The Not So Happy End

I’m a sucker for happy endings. I love seeing characters I’ve watched fall in love in spite or because of various obstacles end up together. I like to walk away from a movie (book) believing the characters went on to have a slap happy life full of love and other good things.

But the stories that stick with me the most and the longest are the ones that don’t end happily ever after. Some of my favorite movies end like this. I’ll stop what I’m doing to watch.

One movie is The Professional with Jean Reno and Natalie Portman. I know how it’s going to end when I sit my butt down. Still, I sit glued to the screen, secretly hoping for a different outcome. Of course the outcome is the same. Then for the next couple of days, while I’m doing house stuff, driving in the car or working on my wip, I’ll think about Leon and Mathilda and what could have been. (Anyone who has seen this movie, what do you think would have been if things had turned out differently? And their relationship, how do you think their relationship would have evolved?)

As a viewer, I’m totally bummed. I so want Leon and Mathilda to make it. To beat the huge odds against them.

As a writer, I’m inspired and challenged. To create characters, who are vulnerable and relatable despite their issues or predicament. To step up the complexity of my character relationships by exploring how basic needs and simple wants can bind people with conflicting personalities, lifestyles and backgrounds. And to write not just a story, but an ending that will stay with readers long after the book has been placed on the bookshelf.

So what movies or books have inspired and challenged you as a writer and/or reader? And in what ways?



Filed under Kimberly, movies, writing

3 responses to “The Not So Happy End

  1. talesfromthecrit

    You know, believe it or not, the ending to My Fair Lady was one of things I related to the end of Awaken the Devil when I was writing it. When I was about sixteen and I saw My Fair Lady for the first time that I paid attention to anything but the songs I was furious when I got to the end. I wanted something more. He said “Where are my slippers.” and that was the end. WTH? But then when I was writing ATD I started thinking about how that was a kind of happy ending.

    Compared to where he had come from this was a BIG step for old Henry H. He loves her. He doesn’t say it but we know it and we know he knows it and we know she knows it. And compared to where they started, well, that’s a heck of a leap.

    I felt like I wasn’t being effusive enough but Chandler just isn’t that kind of character. He does say I love you once and that’s probably all she’s getting. And when I started debating the subject I came up with the My Fair Lady thing. I was tempted to change the ending of ATD because I felt it wouldn’t be well received. But I felt like I couldn’t do that and stay true the characters.

    So now I always call that book my My Fair Lady ending. LOL. And more people have commented on the ending of that book than any other part. So you never know how it will work out for you.

    Excellent post.


  2. jodi

    It was a good ending. Honestly. I fought watching this movie for a long time because I knew it ended with Leon dying and I hate sad endings. Seriously. They suck.

    but…it was a good ending. He died doing the right thing, he made the decision to live and you could see it in his eyes–he just got stopped on the way.

    I think…if he had lived, and she had grown up–age doesn’t matter as much when you’re older. I think they would have stayed together, and…I dunno. But I think they would have stayed together. Beautiful movie.

    I love it.

    …but my op on ending, books that stay with you is that to reach you and stick with you, a writer has to write from the heart (and yeah–isn’t THAT a cliche?) but I mean, you can’t write without putting a piece of you in your writing and the more pieces you use, the more it resonates. I guess the word I’m looking for is honesty. Sure, anyone can write, but not everyone wants to look inside themselves. It’s scary in there.

  3. mamadivine

    AJ- I couldn’t see ATD ending differently. Chandler had to stay true to himself or the book wouldn’t have worked.

    Jodi- I feel like Leon and Mathilda would have stayed together too. Great point about writing from the heart. It’s hard not to be affected by honesty.

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