I’m writing today in defense of the happy ending. I tend to be most moved by good news—I’m the type of person who is more likely to cry at a wedding than a funeral—so I’m always hoping to find more delight in my reading. Even if you aren’t ready to embrace the high of the romance genre’s glorious HEA (happily ever after) or HFN (happily for now), may I recommend a few new acronyms? What about the ending that leaves our protagonists enjoying a SBMW (small but meaningful win) or feeling LMTTWATB (less miserable than they were at the beginning)?
Agents always talk about how we love to be surprised, and for me, joy is one of the best surprises. Too many of us have been inculcated with the sense that only suffering is serious, but I say: Bring on the bliss! What happens when we challenge ourselves to attend equally to the spark of delight as much as the pull of ennui? There’s craft in getting your characters into trouble, yes, but also in getting them out of it in convincing, creative, and unexpected ways. Inscribing hope on the page is just as difficult as writing pain or loss or lethargy.
I’m not prescribing something treacly or saccharine. The best writing, like life, will still have texture—highs and lows appropriate to its characters and their situations. Happiness is political, too often limited by systems that don’t serve us all. Our privilege as writers is to imagine a new world, and into that world, I hope we can write a little more happiness for ourselves and the people we care about.
—Maggie Cooper of Aevitas Creative Management
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