Happily Ever After?


A little over 10 years ago at the end of the first round of creative writing courses I taught, I formed a Writer’s Group made from a unique and eclectic pool of writer’s from my classes. Over the years I have proudly watched this group of creative wonders develop from hobbyists into committed authors.

An integral component of our group’s dynamic ability to help one another grow as writers is its diversity of personalities and styles. This was never as apparent as the day when one of my writers delivered an impromptu soliloquy over her displeasure with the notion that all stories should end in happily ever after.

The fact is stories don’t have to end with everything wrapped up in a pretty bow. Sometimes they leave us angry or in tears when things don’t work out for our beloved characters quite the way we hoped or expected.

While this may happen more often with true stories, fiction is not immune.

Recently, I published, One Act: Papa’s Trees, which was inspired by a true story. In fact, the theme was true but the plot was my own. To “keep it real” for my readers I forced myself not to fight the natural course of events unfolding before me as I wrote. This resulted in a piece of the plot I would rather not have created but which helped make the story authentic.

Creating authentic characters and authentic plots are very important in building a solid relationship with your readers. It doesn’t matter whether you are writing a courtroom drama or a tale about a sea creature that learns to breathe on land and terrorizes a small whaling community – your first priority must be the creation of authentic characters and plots, which your readers can trust not to waste their time.

A few weekends ago I was watching my favorite Sunday morning news program when a story was featured that grabbed me with such emotion I woke up the next morning still thinking about it. The story stayed at the forefront of my thoughts for days as I dreamt of what an amazing book it would make and how badly I wanted to be the one to write it.

This story would not need to be based on true events – its true events, beginning to end, will need no help, no embellishment, no creative tweaking. It simply needs to be written fittingly for my target audience. There is just one problem…I hate, hate, hate the ending.

I don’t want to write this ending…the real ending. I want to tell the story – bring it to an audience that will love it as much as it deserves but I want a different resolution. How can I do that and remain authentic to my readers?

As writers how do we decide what is right for the story? Maybe it comes down to what is most important to you as a writer…the story or your readers. For me these two are not mutually exclusive.

Like it or not, I may have to work on making peace with the authentic ending…for the greater good.



3 responses »

  1. Today, my husband paid me the highest compliment after reading one of my stories. “You haven’t lived this life, how can you write about it with so much clarity?” Well, I told him, that’s thanks to Sharon Settle’s inspiration. I’m one of those electic individuals she mentioned. I’ve even amazed myself at the characters I’ve been able to conjure up and develop and I’m having a great time of it. Look for me in print soon!!

  2. Letting fiction flow from your subconscious and writing a news story are two different things. The news piece could be reformed into fiction with a different outcome without being inauthentic. Imagine telling a story similar to the Powell case, but with the children staying with the social worker, outside the house. Or with 911sending help sooner. Or with a judge denying visitation. Any one of those changes is entirely feasible and results in a different ending than the unfortunately true story. “To Die For” gives the dead husband’s parents a different kind of vengeance at its end than that of the actual news story upon which it was based. That’s one of the satisfying things about fiction, exploring those “alternate universes.”

    • You know Kim, as Writers we live in those alternate universes and you are right, we have the power to explore and create different outcomes. Thanks for visiting and for your feedback.
      Happy Writing

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