I have been writing long enough to know that for some characters, living happily ever after is not part of the deal. It’s still one of the things I struggle with as a writer, though. I don’t always like what has to happen to characters, how the stories have to end. I fight with myself, trying to be true to the story and “fair” to the characters.
I’m even conflicted about other people’s endings. When I was in college, we read Edith Wharton‘s House of Mirth in The Nature of Literary Study. While my teacher (whose area of expertise, as I recall, was eighteenth and ninteenth century works like Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke and other such things) waxed lyrical about Wharton’s descriptions people and places, I fell in love with the spirited main character, Lily Barth (I think; it’s been five years or so). She was plucky and manipulative and social climbing. She was the original version of the independent woman, someone who forces her way into society to marry up, but is picky about it. I kept hoping she would give up her social climbing ways and marry the sweet nice guy, but she didn’t. She ended up horribly impoverished. I hoped she would rise up from poverty like a phoenix from the ashes, scarred but all the better for it, but…well, you know what happened.
If you don’t know what happened, suffice it to say, I was unhappy with Edith Wharton for a long time after that. I still haven’t picked up another Edith Wharton book, even though I think she’s one of the best writer’s I’ve ever read. Her command of language is amazing to behold. But she was a Naturalist writer, scientific and removed in her rendering of characters. She seemed to have no problem letting anyone get exactly what was their due.
Luckily, in Chick Lit, it’s possible for characters to get their comeuppance without cutting off the possibility that they could be happy and soldier on. In fact, this is exactly the result of the movie version of Confessions of a Shopaholic (I must confess I haven’t read the book, but I will). SPOILER ALERT: I usually do NOT spoil movies, but it makes my point.
Still reading? OK, then. But you were warned.
The main character’s lies were found out, she had to pay all the money back and go to therapy, but she learned her lesson, grew up, and got another chance with the hot guy.
I hated how they changed the ending of The Devil Wears Prada when they went from the book to the big screen; I felt the book ending was more empowering and felt right, but Hollywood does that sometimes. But that’s the kind of ending I want for my chick lit book–harsh, but right, with some redemption and hope. Most of all, I want the main character to grow up!
I still don’t know how this will happen; the writing will have to be completed before I know who finds her out and what they will do about it.
It’s nearly impossible for me to successfully complete NaNoWriMo at this point. It’s true I have eight days, six of which I am off work, and miracles happen everyday, but I won’t hold my breath. I will be content with having written well, and consistently. There isn’t much that I would need to trim because it’s just filler, so far. I have a solid first draft. I hope I can continue on and do justice to what I feel is a really good story.
I may change the title to Confessions of a Compulsive Liar–it’s more catchy than the title I have.
How do you deal with having to let bad things happen to good characters? Do you have a problem with letting it happen, or do you just wrap the book up before the worst happens? Suggestions are welcome.
- Mark C. Miller: And They Lived Happily Never After (huffingtonpost.com)
- And They Lived Happily Never After [Once Upon A Time] (jezebel.com)
- Living Happily Ever After (psychologytoday.com)
- More Edith Wharton (litlove.wordpress.com)
- Edith Wharton, A journey (whisperinggums.wordpress.com)