Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Happily Ever After is for Fairy Tales

Don't get me wrong. I think all fiction should have a happy ending. Yes, that's a generalization, and one that, of course, does not hold true for everyone. Some really good books have downer endings. I just don't want to read them.

But the whole Happily Ever After thing is a pet peeve for me. It's often referred to in publishing circles as HEA, and usually related to romance. It's an obvious reference to "...and they all lived happily ever after" and, in my strident, never-humble opinion, that's the main reason people like Oprah say romances aren't realistic.

The words Happily Ever After imply that nothing bad will ever happen to the couple that got together during the course of the book. That neither will ever make a mistake, that they won't encounter challenges that test the fiber of their relationship, that they will live fairy-tale lives.

I much prefer the term Happy Ending. That means the book ends on a positive note. That the couple did achieve a new level of commitment in their romance, defeated the bad guy, met their goals, whatever. But it also means that hopefully, they have the strength to face those previously described challenges as a team. That when bad things happen--as they always do--they just might get through them whole.

So I cringe whenever I see someone in the industry mention happily ever after. I fear it trivializes not only our genre, but the real-life ups and downs we all face in our everyday lives, and which we try so hard to depict with realism.

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