A to Z Challenge 2014 · How to write Romantic Comedy · Romcom Alphabet Soup

Happy ending? Yes!

YWith romantic comedy, a happy ending is de rigueur. This means, dear writer, that it’s expected. Romcom is, after all, escapist fiction, a beach read. The reader is looking to experience the swing and elation of falling in love, right along with your heroine. Yes, this includes happily ever after.

If you prefer sad (or “realistic”), don’t write romcom. Write a thriller, or chick lit, or sci fi, or a mystery (but not a Cozy). And maybe not fantasy either. Readers have expectations. Choose your genre wisely.

Secondary characters? They can be as miserable as you like! Go ahead and break their hearts. Or leave them hanging, with squared shoulders and brimming eyes, bravely facing an uncertain tomorrow.

But happy at last doesn’t mean predictable. Twists, turns, thrills, spills—a circuitous route to felicity can pack an emotional punch and leave your readers cheering with delight.

Know, too, that crafting a satisfying ending is anything but easy. I learned this when I ended my three-book series. You can’t be a lazy thinker, and you can’t give in to the temptation to simply finish. Your readers should be left smiling and (of course) eager to buy your next book.

Pharrell Williams has perfectly captured the feeling you want. His song “Happy” from Despicable Me 2 is simple but toe-tappingly infectious, and will serve as today’s excerpt. Because I really can’t post something from the ending, right?

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14 thoughts on “Happy ending? Yes!

    1. Sometimes an ending comes down to Writer Fatigue. But in any case, a disappointment.

      When I first began writing, I would have said, “Too bad. I am queen. Deal with it” But these days I am struck with the investment of time and emotions that a reader makes—exactly your point. My books, therefore, need to Deliver! And therein lies the trouble. Endings are hard.

      Even a tragic (or realistic) ending can be acceptable—not usually for romantic comedy! —if the story is wonderfully told. This is rare in my experience. Extremely rare.

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      1. I know what you mean. By the time I was at the end of The Guardian Trilogy, I just wanted to end it. However, though I may have sped it up, I didn’t trash the ending.

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      1. The entire story had been told from the girl’s point of view until the third book. Suddenly, the POV began to switch between the girl and the boy. I should have seen it coming. She killed off the girl with absolutely no warning. Tris is everyone’s favorite character; the entire series was built around her. Was the ending realistic? Yes. Did I like it. NO!!!!!

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        1. I did something similar in For You Alone by adding Anne Elliot’s POV once she and Frederick were engaged. I didn’t like it, but I had no intentions of killing her off either. To the point, there are rare times that killing the hero is the right thing to do. Very rarely.

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  1. If you want reality, why read fiction? Slog through cyber reams of web pages and gulp down local, national, and international news. Romantic comedy is a deadly balance of realism and FICTION!!

    I remember decades ago the whining that went up about how fairy tales were unrealistic (!?!) and set girls up for unrealistic expectations. I scratched my head because, at the time, the best sellers’ lists were brimming with rape romances. (Usually a historical in which the anti-hero kidnaps and rapes the heroine but by the end of the book they are in lurv. *gag*) I came to the conclusion that Cinderella, even the Disney version with the sewing mice and birds was practically a how-to manual compared to the popular fiction of the time.

    But yes, the happy ending is a trick bit of writing.

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      1. Sometimes I wonder if we moderns are so sophisticated and so ironical that we have zero tolerance for anything sentimental or sincere.

        It’s as if we’re afraid to be vulnerable, even in our fiction choices, and so must be always realistic and perhaps slightly mocking. And it’s a short step from gently mocking to sneering.

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      2. Around here if you want to know the low-down on You Tube videos that went viral last week, and yet another city office has an unexplained shortfall in their budget, flip on the news. Otherwise, skip it.

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