about the sorrows and pain, because that is what brings us to the end, the light in the tunnel, the silver lining.
In the book I recently put on hold, (but from which I will continue to draw examples), my protagonist is going through the greatest struggle of her life: a life-altering injury. My second main character is struggling with the grief of the loss of his family, and his denial over the existence of a loving God. That's not exactly a positive story.
But what makes it into one is that despite the trials, despite the pain, they end up finding hope. That there is still something worth living for, even after all of what happened.
And the part that makes a story like that (or any of our stories, really) different from typical 'happily ever afters' is that they know there will be more trials, but they know with even more assurance that God is greater.
In real life and in fiction, the story line is the same. Life is hard. It brings us pain and sorrow, but also joy and happiness. The common denominator is that in all of that, in everything that happens in life, God's plan is greater than our own. It is His love, His sacrifice, and His plan that make it all worthwhile, and that make every story turn out well.
And we all live, in spite of it all, happily ever after.
What does your book's 'happily ever after' look like? Let me know in the Comments!