Ahh! We love happily ever after stories. It’s the bread and butter of romance fiction. The Cinderella story that keeps us coming back for more. The denouement that makes us sigh with contentment.
A publishing company recently rejected one of my novels. The given reason? Their guidelines indicated they want HEA novels, meaning stories that contained a Happily Ever After ending. Mine wasn’t an HEA novel.
Usually happily ever after means that the hero and heroine overcome insurmountable odds to meet, fall in love, get married, and “live happily ever after.” We like to broaden that out to mean that we want our stories to end with a feeling of completeness, that all the problems have been solved, and everything is A-OK from this moment on.
Yet, as I start my next writing project, I’m considering three different plot scenarios. The problem with every single one of them is that they aren’t HEA material. Hallmark and Disney would roll their eyeballs.
I guess I’m not in a happily ever after fame of mind.
After all, happily ever after is not true in real life.
Three families that I know are currently nowhere near a happily ever after ending. Life has been tough. Tragedies have struck hard. Their life stories could rival any soap opera and the Bible character Job would stand with respect as they pass by. My husband and I face our own hardship where we have no guarantee his upcoming surgery will resolve a lifelong struggle.
If life doesn’t contain happily ever endings, why would anyone want to read HEA’s?
I found a good reason why readers and writers long for the happily ever after ending.
In the movie, Saving Mr. Banks,the actor playing the character of Walt Disney says to P.L. Traverse, the author of Mary Poppins:
“George Banks and all he stands for will be saved. Maybe not in life, but in imagination. Because that’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again.”
That’s why fiction writers and their readers love the happily ever after endings. They restore order and instill hope. The story allows us to escape the harshness of life into a world where problems are resolvable, we are strong, and this too shall pass. For a few brief moments after you close the book, you feel a little more empowered to face the bad guys. If Dorothy can get home, Cinderella can marry a prince, and Mary Poppins can mend a fractured family, so can you.
The bad news, the stark reality in which I’ve had a refresher course over the last few months is that some problems are not resolvable. Sometimes in life, we won’t and can’t fix everything. In fact, we’re not meant to be able to solve all the problems. Sometimes we have to live with the absence of a denouement.
Actually, I’m wrong about one thing. We can experience the happily ever after moment. In fact, each of these three families I know carry the hope of the happily ever after in their hearts. It is the hope of restoration that keeps them moving forward one step at a time.
It’s called Heaven.
For you, right now, life might be one big tangled mess.
- Ruined relationships
- Heartache after every heartbeat
- Incurable health issues
- Chasms of unbearable grief
- Unfulfilled, unquenchable longing to have what you cannot have
You may never have what you long for in this life. Prince Charming may never come. For Prince Charming may have already ridden out of your present. The wicked stepmother will never go away. Home left a long time ago. Your kite may be permanently broken.
If you are a Christian, there is always Heaven. If you believe in the Jesus who specializes in the impossible, His death and resurrection provided the Happily Ever After that makes all the fictional HEA”S read like cheap pulp fiction.
In Heaven, there will be no more
Jesus will reign and you will be His beloved. At last, you will have come home.
Until then, hang on to hope.
For now, Jesus walks the journey with you, shares your sorrows, and sings with joy over you. For now, you can find joy because you know your happily ever after moment is coming.