The End

Okay, so I've been thinking about endings a lot recently. Maybe because Mockingjay signaled the end of that story. Or maybe because I've been struggling with how to end my latest novel. Or something.

But endings have been on my mind. So, since I write and read a lot of dystopian, I've also been contemplating the end of the world. So many dystopian novels have that apocalyptic event, you know? There's everything from plague-ish diseases to war, and micro-organisms in oil to a technology revolution.

Then my mind drifted to the dystopian novels I've read. It seems like most of them don't end with shiny rainbows and golden sunshine. They resolve. They end. Just not happily. Which made me wonder why, if they're not ending all fairy tale-esque, why are they so popular? Do people really want to read this depressing stuff about war and oppression and then discuss it with each other?

Don't get me wrong, I love (like, LOVE) books that don't end happily. I think they reflect real life. Think about it. Not every situation in your life ties itself up with a neat little bow and sails into the sunset. It simply resolves. Then you get up and go to work the next day.

Are dystopian endings mirroring real life? What do you think? Have you read a dystopian novel that did end in glorious harmony?


Jodi Meadows said...

Lots of dystopians (and other stories) have realistic-but-hopeful endings. (Mockingjay again.) I love those best. They're not tidy, and they don't make it seem like the entire story never happened. Characters *do* end up changed from their stories. They're not the same as they were on page 1. (Or they shouldn't be.)

I'm also a fan of ambiguous endings. (The Giver.)

I think the reasons these non HEA endings are so popular is because they can make you feel like the story hasn't ended. Just this part of the story. Characters' lives go on after. Whereas a HEA...well that's kind of it. No mas.

Stina said...

I'm reading MOCKINGJAY now. Are you telling me the ending isn't going to be happy? Groan.

Heather said...

I think particularly with dystopian novels, it's important to show a world that doesn't go on perfectly. It wouldn't be real. Typically dystopian societies have been ripped apart by some apocalyptic event and then are living under strict government rule. A happily-ever-after wouldn't be realistic. Because for the characters, who probably haven't really known happiness, hope is all they can ask for. When you're dealing with war, destruction, and the taking down of governments, people are going to die. Lives are going to be destroyed. Everything can't be wrapped up in a neat little bow.

But I don't like HEAs in other books, either. Life is never really perfect.

fairyhedgehog said...

I like an upbeat ending. I don't ask for reality - I get plenty of that every day - I want obstacles overcome, baddies thwarted, and good guys triumphant.

Do we need a separate place to talk about Mockinjay's ending so we don't spoil it for people still reading it?

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I hugely struggle with endings, tending to swing too far one way or the other (sunshine and rainbows or death and destruction). I think there's been a mantra that YA stories have to have a happy ending, but I think that may be changing. (Forest of Hands and Teeth wasn't the most chipper ending, even if it was just the first book)

Melody said...

I wonder if we'd really rather things 'resolve' instead of 'end,' even if they're ending happily. We want to know that the worst is over and that there is hope for the future - a future that will actually have happenings instead of 'happily ever after.' Just a thought - I'm a sucker for happy endings just as much as the next reader, though, not gonna lie!

Elena Solodow said...

Well, if you think that the majority of young adult novels are read by...young adults, they're at a time in their lives when there is so much opportunity out there. Everything significant in their lives is starting to happen at a quick pace, but there's so much fear and expectation that goes along with it.

So dystopian novels mirror the worst-case scenario - the way their life could completely fall apart. But teenagers know that life is ongoing. Even though they want to read characters that can overcome the darkness, they don't want a cookie-cutter ending - they want to be content. They want to know that things are going to be all right, even if they're not all right. And that's good enough.

Tere Kirkland said...

I tend to want my novels to end in a way that's satisfying, but not exactly happy.

I think the realistic ending is more satisfying than an ending tied up far too neatly.

Interesting post.

Krispy said...

I don't ask for happy endings, and I kind of LIKE sad stories, but I want to be satisfied. That's the most important. For dystopians, it just wouldn't be realistic for endings to be super happy dappy because the settings and situations begin in such bleak places. It would be jarring, and it'd kind of make me wonder how things were so bad if they could be fixed enough to be so happy, if that makes sense.

I'd like enough hope in the story though to balance out the darkness - for example, I really liked the end of Incarceron, even if it's a bit unresolved. On the other hand, 1984 is really good but really, really depressing.