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Do you prefer a Happy Ending or Unhappy ending?

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I see no option for "the appropriate ending." I think it's easy to say a happy ending, but sometimes a story needs to end on a sad note.

Joss Whedon says that he doesn't give viewers what they want, but what they need, because the viewer or reader will almost always select something that will make them momentarily happy ... and will ultimately damage the work.

There was a book that hit big last summer, and all of a sudden it seemed like everyone was reading it. It got a lot of praise, but also got dinged on the ending. The ending made sense to me given the tone of the book, and the psychology of the characters, but readers wanted, oh, justice.

Which leads to the unfair part -- the right ending can sometimes be the one that is unpopular and makes people angry. :) Joss Whedon still gets grief for giving viewers what they need -- what they painfully need. (But I truly think your book is better off in the long run as long as your tone was honest and hinted heartbreak was a possibility.)
 

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Yeah, I'm looking for the "right" ending. It's kind of like asking me if I prefer a book to be some specific length, when all I really want is a good book whose length is "just right" for that specific story told in that specific manner. Also, some of my favorite endings tend to be sort of in between: some good aspects and some bad/sad aspects -- sort of like real life. :)
 

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I think it is safe to say, "It depends on the story."

One thing I really like about George R.R. Martin's series is that he doesn't shy away from killing off major characters. That seems more realistic to me than some books where it is obvious the hero/companions make it through every battle, and they are never in any real danger.

It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.

~ Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 (NIV)
 

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Definitely a happy ending. If I'm going to read a book and get very attached to the characters, I prefer knowing they won't suffer some dramatic, awful fate. There are some great novels out there with tragic endings, but outside of the classics, if I'm going to pick up a modern day novel to read for fun I'd prefer knowing it has a happy ending. That's probably why I love Nora Roberts so much! :)
 

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Yeah, and that's one of the great things about romance novels -- the happy ending is baked in.
 

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I can do either one, as long as it is not cliche or predictable. And happy or unhappy, I always want closure, especially in a standalone story.
 

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I guess I prefer a happy ending, because I read for escape and enjoyment.  That's why I like the predictability of Romance.  But, as a long as a book has a resolution, I'm good.  I hate cliffhangers or fade-into-the-sunset endings where I have to decide what I think has happened to the characters.
 

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MichelleR said:
There was a book that hit big last summer, and all of a sudden it seemed like everyone was reading it. It got a lot of praise, but also got dinged on the ending. The ending made sense to me given the tone of the book, and the psychology of the characters, but readers wanted, oh, justice.
Hey Michelle, I don't suppose you want to tell us which book you're talking about? It sounds like a book I read recently. Without giving too much away, was it something about a missing person???

And to stay on topic, I admit I'm a bit of a sucker for a happy ending, though sometimes there is a kind of catharsis in a sad one, too...
 

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Here's another vote for "The appropriate ending."  The ending needs to be true to the themes, characters and conflicts.  Anything else is unsatisfying.
 

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Kenneth Rosenberg said:
Hey Michelle, I don't suppose you want to tell us which book you're talking about? It sounds like a book I read recently. Without giving too much away...
Yes.
Gone Girl/Gillian Flynn.
 

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I'll add a third possibility - the hopeful ending. That type of book doesn't end happily ever after, and in fact the future could go either way for the characters. But the book ends with the suggestion that certain positive things may happen. I find this is sometimes more realistic for me than a neat happy ending, and still leaves me with a good feeling at the end.

I do agree with all those who posted that I like an ending that makes sense in the context of the story, even if it's sad, and not how I wished the story would end.
 

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I think the right ending.
Any ending that is artificially this or that would be difficult to take.
But finally, it's the novelist's prerogative.
 

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I think most people prefer a happy ending - that's why you see it so often in books and movies. It's what the reader or viewer expects. They root for the main character and don't want to be disappointed in the end. Personally I prefer Unhappy Endings because they are usually unconventional and more powerful. The evoke more of a response out of me and I appreciate the way the ending was done. (It's much harder to do an unhappy ending well than a happy one.) Happy Endings are formulaic to me...there's a handful of ways they are done and sometimes that makes stories predictable. Unhappy ones for me are more surprising and unique.
 

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I read the book Michelle mentioned and I'm one of those who was annoyed by the ending. However, I don't always need a happy ending. There was one YA book I read where the love interest dies at the end and the average rating on Amazon is 2 stars. I gave it four stars because it was a great book and I wasn't bothered by the ending.

One thing that does bother me, however, is an open-ended ending. I finished a fictional book about suicide yesterday and the whole premise is about the main character wanting to commit suicide. Yet at the end, you don't know whether or not she went through with it. That was a total cop-out, in my opinion.
 

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It depends on the story. When I'm writing I usually lean towards the unhappy ending, because that's just how i roll lol. But in terms of reading, it just needs to fit. Some stories only work one way.
 
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