Mockingjay Part I recently—and relatively, surprisingly timely—passed through the movie theatre of my small town. While I didn’t go, my daughter did, which the next day spurred a conversation about the Hunger Games series of books.
“I didn’t like them,” I affirmed. Never mind the teens-killing-teens phenomenon, which disgusts me thoroughly…I didn’t like how the relationships played out. Although I don’t remember the details exactly—it’s been a while since I read the books—I remember I didn’t feel the conclusion was satisfying, not Katniss-Peeta-come-together-wise, at least.
To which my daughter replied that the two main characters didn’t need to come together, as “life isn’t always fair.”
So how important is a happy ending? Why did I expect one? Me, who can’t write a happy ending to save her life?
For happy endings are too contrived. If I wrote a happy ending, I would feel like I was engineering an audience-pandering story. If I write a not-so-happy ending, I’m writing life.
Somehow there needs to be a big BUT. The girl got the guy BUT lost her friends. The girl didn’t get the guy BUT returned to her passion. The girl could get the guy BUT he betrayed her. There can’t be 100 per cent giddy delight.
And yet sometimes you want to savour the candy. Give me the boy and the girl and the hurrah. Give me the together-despite-all-odds.
So which end of the spectrum do I adhere to?
When writing, I stick firmly to the middle. I couldn’t (yet) kill off a main character, but I also couldn’t make everything lollipops and merry-go-rounds.
While reading, I dare say I enjoy both extremes and everywhere in between. Sometimes we need the friend’s-hand-on-our-back catharsis of tragedy. Sometimes we need unbridled joy. Sometimes we want confirmation that life can throw us a curveball—but we get through it anyhow.