Are happily-ever-after endings too predictable?

I recently read a book where a guy named Charlie had two separate families, which is revealed when he dies.  Charlie’s daughter from his first family seeks out the other, hidden family.  The mom from that family has a son the daughter’s age with one guy, and a daughter with Charlie.

Want to guess how it ended?

From just that brief description, it’s pretty obvious that they’re going to hook up and live happily ever after.  Which, of course, they do.

Or take a TV show named after the main character.  Bones. Castle. Monk. While the main character faces horrible peril in each episode, you know they’re going to be just fine in the end, because how would the show go on without the title character?

That’s why I like writers who are willing to kill off main characters, even the title character.  Whose books don’t necessarily end happily.  You don’t know what the ending will be, so you keep reading.  And since these are the stories I like to read, they’re the stories I write as well.

How do you feel about HEAs? Are they too predictable, or is their predictability reassuring/comforting? If you write, how do your stories generally end?


  1. I personally like some semblance of a good ending- it doesn’t mean happily ever after- but I want loose ends tied up. Though I do like HEA as well.

    I think it’s difficult these days to twist HEA(s) into something the reader isn’t predicting. But then readers are not really complaining about them either- or TV show audiences for popular things like Castle and such. I think we need happily- even predictable because many are escaping the reality of their own lives, or are doing it for entertainment value.
    I find myself troubled when I end a book and it’s not a ‘good’ ending. I don’t like my main characters dying. I feel bad when the book ends and I don’t want to read to feel bad.

    Hope that makes sense LOL. But everyone has their own likes and that is why there are so many different genres and so many ways to push at different kinds of endings too.

  2. Hmmm, I don’t know anyone that has had a main character die…

  3. Another real-life character who had more than one other family was Charles Lindberg. . .yes the famous aviator and national hero! I guess I like realistic endings, but some kind of resolution and justice in the end. But. . .when I write short stories, I end with a question, they just write themselves that way.

  4. Summer, I think you make a good point – sometimes people are just reading to be entertained or to escape their normal lives, and they want to be reassured that it’ll all work out happily in the end.

    I don’t think characters should die just because; it should either advance the plot, even if it’s not apparent at the time, or should it help develop other characters.

    Loverofwords, I think you’re right too about needing resolution, and wanting it to be realistic. Some of the HEA books I’ve read are so implausible, because in real life there’s no way the leads would ever have ended up together. Those kinds of books I think are the ones I dislike the most.

    And Lisa – in this past year’s NaNo novel, no major characters die. Shocking, I know. :D

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