I loved all the great comments from Monday's post on happy endings! You guys have put a lot of thought into this. I'm sorry I didn't get back to everyone. Yesterday was my birthday and I decided to take the day off from the internet. But I'm going to answer here!
I'm not against happy endings. In fact, I'd have to say I like them as much as the next person. The thing is this: I think human beings are very impressionable, and when we start putting happy endings on everything no matter the content, we can start to think that that's how the world works. And when we try to write something that represents reality, we should try to stay as true to that reality as possible.
I recently read a book that, though very well written, it just didn't jive with me. The MC kept on making bad, life-altering decisions that, if done in the real world, might have potentially (and most likely would have) destroyed her. But instead of destroying her, these bad decisions ultimately worked out in her favor. When you write a story like that, you risk convincing your readers that bad decisions don't have consequences.
We as writers can try to convince ourselves that we write to entertain, not educate or sway, but it's not as simple as that.
And here's the tie-in to the title of this post!
Despite all our intents to simply write an entertaining story, we usually end up with an accidental allegory. Whatever we write, we put our own life views, morals, and (sometimes) even politics into it. These things are so ingrained into who we are that it's almost impossible to keep them OUT of our stories.
Perhaps it's not as obvious or clear-cut as works that are intended allegory, such as C.S. Lewis's THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA series, which was written with the intent to teach children the Gospel. However, despite our ideas otherwise, our readers will ingest our words and be affected by them. If most books that are published feature a group of people who are portrayed as bad, chances are people will start to think that group of people really is bad. If most books end happily despite the severity of the content, readers can start to think that Human Will can overcome all the bad in life.
Sadly, I've known people whose lives have been ruined or they've actually died because of bad choices made when they were teenagers. Unfortunately, they didn't get the happy endings so many things teach us they should have had.
Now, I know the argument that there's so much pain in this world already, we should write stories to give people a release from that. And I agree with that argument. The problem isn't that there are happy endings out there, it's that ALL (if not the vast majority of) stories out there seem to end happily. Sometimes we need an escape, but sometimes we also need a wake-up call.
So, what do you dear readers think? Can you think of something you've read recently that really made you think? How about a book where the author's views on the world were more obvious than other books you've read?