Happy Endings, Puppies, and Joss Whedon

Happy Endings. Writers have a hard time deciding whether or not to kill Character D. for the sake of a story. Will the readers mind? Will I get a slew of hate mail? It’s something all writers struggle with at some point in their careers. If he writes romance he could have that issue, if he writes fantasy – he will most certainly have that problem!

So, what do you do when your story needs a boost? It needs that little extra something? Happy endings are a waste to some writers…Veronica Roth, just sayin’…and to some, there is the need to let everyone survive the Zombie Apocalypse. We can all agree that doesn’t make for a very interesting read, right?

Readers of all types could pick up your book. Some people feel the need for a happy ending (*raises hand*) while others think one minor character getting shot isn’t such a BIG deal (I see you Kennedy. I’m still worried about you. We live next door to each other. I’m REALLY worried for myself.) Is there a middle ground? Sadly, there is not. You have to make a choice. Is the puppy a gift to the new girlfriend or did the zombie eat it on its way to larger fish? (Okay, now I want a hushpuppy.)

“People love a happy ending. So every episode, I will explain once again that I don’t like people. And then Mal will shoot someone. Someone we like. And their puppy.” ― Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon’s quote says a lot about a writer who doesn’t mind disappointing readers – when you have thousands of people coming to see you at Comic Con despite all you’ve done, I can see why. Most seasoned writers still have a hard time writing the final blow to a character that means so much to them. Others don’t feel the kinship to their characters or don’t mind writing them out of the story line. It’s all a matter of perception, how you, the writer, thinks.

Let’s take a break from the idea of killing off characters (it’s cringe worthy, right?) Happy endings aren’t always about someone dying. There are broken hearts, disfigured property, missing family members, she lost her shoe… (How sad, only one heel remains…gets me every time!) It isn’t a matter of saying goodbye to someone. It’s a matter of being unhappy with the ending.

Readers usually have a bone to pick with a writer if something doesn’t go their way (Guilty as charged.  I have written many a harshly worded letter in my head – you have NO idea!) Yet the writer, at some point, just has to throw up his hands and understand that everyone cannot be pleased at the same time. You have to tell the story the way it’s meant to be written. That doesn’t mean you must write a book where everyone dies (Again, guilty), you just have to write a story true to your characters. Whether or not the writer caters to the reader, he must honor the story and the way he writes “The End.”