Not so long ago, I wrote about how I saw romance elements in fantasy. This time, I’ll continue from where I left off the last time and share my opinion on some of the possible ends and how I see them – positives and negatives in all cases. It’ll not be tied to fantasy in several cases as, I believe, these work in general.
Casualty of conflict
I’ll start with the case that probably feels the worst to a reader like me. This is a case where the hero’s partner dies before the conflict (the story) reaches its end. it causes emotional drop even before the end as it’s obvious that there’s little chance for any kind of good ending for the hero and the question turns more into what the total cost will be.
- If used well, can force the hero into a powerful last stand fueled by vengeance or desire for justice.
- Lowers the chance of weirdly-done spin-off.
- You know there won’t be a happy ending before the ending itself.
- Timing is important. A strong death too soon might have the emotional effect wear off before the end.
Sacrifice/The ultimate price
There are pretty much two options for this: the hero dies, or his/her partner dies. There are several variants, including one sacrificing him/herself for the other. Another option is the hero dying and leaving the partner behind to remember him.
- Sacrifice is a strong emotional storytelling tool and works well if it’s used well.
- Unlike the previous example, death in the very finale makes the end itself more emotional (death of Kyle Reese in Terminator comes to my mind).
- “It was so close” feeling.
So, the bad guy is done for and the hero and his/her partner are both alive. And that’s it. You won’t be told if they stay together or not. You’re only told that it ended well and that there’s a chance it’ll go down well but you’ll not get the answer.
- They both survived and can go with their lives as they please.
- Leaves space for sequels/spin-offs. How those are handled is a different matter.
- Might not be called a happy ending by some despite surviving, thus invoking mixed feelings.
- Might feel as incomplete ending by leaving a question unanswered.
Both of the mentioned negatives can backfire on the author in the form of potential fans demanding an ending that feels like a true ending.
Side note: an ending where the circumstances force them to go different ways is quite similar in effect (looking at you, Eragon).
Let’s say it straight up: it’s the most satisfying one. The enemy was dealt with, the hero and his/her soulmate survived and they’re ready to stay together forever. Yet, there are dangers to it as well.
- Usually feels like a satisfying ending in most, if not all, aspects.
- Strong sense of reward/satisfaction.
- Needs to be done carefully when it comes to wider context. Too happy ending in a darker story might feel out of place.
- Might feel unrealistic to some in specific cases (ties to the above).
So, that’s another post of mine. There’s (probably) one left to do on this topic at some point: how I see romance in fantasy as a writer. I am not sure when I’ll do that post because I’ll need to consider the risk of potential spoilers, after all.
Have fun reading or writing meanwhile and see you next time. And, of course, feel free to add your opinion.
You’ve got my brain ticking over with some great variants on my preferred happily ever after ending.
It’s definitely nice to hear that I managed to inspire someone. Good luck with whatever kind of story comes from that!
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