Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thursday Talk Time :: Hmm, I don’t like that ending!

Desire author Jennifer Lewis is back with us on the Pink Heart Society, talking about something we all do...and rarely admit to. It's a dirty little secret locked deep inside all writers minds...finally someone is speaking out...(now doesn't that sound dramatic?)

Very early on, I realized that many of the stories in the world needed some work.

Many stories uphold the tenets of a culture. Characters who defy convention to seek their own happiness end up miserable and alone, a cautionary tale for those who don’t want to toe the line. If the pretty milkmaid starts eyeing the master of the house, you know she’s in for a tragic ending (George Eliot’s Adam Bede). Or if the aristocratic young lady prefers a charming rake to the elderly suitor her family chose? There goes her life down the drain (Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa).

The infamous Romeo and Juliet defy their families to pursue their love—and seal their doom. I hate that! Why can’t these unconventional lovers have their happy ending? Naturally I had to rewrite the story in my head so that no one really gets poisoned and they run away and live happily ever after.

Phew! Much better.

It became a habit for me to retool endings that left me with that nasty “oh no” feeling, and rewrite them in my mind until I felt warm and fuzzy about the couple getting their happy-ever-after. Wuthering Heights, Titanic, Casablanca, Cold Mountain? No problem. Once you get into the habit of figuring out alternate endings for wonderful but ultimately tragic books and movies, it’s quite addictive.

In my current book, Black Sheep Billionaire, I had fun bringing in elements of Romeo and Juliet (two warring families with a decades-old grudge) and Wuthering Heights, (a darkly dangerous hero and the woman who once rejected him). In my book, however, rest assured that star-crossed lovers Lily and Declan are on a journey toward the happy ending they deserve.

Do you have a favorite story with a disappointing ending? Do you ever rewrite stories in your mind to suit your own needs? One person who leaves a comment will win a signed copy of Black Sheep Billionaire.

For more about Jen and her other books, be sure to check out http://www.jenlewis.com/

24 comments:

  1. I went to see a production of 'Romeo and Juliet' recently and I've decided the play is flawed. Yes, I realise Shakespeare is a genius but ..... WHY didn't Juliet leave with Romeo the morning after the night before??????? They were married. It's not as though she didn't know her parents wanted her to marry poor old Paris. So, I reckon they kind of deserved their ending. Silly pair.

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  2. I so don't like the ending of Gone with the Wind... so when Alexandra Ripley wrote a continuation... I had to read it!

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  3. LOL Natasha! I'm picturing Shakespeare saying "Uh oh. I seem to have reached the end already and my publisher specified 55K words. Better string it out a bit." :grin:

    Sequels to classics are a fun idea. I read a horrible follow up to Lady Chatterley's Lover, though, where they're together and miserable. What made the author decide to devote precious hours of her time to that, I wonder? The version in my head was much better!

    Jen

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  4. I'm with Nathalie, Gone with the Wind really bugs me.

    I mean, okay Scarlett gave Rhett a pretty hard time with all that crap about Ashley, but let's face it he loved her for her spirit and he was no saint either, so why did he punish her for it in the end? I felt after 400-odd pages of standing up for the independent woman, making Scarlett seem vibrant and sexy for all her flaws, Margaret Mitchell suddenly chickened out and made mealy-mouthed Melanie the heroine. Shame. Because let's face it, we all wanted to be Scarlett not Melanie - and we all deserved Rhett.

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  5. I've never made it to the end of Gone With the Wind, because although I really enjoyed the characters, Rhett committing a racist murder totally ruined him as a hero for me ::shudders:: I guess I'd have to rewrite it starting a lot further back :-D

    I love difficult heroines, but you don't see them very often. I imagine because there's a reader tendency to want to see them punished rather than enjoying an HEA. I wonder what would have happened to the book if Mitchell ended it differently? Would it have been so successful, or would people have been horrified to see the selfish mean-girl get the guy?

    Jen

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  6. It's Gone With the Wind. I would have loved it more if Rhett and Scarlet were together at the end.

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  7. Hmmm...good question! Movie wise, I don't require a happy ending but it has to make sense. Look at Brokeback Mountain....it wasn't happy, but I didn't feel cheated. Sad, yes, but not cheated.

    I did hate the ending of The Breakup. While I understood the intention, I hated it.

    Perhaps the happy ending is why I like Jane Eyre that much more than Wuthering Heights. :-)

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  8. I do like a happy ending. I can suffer as much as you like on the way but I need a feel good finish.

    I really don't enjoy 'Love Actually' because the character I care most about is Karen, played by Emma Thompson. She breaks my heart. That scene in the bedroom after she's opened the CD. And that's what I'm thinking about after the credits have rolled.

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  9. It sounds like we're overdue for a Gone with the Wind remake with a happy ending for Scarlett and Rhett. Hmm, who to play them?? Maybe George Clooney as Rhett and Catherine Zeta Jones as Scarlett. Anyone else?

    Wuthering Heights vs Jane Eyre, not sure which of those guys I'd want to be stuck with for a happy ever after, but I absolutely love both of them in book and movie form (with the rewritten ending for WH, of course!!)

    Good point about wanting everyone nice to have a happy ending, Natasha! I even like to rehabilitate villains before the end (rather than, say, killing them off...)

    Jen

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  10. Wow, I was going to say GWTW but looks like that one's been pretty worked over. I just hate that Scarlett and Rhett don't find a way to work it out. But I've never read the "continuation" because I assumed it would only make things worse. LOL!


    How about the nursery rhyme, Jack and Jill? Why does he have to injure himself?

    I recently read a novel where it felt like the story just kind of stopped. The heroine learns that she has to rethink some of her choices. She doesn't find love with her best friend who stood by her in silent suffering while she marries the guy who steals her self-esteem and ultimately tries to kill her. I wanted the heroine and the best friend to get together. Can't she rethink her choices while they fall madly in love?

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  11. >>>I did hate the ending of The Breakup. While I understood the intention, I hated it.

    I was just thinking that! My sister and I watched it over the holidays and hated the ending. I wanted to see the couple grow and learn together. Instead, they never resolved the real problem and the relationship fell apart.

    I so wanted to 'fix' it. Still do!

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  12. Great topic, Jen! This is the very reason I started writing! How funny. I'd watched a movie one night. Perfect sexy hero. Great heroine who needed to find love. In the end, he married someone else because his family expected it. Sheesh! Why did they even make the movie if they couldn't bring the two together. UGH! I went to bed that night very upset that I wasted my time watching a movie that didn't have a HEA. That night I had a dream. When I awoke the next morning, I realized my dream was something like a book...and I should try to write it. I did. Now, twelve years later... LOL

    But I agree. I WANT HEA!!!!

    ~Phyllis~
    www.phyllismariecampbell.com

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  13. You know, I find myself wondering if sometimes the writer intended to have a happy ending, but their agent/editor/whoever said "Hey, instead of having them waltz off into the sunset, you'll get better market share and the chance of a Oscar nominated movie if you give it a more 'weighty' ending." :chomps on cigar:
    Looking at this discussion, it seems that some of the most all-time popular "romances" are these ones that end tragically, or at least on a sour note. I wonder if that makes them somehow continue to resonate in our minds as unfinished business. If it's not tied up in a nice :ahhhhh: inducing bow, does the story haunt us in a way that makes it unforgettable?
    Just thinkin' aloud....

    Jen

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  14. Well... I'll be the odd one out and say I like a bittersweet ending. Outside of straight romance, I don't mind if the hero and heroine don't get together in the end. If it seems pointless that they made the journey at all, then I'm not very happy but I have read books where the ending is bittersweet and you know it has to be that way, even if a (big) part of you craves the HEA. I like the really not knowing as you read, wherever everything is up for grabs. Same with movies. I recently saw the Western (modern remake with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale) 3:10 to Yuma. It has a sad ending, and you sort of knew it would the whole time, although you were hoping... but it felt right. As an aside, I don't think Romeo and Juliet would have made a good couple. He was way too immature for her. :)

    Kate

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  15. LOL Kate! Maybe that's what Shakespeare thought too. I guess the challenge for writers is to keep the reader worrying that things *might* not work out, even though with a romance novel you have a pretty good guarantee :-D My favorite piece of reader mail came from someone who read my book "Seduced for the Inheritance". She said she was kind of tired of HEA's when she picked it up, but as she got close to the end she began to worry that it really wasn't going to have one (which takes some suspension of disbelief with a Silhouette Desire!). Her immense relief that they ended up together turned her back into an HEA junkie. I loved that :-))

    Jen

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  16. Oops, meant to write that Romeo and Juliet would have *never* made a good couple. That's what I get for typing too fast.

    Jen, I think those are the best kinds of romances--where you really can't see how they'll get together, but when they do it feels so believable and right. What a great compliment to you and your story!

    Kate

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  17. Since Gone With the Wind & Romeo and Juliette are taken...

    I hated You've Got Mail. I'll usually watch rom-coms over and over and I saw that once and it was enough. It felt like...time to end the movie now...and credits! They didn't layer in about her wanting to write children's books, didn't give him much of an arc at all...which was so sad because it had so much potential!

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  18. I knew what you meant, Kate! You did say it right. Maybe Shakespeare was going to write it with a happy ending then he said "Geez, this Romeo is such a wimp, guess I'll just off him."

    Jenna, I've never seen that one. The whole fake symbol on the screen saying "You've got mail" which never existed even in the stone age of computing, put me off :-D

    It's so lovely to be able to write books and have stuff come out just the way I like it.

    Jen

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  19. Jenna, You've Got Mail is a really poor remake of a 1940s black and white movie called 'Shop Around The Corner' (and they wrote letters to a PO box number and worked together). Much better!

    I caught 'Message in a Bottle' on TV without knowing anything about it and was incandescently angry at that ending. Never attempted a Nicholas Sparks' book as a consequence - which is a shame because he was at last year's RNA awards luncheon and was charming.

    Seems to me Hollywood is generally scared of unhappy endings. They keep trying and their trial audiences invariably have them go back and shoot something more upbeat. :)

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  20. Hi I'm Cathie, a reader. I was away a while due to health, but so glad to be back. I know i read GONE WITH THE WIND, but I can't remember much about it! Must mean its time for a re-read! Most books I read now are romances that have the HEA (Happily Ever After) so this rarely happens.
    There was a time travel by Johanna Lindsay, UNTIL FOREVER,that, as I recall, when they come back together to the future, they don't know each other and have to start all over again. I was disappointed in this. I needed more to know for sure that they were! The book was good but I needed more, it ended so fast and I didn't know for sure that they had a HEA! I heard that KNIGHT IN A SHINING ARMOR by Jude Deverax (spelling?) that some had disappointments about the ending and there is two versions of the book with two different endings? That right?

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  21. Oh I wanted to mention too, its not really totally the same thing, but there are like Paranormal romance series, for example, HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE by Jeaniene Frost, that the characters are separated at the end of the book and you have to wait for the next book for them to be together again. Its hard to wait, LOL. Same with Brenda Joyce's DEADLY books and those books are not being written now so we are totally stuck not knowing if they are together or not. Gosh, I tell myself not to get stuck in these series, LOL

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  22. It's not just romances I want to re-write. Every time I watch any kind of film, there seems to be a moment when I'm shouting at the screen, "hang on a minute, why don't they just..."
    This usually evolves into a full scale discussion involving the entire family. For example, recently we went to see "I am legend" starring the fabulous Will Smith. by the time we got home, we had totally re-written the thing, from the sick zombies p.o.v! (teenage son)
    And don't get me started on people acting out of character on soaps...
    Annie B

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  23. ATONEMENT! need I say more...

    and MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE. It still angers me hugely to think I wasted all that time watching a movie that had such a dismal and unhappy ending. For goodness sakes, didn't this couple deserve a happy ending???? I thought so! Argh!

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  24. And the winner of Black Sheep Billionaire is... Angryromancegrrl! Email me your address at jen@jenlewis.com and I'll send it out.

    Jen

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