I’ve been thinking about the whole question of the Happily Ever Ending as I’ve been thinking out the ending of my NaNo novels, The Shape-shifter’s Tale (2010) and The Reincarnations of Miss Anne (2009, unfinished). The 2010 NaNo was the first that I truly finished, not with a dreaded Technical Win, but with an actual ending, and a happy one: Christmas morning to the sound of artillery. The main characters have not only defeated the villain (by way of a strategic self-sacrifice of one of their own) but decisively changed the political landscape.
Now that’s my idea of an ending: not only do the characters change, but they’ve changed their world. It made me realize the reasons for my failure to finish Reincarnations, a novel with six viewpoint characters including a Citizen of Utopia: I had an inner fear of Going Too Far. That was a ridiculous fear given what I’d set up; I already had American slavery, Nazi-occupied Poland, scientific racism from the 1850s through the present day, and scientific fraud (with a backward nod to Cyril Burt et al), all of which were making the probability of Utopia diminish toward zero. Our Heroine was going to have to do something decisive and heroic in the opposite direction.
Which tells me why I’m not capable of standard romance: my idea of Happily Ever After involves more than two people, and my notion of romance is friendship plus sex plus solidarity.
In a word: revolutionary endgame.