Tuesday, October 6, 2009

All I want for Christmas...is an HEA!

I'm a big believer in Happy Endings. Well, duh. I'm a romance writer! Happy endings are a MUST in romance! While on writing break between the completion of my 2nd paranormal and November's NaNoWriMo, I'm catching up on my TBR pile as well as all those movies I didn't get to see over the spring and summer...as well as a few more that have slipped through the cracks over the years. And an alarming trend has started to fan my ire. With reading, this isn't a problem because I know my copy of J.R. Ward's Covet or Nora Roberts' Black Hills is absolutely, positively going to have a happy ending. But with movies? It's a real gamble. This is a major reason I rarely go to the movie theater anymore. Unless it's Harry Potter or the latest Jane Austen adaptation. I can't stand walking away from my $8 with nothing but a half-eaten bag of too-salty popcorn and major disappointment.

It all started with The Break Up. Yes, I KNOW it was called The Break Up. That's why there's a break up in the end. But I had some hope that Vince and Jenn would work things out in the end. If I'd written the frigging script, you can be darn sure they would've found some kind of compromise. Preferrably without the strippers and concert-ditching. Come on! It was supposed to be a romantic comedy. So why did I cry? And not in a good way.

Then there was Atonement. Oy vey. Keira Knightley was not only coming off Pirates with Johnny and Orlando but Pride & Prejudice with MacFayden, too, to be paired with Mr. Tumnus a.k.a. Mr. LeFroy a.k.a the dreamy Mr. McAvoy!!! All this boils down to Amber's supreme anticipation. I expected a sweeping, odds-defying, somewhat wrenching World War II romance. It's certainly possible - I WROTE ONE! Well, the most wrenching thing about this film was the fact that the story actually makes you believe for a time that they do in fact have a happy ending. Only - record scratching (literally) - nope! The narrator made it up to salve her own guilt. They didn't just not get their HEA. They both DIED. Horribly! I had to watch the entire Cap'n Jack collection and down half a bottle of wine just to feel better!!!

At the HeartLA Readers Luncheon this past weekend, author Cynthia Eden listed her reasons for reading romance. And yep, that guarenteed HEA came in first with much nodding and applauding of agreeance from everyone present. So I beseech moviemakers out there to take a leaf out of the billion-dollar romance industry. If you're going to make millions off your latest film, make your audience walk away feeling a bit better about the world. You can be dang sure that no happy ending equals no moolah out of my wallet for you. Who's with me? Whadaya say, readers? Seen any bad endings onscreen lately that made you want to take your $8 back? And this lady could definitely use a couple of guarenteed HEA's on her must-see list. Any recommendations?

*Since it's October, we're celebrating at The Roses of Prose this week with...National Popcorn Month! Didn't know about this one, did ya? No worries - I added a little Halloween-y treat: an exclusive excerpt from my paranormal Urban Secrets. To see how it fits into the whole Popcorn Month thing, read it here!


Anonymous said...

Maybe the movie writers actually spend more than a couple months writing their scripts, unlike the McNovels that romance writers seem to enjoy.

Amber Leigh Williams said...


I wonder what your thoughts are on, again, the fact that the romance industry makes billions every year and leads any other genre in sales. 74.8 million people read at least one romance novel in 2008. In addition, Princeton University honored the romance genre this past year with an academic conference. While we're on the subject, I guess I should mention, too, that at the organization of Romance Writers of America has raised over half a million dollars to fight illiteracy with their annual "Readers for Life" Literary Autographing in which major romance publishers and authors participate.

Clearly, these "McNovels" mean quite a bit to the general half of the population.

Manda said...

Wow, Anonymous, troll much?

Amber, why not check the Internet Movie Database before you see a movie? They usually have a pretty decent plot summary that will give you a clue as to how the movie will end.

I completely understand your need for an uplifting ending. In this day and age when there are so many awful things going on in the world, seeking out entertainment that gives you hope for the future is logical. Why on earth would you want to feel worse? Unless you're a masochist of course.

Not that I think all movies or novels should have happy endings. But it's about expectations--if you know beforehand that you're going to be sad that's one thing. But if you're surprised by a sad ending that makes it so much worse. Good luck:)

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Thanks so much for stopping by, Manda! I'll definitely check out the Database before watching :)

Have a good day!

Allison Knight said...


Please tell Anonymous there are those of us who write those books that spend a lot more than a couple of months on a 'McNovel'. There's the research, the plotting, the actual writing and submitting, hoping to snag an editor's eye. And yes in the world today we need all the happy we can get. Where else can it come from if not from happy books. Certainly not most of the TV shows, or movies.

The fact those novels make us feel good is the best reason in the world for reading them.


Sherry said...

Amber- It seems like Anonymous has never read a romance novel. They may have some elements in common but they are all so different. I have to agree that the Breakup movie was a real downer!
Again, Romances are NOT McNovels and I challenge Anonymous to read one. Sherry

Kris Kennedy said...

Okay, let me try . . .

"They all lived happily ever after."

"They all died of cancer, except for the one shot in a drive-by shooting."

Nope, no harder, & took no longer, to write sad.

If you're determined to write junk, junk you shall write, whether it takes a few months or years.

Conversely, great effort comes in writing work that people want to read, whether it took a few months or a few years.

And, fwiw, writing a compelling story while following a tight structure - AKA McNovels- is incredibly difficult.

Whereas writing insulting, anonymous blog posts requires no work at all.

Cynthia Eden said...

For Anonymous...I know some movie writers who only spend 2 weeks writing a script and some romance authors who spend years working on their work. Either way, it's not about the quantity of time, it's about the quality of writing--I've always found high quality in the romance novels I read.

Chiron said...

Amber, I'm with you, a happy ending all the way!

I had to laugh over Anon's comment though. I know for a fact that some screenwriters whip out a script in less than two weeks. Then watch in horror as the director and producer rip it apart and rearrange it according to their vision. If we should judge literary taste based on movies, then the typical novel would be written for hormonal teens who crave car explosions and decapitations. *laughs*

That being said, I too want my time investment to pay off with a feel-good ending. Life is fraught with dangers both seen and unseen, as well as too much heart-pounding crisis on a daily basis. If we invest energy in 'a hero on a quest' ala Harry Potter, we want to see that hero conquer the foe, solve the riddle, grab the golden prize or get the girl. It's human nature.

One woman I've known for years abhored romance novels and looked with scorn upon the mere idea of a happy ending. Of course, she also hates the idea of a massage unless it hurts like hell. *laughs* So obviously, she thinks pleasure is unrealistic too.

Sometimes we want movies or books that make us think or move us profoundly. Othertimes we seek escape into a world where we can vicariously experience struggle and triumph through the eyes of our hero/heroine. As Manda said, it's all about expectation. If it's billed as a romantic comedy, by golly, give us the damn HEA!

--Chiron O'Keefe

The Write Soul: www.chironokeefe.blogspot.com

PS... To Anon: Every writer needs only two traits to show integrity.

1. The ability to write what you believe in, no matter whether others praise or scorn your efforts.

2. The courage to put your name on your work.

Chiron said...

One more thought...

Apparently Cynthia and I were writing at the same time, and I'm pleased to see her echo my own statement--to believe screenwriters invest more time than a novelist is rather like believing the sun revolves around the earth.

Carol Ericson said...

Amber, I always walk away happy with Drew Barrymore romantic comedies - loved Music and Lyrics and Fever Pitch - both have happy endings that make you smile.

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Thanks, ladies, for your comments! You can't know how much I value your wisdom :)

Carol, I absolutely loved Music and Lyrics. Another great romantic comedy favorite of mine was Two Weeks Notice. Where have all the Grant movies gone? LOL

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Chiron, so funny about the woman who hates massages! Sounds like she needs what my parents gave my sister and me when we were determined to be grumpy and glum: tickle attack!

Amy Atwell said...

Your post reminded me that literature, drama, in fact all storytelling, can be broken down into two classic segments. Comedies are the HEA endings, usually with a literal or figurative marriage for the protagonist. Tragedies end with dire events, usually killing off the protagonist. The message from the Greek playwrights was boiled down to "beware of hubris" (defined as excessive pride).

Comedies and tragedies have survived centuries, and both still draw their audiences. And let's face it, whether it's mass-market fiction or commercial film, it's all about delivering what the audience wants and expects.

For the benefit of Anonymous, I'd like to share that Shakespeare became equally famous for both styles--and I doubt he wrote his comedies any faster than he wrote his tragedies.

Laura Breck said...

I think "Anonymous" got a hold of some of those old, formulary books that publishers demanded. Today's romance novels don't follow that cookie-cutter plot line that our grandmothers loved.

Romance novels today cover dozens of different genres, and the more unique the book, the better.

Final thought, Psycholog Today reported that women who read romance novels have 74% more sex with their parners than women who don't read romance. Romance writers - the world needs you!


Sheri Cobb South said...

Golly, are there people who can write a novel in a couple of months? Who are they, and can they teach me how? It usually takes me the better part of a year, sometimes more than that, and my books are relatively short. And yes, they all have happy endings. But Publishers Weekly and Library Journal seem to like them.

So, Anonymous, I'd love to read your work, or watch something you've scripted. What have you written lately, and how long did it take you?

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

I really can't say anything better than what's already been said, except for what Anon said. And in that case, I echo each and every other comment on the blog up to this point.

Other great HEA's: While You Were Sleeping, Ever After, How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days...and I could go on.

Music and Lyrics is pretty close to my absolute favorite romance movie, The Cutting Edge.

Lisa L. Leibow said...

I write women's fiction. I see nothing wrong with romance writers liking a happy ending.

There are times when a good, romantic comedy is just what I need to escape from the day-to-day. But, I can't say I shun other genres/styles. In fact, I love books and movies with complex plots and characters. I don't need a happy ending to find something to like about a story on screen or on the page.

Likewise, when I'm crafting fiction, sometimes it's interesting to have the protagonist fail to achieve her goal, to achieve it but with an unintended, bad result. These aren't happy endings.

Maybe the problem with tear-jerking films (as opposed to novels) is that a denoument may not be long enough for viewers with varying degrees of sensitivity to recover before having to leave the theater.

I support those who crave a happy ending -- and even enjoy them, myself. However, there is room in the theater and on the shelf for all types of storytelling.

Take care,
Lisa Lipkind Leibow
Author of Smart Women's Fiction

Roses said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amber Leigh Williams said...

Thanks for stopping by, Lisa! While I do love a happy ending, there are a few tear-jerkers on my favorites list. The Notebook, for example. Not exactly what romance novelists typify as a happy ending. But we love it. And for the longest time after their death, I read books about Princess Di, Katharine Hepburn and Jackie O. I read it more because I wanted to know the depth of their legacy, not because I was looking for an HEA. Obvious one there ;)

Anyway, I will admit that my husband and I watched Valkyrie together a few months ago. It ended terribly, of course, as was expected. But while the ending angered him, I understood it and thought the movie was very well-made. When the story is true, I tend to accept a not-so-happy ending better than fiction.

Sandy said...

Gone With the Wind comes to mind after this discussion. It didn't have a HEA, but it had hope.

I don't think the movie writers know how to write a script like that any more. Also, the book was so much work that Margaret Mitchell didn't write another one.

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Sandy, another movie I love! Oddly, I always feel good when Scarlet ends up back at Tara. Maybe because I've written the sequel in my head in which you can be sure she and Rhett work things out in the end and live...well, you know :)