Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Happily Ever After . . .

Greetings! Today, I'm going to write about happily ever after. Now, as you should know by now, there's a catch. I mean, there's always a catch. I'm not talking about you're ordinary, every day, Cinderella meets her prince, birds peck out the eyes of her wicked stepsisters, and this all happens in the last few pages of the story. I'm talking about that pesky happily ever after which happens in the middle of the story. Yes, right there on page 150 of a 300 page book!

Picture it - I'm immersed in a great book, reading along, savoring every word I read, and anticipating the next turn of the page. Then - BAM, Emeril style - happily ever after happens to the tortured main character. The love of his life knocks on his door - literally, btw - and declares her love for him. I have left my husband for you, my beloved! Okay, she didn't say those words.

So, great, fine and dandy, the lovelorn couple is finally together and are making plans to take a train to some distant place where they can wallow in the happy of their happily ever after!

Yeah! Right!

I absolutely know that this little love-fest isn't going to end well. I mean, it can't end well because I'm only halfway through the book and everybody knows that happily ever after doesn't happen until the end!

This tale is no different. I'm mad. Mad, I tell you! Mad! Here we have a contrived (and you know how I feel about contrived) plot point.

As the chapter ended, I turned off my Kindle and haven't picked it back up to finish the book. Three weeks have passed. I'm still a bit peeved at the author for this contrived scenario.

The MC was headed to the train station, leaving his beloved in his rambling house, to purchase the tickets to happily ever after.

I know what's going to happen next. MC is going to come home to an empty house. His beloved will have left him a note and told him she's going back to her husband. Yes, this is what's going to happen!

So, why did the author of this book waste my time with this contrived scenario, knowing full well he wasn't going to keep the characters together, and full well that any semi-intelligent reader would figure out this contrivance?

It just doesn't make sense.

I mean, you know when you're reading Winnie the Pooh that he's not just going to get the honey out of the honey jar. He's going to get his head stuck in the honey jar. Why? Because you're only half-way through the story and it doesn't make sense for happily ever after to happen in the middle of the story. Drama has to occur first.

Other examples - my project currently in revision. The MC has a decision to make that will impact his life, and that of the people around him. By the middle of the book, he's made that decision, but hasn't yet found happily ever after. Nope. Nada! No way!

Why? Because what's the point of continuing to read when the character is living a perfect life without any drama? So, in the second half, the character is still struggling with some issues. I show the progression of his struggles, his fears, the past holding him back, and the ultimate resolution at the end of the book. This is when happily ever after should happen.

Okay, now that I've ranted and raved this fine morning . . .

Is a happily ever after event in the middle of the book, with the reader pretty much knowing it's going to turn into a sadly ever after moment, . . .

. . . lazy writing?
. . . cleverly planned?

With either of the above answers, what are the potential effects on the reader?

For me, the effect was not reading any farther in the book. Oh, I'll pick it up again someday and continue reading. I do want to find out how the book ends. I just wish the author hadn't thrown this contrivance in the middle of a really, really good book.


Robyn Campbell said...

That is way too soon to have the happy, happy. The torture of the MC needs to go on for at least another 149 pages. Why don't we have a talk with the author. :)

There could be a cleverly planned new torment to the MC though. Like the train runs her over, or she gets kidnapped and now he must save her from the fiend. You'd better finish it. I gotta know what happens now. :)

Lady Glamis said...

Scott, that's an interesting question. I have a happily ever after in my first novel, The Breakaway, but it's certainly not something the readers will be cheering for ... because while it's happy for the MC, the reader knows full well that it's all WRONG. They should want something more for her, which is why they keep reading. In that sense, I think an HAE at the middle can work.

I don't have a HAE in the middle of Monarch. There's happy moments, and things are getting a little bit resolved, but it all twists around and comes crashing down as I lead up to the climax.

It sounds like the book you're reading might have a good twist coming up, so you really should keep reading and give the author a chance. If it doesn't get any better, then you've learned a valuable lesson. If it does get better, you've learned a valuable lesson. At least keep trying, in my opinion. Unless the book just sucks from the get-go. Hmmm.

Lady Glamis said...

Oh, and I do think HAE's in the middle of a book can definitely be cleverly planned - but they should at least keep you on the edge of your seat somehow!

Scott said...

Robyn - I think what gets to me most is . . . it's so predictable. I don't want predictable when I'm reading. I want the unexpected. The continued torment of the MC, the absence of his true love when he returns to the house, is expected!

Lady Glamis - I will keep reading the book. I seriously just don't have the time to devote to it right now. As I mentioned to Robyn, it was the predictability that got to me. I wanted the unexpected and got the 'expected' instead. Hate when that happens.

I also think HAEs can happen anywhere in the book . . . as long as there is enough conflict left to carry the story forward to the end. : )


Rebecca Knight said...

I do hate it when things are too predictable--in that way it really does feel like the author's not even trying.

It feels like the "Oh, wait here, my love! When I return, we shall race off to our happiness" has always been the set up for a) the lady changes her mind, b) she gets kidnapped, c) she gets hit by a bus.

It's only when one of these three things DOESN'T happen afterward that I'm pleasantly surprised :). So I guess it depends on what comes after.

ElanaJ said...

I think it depends. If the author is really masterful and throws you something you didn't expect to make the happily ever after unhappily every after, I think it's okay. Like the wife is still there, but disabled. Or mentally insane. Or she's really a convicted felon. Or something BESIDES what you're expecting. Then I'm okay with it. I don't like being able to predict what's going to happen. I want to be surprised.

Tess said...

What amazes me is that it is not just the author - but an editor and agent who signed off on it as well. that always get's me chapped.

Scott said...

Rebecca - I'm with you on that. Unexpected = good reading! George R. R. Martin is an expert at unexpected = good reading. Nobody, and not nobody, is safe in his books. Love! It!

Elana - I love your ideas. Perhaps you could have a chat with the author and enlighten him/her. There were too many instances in the book already where I just knew how the story was going to end up. I mean, where's the drama! Give me high drama, some tension, and a dose of the unexpected. Don't let me figure out what's going to happen before it happens. I mean, I know, I'm a member of the psychic friends network, but still . . .


Scott said...

Tess - I agree 100%. I feel the same way when I find a typo, or some other glaring event that somebody, somewhere, somehow should have caught. I was reading one book, and the boss of the MC had one name in the beginning of the book, and a totally different name toward the end of the book. No, he didn't change jobs mid-read! Arrrgghhh!