Spoiler Alert: If you have never seen the movies "Casablanca," "Gone With the Wind," or "Titanic," this blog entry reveals endings and key plot points.
Happy endings. Readers crave them, demand them, and may whine if they don't get them. I understand--I'm a happy ending girl myself. I like my films sweeter than treacle.
But let's take a quick look at #2 and #4 of the American Film Institute's Top 100 films--"Casablanca" and "Gone With the Wind," and at the second highest grossing film of all time, "Titanic."
"Casablanca"--Rick gives up Ilsa because he thinks Victor needs her more than he does.
"Gone With the Wind"--Rhett walks out on Scarlett.
"Titanic"--Rose finds true love and he dies.
No happy endings there, and yet all three films have stood the test of time.
I hope my publisher won't be too annoyed with me for revealing this, but my debut novel, The One That Got Away, doesn't have the proverbial happy ending. From the feedback I received in the workshops I was in, I knew that people liked the main character, Bambi Devine (a.k.a. B.D.) and wanted her to have the ending that she wanted. But I couldn't give that to B.D., or to my readers. It didn't feel right. Much as I love the idea of a happy ending, it isn't something that I have experienced. Sometimes I wonder if writers do their readers a disservice by promoting the idea that there is one and only one true love for each of us; that we need someone to complete us. Or that marriage--or the equivalent of marriage--is what everyone should aspire to. (Good thing Bywater and Ylva didn't assign the Valentine's Day blog duty to me when they were drawing up the schedule for the blog hop!)
Rick didn't have a bad life without Ilsa ("We'll always have Paris") and Ilsa did love Victor, in a way. Rhett and Scarlett loved each other but couldn't really make it work. And Rose ended up having a pretty good life without Jack.
I can remember the day I realized that a happy ending might not be in my future. I was washing dishes (many of my epiphanies happen around water), wondering when that special person would come along to take care of me (perhaps I was humming Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me") and the question popped into my mind: "What if no one ever does?" And I realized that I had better be prepared to take care of myself.
Sometimes I speculate about why I've never had a long-term relationship. Did I do something terrible to someone in a prior life? Did I agree to be single in this life because I needed to learn something? If that's true, I hope I'll understand the lesson at the end.
Of course, The One That Got Away is fiction, and the characters are not based on anyone living or dead (wink, wink), but I've come to realize that if B.D. had gotten the woman she wanted--it probably wouldn't have worked out.
In a way, love and happily ever after is a little bit like law and justice--two admirable concepts that sometimes have very little to do with each other. And that is my attempt at a nifty segue into announcing the next author you're going to hear from--Blythe Rippon. "Barring Complications" features a lesbian Supreme Court justice--and hey, there's an opening on the court right now. Blythe is also the author of "Stowe Away." Take it away, Blythe! http://www.blythe.rippon.wordpress.com.