There are an awful lot of romances in my stories and I try to make them as realistic as possible. I don’t go for characters no one can ever resist–the brooding, muscle bound hero meets the dainty, helpless damsel in distress–and I don’t see anything wrong with that. It’s real and it’s something a lot of readers can identify with. I read a lot of romances, too, and I love them. I just don’t want to write them.
Romantic heroes are often stereotyped and, while that may suck, there’s a reason for it. Apparently, lots of women like the man next door, the hunky fireman, the long-haired, shirtless werewolf… And, this stereotypical romance hero is often given a bad name for being just that, so let’s not do that here. As I said a paragraph ago, I read a lot of romances. I like them. But, you’ll never see Fabio rescue a fair maiden and ride of into the sunset on a unicorn in one of my books. Never.
The closest to a perfect romance novel hero I’ve ever come to writing was The Demon King. He was close, but no cigar. He had the look, he had the brooding demeanor, and he had an excess of power, but he was flawed from the beginning because he wasn’t in it to marry the girl and live happily ever after. I just don’t think demon kings get that sort of an ending. Realistically, they might achieve other goals, but how on earth would a romance really work in the Underworld? I just don’t get it.
Moving past romance novels, other stories with happy endings make my head spin, too. Does every single time traveler make it home safe to live out the rest of their lives as though they hadn’t just traveled through space and time? What about the traveler who becomes trapped? Or is obliterated en route? What about the traveler who wanderers onto an alien planet and is captured by the emperor of the Zed People and thrown into a rusty cage for the rest of his life?
And, what about crime stories? Does the PI always capture the bad guy? What if they didn’t? What if the main character lets the guy go because he’s paid an amount of money he simply can’t refuse? Or, what if he doesn’t let the bad guy go. What if, during the climax of the story, the PI meets up with the mass murderer in an alley somewhere and the murderer does what he does best–murder?
I don’t write happy endings. I did when I was a kid, but then life floated through me and I through it. At some point in my life I realized that not every story has to have a happy ending to be a good one. Not every book has to end the way we all want it to. Characters can fall into their destinies the way in which they are meant to and the endings of THOSE stories can be just as satisfying, just as wonderful, just as horrifying as a story with a happy ending. And, people will continue to read them because some of us enjoy a good book full of wonderful, flawed characters doing beautifully flawed things. I enjoy it when the outcome of a book isn’t what I might have thought it was going to be. I don’t like coming to the last chapter of a story and already knowing what’s going to happen before it happens because at least a million other stories have ended that way. I like to be surprised, both pleasantly and otherwise.
I think that’s why I’m drawn to horror and realism. There isn’t always a happy ending in those stories and it’s almost expected that the author is going to shred their character’s lives into a zillion pieces. I like that, no matter what’s going on in my life, I can crack open one of these stories and realize that it’s entirely possible that someone else out there might just be having a worse day than me.
All of the many things that go through my head kill me sometimes. I’m a constant thinker. Sometimes my thoughts are darker than velvet and sometimes they’re light as air–but, they are always realistic because I can’t stand the thought of writing a story that isn’t somehow true (even if it’s not). There’s no way on this earth I could ever convince myself to write a story where everything turns out okay because that’s just not how the world works. I will always tie up loose ends in my stories and if I leave something up for interpretation, it’s because sometimes life does that, too.
Romance novels are notorious for their happy endings (there are few without them, but Gone With the Wind comes to mind, though I don’t think that book was classified as just a romance novel). It’s totally possible that I might write romance again one day, but know that if I choose to do so, you’re not going to see the hero rescue the damsel in distress and ride off in a million dollar car to a million dollar wedding where their friends and families are waiting on them with smiles and bags of rice to choke the birds with.
It’s more likely that my romance novel will end with the anti-hero and anti-heroine in some sort of stand-off. They might be together at the end of the book, but at what costs? Their fortunes? Their dignity? A limb? Or, possibly even their very lives.
I don’t write happily-ever-afters because that just isn’t real. People pay taxes, they lose properties, they have accidents causing permanent impairments, and they fight like cats and dogs (or demon kings and half-mortals, as the case may be). So, ask me again why I don’t write happy endings.
In short, because shit happens, that’s why.