Romance or Reality: Bleeding for that Happy Ending

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Today is Valentine’s Day and the blogosphere has been filled with all kinds of posts about romance and peppered with some pretty funny anti-romance rants.

Ernest Hemingway said it well (and succinctly, I might add) “If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it.”

Is romance promoted so much (in the media and everywhere else it seems – at least for today) because it strays so far from most people’s reality? Are we perpetually attracted to that which we can never seem to have?

And where does that chasm leave us as writers? Are we part of the hearts and flowers romance promoters or the rain on the parade anti-romantic ranters?

A lot of people say they watch TV, or see a movie, or read a book to get away from reality. We’re not likely to be too popular if we go out of our way to shoot cupid down with our own reality spiked barbs of bitterness.

Everyone loves a happy ending, right? I know I do, but as a writer, I want so much more for my characters. On the way to letting them have what they want, I need to throw enough of life’s tried and true obstacles in their way so that if and when they arrive at happiness, they’ve had to fight the good fight, they’ve grown, they’ve learned something of value about themselves and about how the world works. If I’m lucky enough to get my book into the hands of the right readers – they too will come away with an insight.

Think about any of the great stories that you treasure. The ones we really invest ourselves in and remember are the ones where the main characters suffered along the way. They struggled and battled the dragons and in the end made it to a place where we felt their happy ending was well deserved.

Heck, even the Disney Princesses have to struggle – Ariel risks her very identity for love, Mulan must go away to war to save the dignity of her entire family, even Cinderella had it tough before the whole fairy-godmother-glass-slipper business.

If you are a writer – regardless of whether you felt romantic today or not – think about this: no one will remember your story unless your characters drip a little blood down the road to their happy ending. Or maybe this quote by Orson Welles is more apt. “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop the story.”