What makes you happiest?
Is it a lavender sunset just on the horizon? Is it a stop at Taco Bell late at night after having watched several seasons of your favorite television show? Is it your significant other, whose quirks are part of their lovely charm?
We all have a place in our minds we retreat to for happiness. In times of stress, we indulge in these small treasures to get by. Often times, we escape the pressures of reality with an old pastime: reading, or watching films. But there’s a trend in storytelling I find at times disturbing, and that is the ever-so-popular last-minute change to the ending– to make it more “happy” for the target audience. As you can imagine, this late switch almost never works out, because nine times out of ten, it doesn’t fit the story at all. Often times, the ending is very generic. “They lived happily ever after” is a common theme, and we laugh at it, makes jokes about it, but we have to have it. Why?
My spouse and I rented four movies over the weekend. We’re huge film-lovers (as well as book-lovers), and we love to try new things. Three out of the four films had endings that seemed abrupt, as though the director added it in after receiving complaints. The only reason I felt that way was because the endings didn’t make sense, and didn’t fit the flow of the movie. I’ll give you a guess as to the effect these endings were meant to have on their viewers. Here’s a hint: It involves “saving the day” in some manner.
We all want to feel like we can overcome disaster and tragedy. After all, what’s the point of living if we can’t? But we need to question why we seek that pleasure in all things, not just life. Why must someone who isn’t likely to attack his wife suddenly become like a serial killer the moment she finds out some not-so-surprising secret? So that she can stab him in the neck and save the day, despite it making no sense whatsoever. We will change things deliberately to pleasure our inner selves, and we don’t question for a moment the cause.
Come to find out after some research we did, each of the films we watched had “alternate endings” that upon reading about, sounded much more interesting than the one they left in. We find endings about a man coming to terms with his mistakes “controversial” for some reason. We find a woman who accepts changes in her husband and living a lie “too much to handle”. In the “happy” versions of the story, it didn’t take long for us to grasp how awful it really was– not just in our opinion, but for the characters involved. We would come up with our own endings that made more sense following the conclusions given to us in the films, ones that would definitely make the main character’s life more complicated and screwed up simply because of the “happy ending” that happened. It made us realize that we blissfully forget how life could continue after a “happy ending” happens– how just because the movie backs out of a stronger ending to make it happier doesn’t mean that it would work out realistically, that the character might end up in prison for example for butchering a rapist. We love the perfection of this imaginary universe where everything works out for everyone. It gives us a sense of comfort that if we are ever in danger, we don’t have to give up… which is why if such things in films were attempted in reality, they would end in the worst way possible.
It became clear to me that we don’t entertain ourselves with books and movies to be told a wonderful story. We do it to pump dopamine into our heads, and we don’t want anyone spoiling that. We consider it almost a personal attack that a main character dies in a tragic manner. These characters are not real. They are fictional. No one is really dying. But if they care enough, people will hate you for killing someone they liked, even if they existed only in our imaginations. We are hopped up on a drug called “the revenge fantasy” and if a movie doesn’t give us that, we feel frustrated. I for one, get frustrated when a movie ends on a sappy note. It doesn’t make me feel good, or happy, that someone saved the day if there was no day to save. Whether or not your ending is “happy” it needs to make sense.
You could avoid this ranting nonsense by saying “I’m not changing my ending because it’s good for my story, and it’s the ending that was meant to happen for my character.” And that’s the kind of author/director I appreciate. But many others will change it because they don’t want to be criticized. To them, I must say this: Let them cry, let them mourn, let them throw the book across the room and tell everyone how bitter and sad it was. Because in the end, they care enough about that book you wrote to get mad at you. They care enough about those characters to get upset that they’re harmed. You made them care. And that’s what matters. That makes you a good writer/director.
I didn’t realize this for a long time. I thought it was all about giving people what they wanted so they would “be happy.” But maybe, just maybe, we can also find happiness in the other wonderful emotions we feel. I can feel happy crying at the end of an amazing tale where suffering took place, because it was good enough to make me cry, and that’s pretty damn rare. When a film or book affects me deeply, it’s better that way. If there were two characters named Sarah, and one lost her husband to a gunshot wound at the end of a movie after he had spent the whole film trying to find ways to prove his love to her, I’d find that a better film than one about Sarah who giggles with her boyfriend and lays around in flowers and drinks tea and reads poetry from her binder. I don’t want to read about someone who never goes through any conflict. I want a story about someone who struggles with something difficult, something that may change their entire lives forever if they do or don’t deal with it.
Being happy in life is incredible. Being happy in fiction…
I finally took the time necessary to get my business information sorted out. There are still more things that need to be done, more supplies to order, but in the meantime, my bracelets are back up for sale!
Check out my shop at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/thornmaille
As it says in the title, I just got married on the seventh. Naturally, I’ve been busy as hell with that, but now that things have settled down, I can get back to work. I’ve been actively writing, mostly working on the series I’d like to release, and plan to craft wedding rings for me and my mate 😀
Also in celebration of my marriage, I plan to soon do a promotion for my book. What kind of promotion? That depends on what I can afford at the time. It will likely be a promo for the Kindle edition, and I hope to do it within the next week. Stay tuned!
I’ve made another Captive Inverted Round Maille bracelet recently which I plan to post for sale. More news on that as it occurs.
I’ve had a growing interest in sculpting. I’d love to learn how to sculpt statues. Depending on my income, that will be the next thing I learn how to do.
One of my favorite things I used to do with friends in the past was swap stories. I loved to create a scene, characters, and situation, and find out how they took it and put their own spin on it. It was also lots of fun to carry on a story they started, and to see their entertained reaction. It really allowed me to see how different everyone writes, and how they perceive you, your characters, and environment. It became so traditional with friends of mine to swap stories, that we started swapping them “in real time.” Instead of writing one large section and passing it to the other, we’d role play the actual events as they happened. It was an interesting experiment in developing story and characters, and sometimes, things would take quite the dramatic turn where you’d least expect it to, and you’d have to play along, and stay in character. It was like a form of acting, without really acting. It was all writing, and all intense.
But one thing that sometimes disappointed me was missing the opportunities to expand certain characters that never had their chance to shine or grow. Certain ones had the “spotlight” (admittedly not a fault of my own), and other ones were ancillary support of the main characters. It was, at times, a downer to sort of pack them away in a box and set them on a shelf, wondering what would have happened to them if I had let them evolve. Some of these characters I did expand, and others became something else entirely.
When I grew older, I remembered just how much I liked writing a series like that. It was a personal television show, without the show aspect involved, and developed exactly like a show would. Recently, I started to do just that, on my own, and created my own series.
This is, I’m afraid, not an easy task. With another person, they created (or in most cases, “recycled”) their own characters, and yours would interact with them. Having two people on a project was much simpler. However, there’s also less freedom. There are some situations I wouldn’t want my characters involved in because it didn’t suit them, or because it would wipe them off the pages forever, but try explaining that to someone who had an idea brewing for weeks to kill him or her off, or make them a plot device to give their own characters satisfaction. When on my own, that’s not a concern for me. I can develop story and characters at my own pace.
I’ve been planning to write the series in episodic form, perhaps have ten episodes per volume, or “season,” if you will. I was thinking of making them free to read, but Kindle won’t allow that. The minimum is ninety-nine cents. I suppose you could say that’s the new “free.” The main issue, however, is keeping it interesting. I treat my characters a certain way. I become more invested in specific ones than I do others. It’s a natural reaction. When I make characters that are major aspects of myself, I want to focus on them, of course. That’s what storytelling is for all of us. It’s finding that sweet spot with all of my characters that’s a challenge. Just like with real people, I might not give them a chance until it’s too late. Then, I’ll discover they aren’t so bad after all, and they become like a close friend. It’s just a matter of reaching out to them, putting their personality down for all to see, that can prove to be difficult at times, and others, almost impossible.
The series will revolve, mainly, around three men who live together, and who are also involved in a love triangle, which is led by a merciless, unforgiving perfectionist, who creates rules for his two confidantes to follow, or else face ludicrous punishments. It’s intended to be both very dramatic, and very comedic, though when hearing about it, it’s tough to find the humor in it. Their conflict has so far been very intriguing to write about, and incredibly fun, more fun than I thought it would be. I’ve gone so far as to write back stories for some of them, and even plan dramatic twists for later on in the series. It’s going to be named The Rules, and I’m going to be uploading sections of it onto DeviantArt and Wattpad, as well as releasing the full “episodes” on Kindle for as cheap as I can make them. It’ll be a fun an good way to gain an audience.
This also gives me something to work on aside from my novels. It allows me to go back and forth between them. It’s challenging for me to focus on one single project for a great length of time, because I get tired of things quickly. I need to have various tasks available to me, so I don’t become bored, and I don’t think I’ll ever become bored with these characters.
Unless, of course, I run out of ideas. Then where would I be?