I’m a huge fan of stories with happy endings. I love seeing couples experience the thrill of meeting, getting to know one another, and realizing that they’re in love. A happy ending is the frosting on a mighty tasty cake.
I can’t help but wonder, though, if romance writers aren’t misleading readers when we wrap up our stories in tidy packages, tie all the threads into pretty bows, and give the impression that our couples will have no trials to endure, no challenges to face, and no hurdles to overcome once the proposals have been accepted or the wedding vows recited.
Real life doesn’t work that way, does it? We know it, and so do readers.
I read an unusual and unexpected Valentine’s Day post, written by my agency mate, Heather Kopp, titled “This is the Person You Will Hurt,” and was impressed with her honesty and transparency.
Heather talked about how we’ll end up hurting our spouses more–and more often–than any other person. It’s inevitable. The closer we become, the more friction there can be.
The most important point Heather makes is that forgiveness is crucial in a godly marriage. We’ll likely find ourselves on the giving and receiving end of this precious gift.
As I pondered the truths in Heather’s post, I asked myself how they relate to the HEAs romance readers crave. After puzzling over that question for some time, I realized that making a small shift in my thinking could make a big difference.
Instead of promising my readers Happily Ever Afters, I can strive to give them Hope-filled Ever Afters. The couples in a romance aren’t guaranteed happiness, but they do have hope of a rich and rewarding future.
The guests at a wedding, especially those who are married, know the couple’s life won’t be all sunshine and roses. They expect the husband and wife to face some tough times but to work their way through them as others have done.
In the same way, I believe readers who reach the HEA ending of a story know the couple has what it takes to make their relationship or marriage work. Our heroes and heroines have endured trials, faced challenges, and overcome hurdles. In the process, they’ve grown individually and as a couple. If the story could be classified as an inspirational, they will have matured in their faith as well.
If we’ve done our job as writers, we’ve given our readers hope that the characters they’ve come to know and–hopefully–love, will take the lessons they learned with them as they move into their fictional futures, futures that will include a hefty dose of happiness.
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What do you think of HEA endings? Are they satisfying or sappy?
Do you think it would be more realistic to refer to HEAs as Hope-filled Ever Afters?
Do you believe that forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts we can offer our spouses?
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