Monday, February 26, 2007

Chasing the HEA, again

All this talk of bad guys and good guys and killing off characters has made me think of the romance staple--the HEA--again. HEA = Happily Ever After and it relates to the fact that in a novel that qualifies for inclusion under the heading of Romance Fiction must (yes, it's a requirement) have a "happy ending" for the male and female protagonist (or male/male or female/female if your book goes that way).

That doesn't mean wedding ring and white picket fence.

It means that if the relationship between Romeo and Juliet is a major story question then it must be resolved positively before the words THE END appear.

It also means that the relationship is the last story question or issue to be resolved.


Romeo is a jaded homicide detective. Juliet is his young rookie partner. They need to solve the murder of the Jolly Green Giant. As the book progresses, it's also obvious there'a an emotional relationship between Romeo and Juliet.

If the book's a mystery, Romeo and Juliet's emotional issues will be resolved/dealt with before the Jolly Green Giant's death is resolved.

If the book's a romance (or any of the romance sub-genres), the murderer will be caught before Romeo and Juliet solve their relationship issues positively.

Other than that, the story can be pretty durned much the same.

So why do I write and favor the HEA ending? (And why do some people sneer at it?)

I can only answer the first and I'll answer it honestly: in life, I can cry for free. If I'm going to pay $6.99 for something, I damn well better get a smile out of it.

I honestly have no desire to pay money for something that will make me unhappy or depressed. I can do that for free in real life. Why add insult to injury?

I enjoy escaping into a world--either of my creation or some other author's--where the good guys win and love triumphs. It feel refreshing. Cleansing. Uplifting.

But then I'm not by nature a negative person and I don't enjoy wallowing in or associating with negativity.

I don't think it's a Pollyanna syndrome either. Trust me, I am a realist. Reality smacks me in the face several times a day for all sorts of reasons. I know life can suck, I know bread falls buttered side down, I know there is no promised rose garden.

Ah, but there are books with HEAs! And they can get me remembering that bread only falls buttered side down 50% of the time. The glass is equally half full as it is half empty.

Which brings me to another reason why people read (yours truly, included) and I don't know if I'm quoting Swain or Bickham, but it's: PEOPLE NEED SOMEONE TO PASS JUDGMENT ON.

That can explain the need to kill the villain as much as it explains the need to kiss the hero.

When I read, I need both. I don't like books where the only judgment I make is how many of the characters shall die.

I'm fine with killing a few. But I want those kissable ones as well. I want the affirmation of life, of goodness, of possibilities.

I want my $6.99 worth.




  1. I agreed with everything until the 'Pass judgment' comment. I don't want a HEA to pass judgement. Real life is REAL enough that sometimes I just need an escape. Preferrably one with a HEA. As for Games of Command, I pre-ordered it last week and it should be here tomorrow!!

  2. Woo-hoo! GAMES OF COMMAND is out now!

    Great post again. I read agents and editors wanting 'dark' fantasy and 'dark' whatever, and I just don't get it. We have the War on Terror going on, child abuse, high taxes... There's too much darkness in the world for me as it is. All due respect, but they won't be getting 'dark' anything from me.

    Remember the scene in Independence Day when the old pilot flew his fighter jet into the alien spaceship and blew it up? I watched that movie in the theater about a dozen times and this after the video was out. The reason is because the audience would stand up and cheer and scream! It was exhilirating. That's the kind of effect I want with my own stories. Can't say I've reached that goal yet, but that's what I'm shooting for.

    No darkness for me, thanks.

  3. Anonymous1:58 PM EST

    There's a partner to HEA I look for, too. Maybe it has to do with the PASS JUDGEMENT part, maybe not. It's called POETIC JUSTICE. There have to be some appropriately dire consequences for the baddies or I feel cheated -- unless of course that's going to happen in the sequel! But only then can it be missing without me howling in righteous indignation. And, too, if a story gets too dark, especially early on, I'll put it down. I'm just funny like that.

  4. Oh, yes, I love Poetic Justice.