Tuesday, May 22, 2012

In Response to Horror Writers against Happy Endings

Stant Litore, a blogger and indie horror author, started the group, Horror Writers against Happy Endings. He's asking horror writers if they feel a horror story should have a happy ending. In his opinion, they shouldn't. I participated in the discussion, but found this question so intriguing, I'm asking what you, my precious demon hunters think.

My nickel, as Stant asked for it: I have to be true to the story. I never know where a tale will take me. Each one is a new journey and I'm not one to plot ahead of time, so I'm as surprised as you are by what pops up on my keyboard the first time around. If a story calls for a happy ending, then one will be provided, but if it doesn't, I won't cave just to satisfy my readers. I write the stories I want to read. If I can't entertain myself, then it's not worthy of being read by you. Sometimes my characters deserve happy endings. Sometimes they don't.

What about you demon hunters? Do you think a horror story should NEVER have a happy ending? Feel free to post a response here and then hop on by Stant Litore's  Zombie Bible to see what others have to say.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!


Stant Litore said...


Thanks for the response! I really appreciate it. What I most hoped for was to get people talking.

Do you mind if I respond to your response with additional thoughts, and kick off the conversation on your post? I hope it doesn't seem rude; your response got me thinking.

I want to speak to two points:

1. First, I should clarify that I don't think a horror story necessarily can never have a happy ending for some intrinsic reason. Rather, I think we as storytellers should be wary of happy endings, and that our culture right now can ill afford the reckless pursuit of happy endings that we see in cinema and too much of our fiction. I'm arguing that as readers and as citizens, we've been training ourselves to be blind to the suffering around us. The amount of suffering in the world right now -- even in our own cities -- is absurd and cruel. Horror stories have a unique advantage in their ability to peel open our eyelids and force us to look at that and deal.

2. I don't think 'hopeful' and 'happy' are the same thing at all. Happiness is a matter of comfort, smiling, and moving into a pleasant and enjoyable stage of life. Romances end happily. Some quest stories end happily (not all). But you can have hope without happiness. You can even have joy, a deep and fulfilling joy, without happiness. Ask Victor Frankel, or any of a number of Holocaust survivors. Our generation is too drunk on the 'pursuit of happiness.'

The end of the 'Iliad' is not happy. It ends with a funeral. But it is profoundly hopeful, in its suggestion that our deeds as mortal beings can be remembered.

I'm out to tell good stories, hopefully great stories. That is my primary, driving passion. But I'm acutely aware that I bear responsibility for the kinds of stories I tell, because as a storyteller, I can either contribute to people waking up and looking around them at the world, or I can lullaby them back to sleep.

Don't get me wrong. Like everyone else, I love a happy ending. I just don't think we can afford them. We can't afford, anyway, to be glutted with them.

My 2 cents.


Nora Peevy said...

Stant, I agree that writers have a social responsbility, but again, I think that's opinion too. I've read a few stories with opinions I didn't care for and that's okay. I'm sure someone did. I just don't see the need to spread a message of hate.

I still think that hope and happiness are both positive endings. You're not going to sway me on that one. LOL I think if you have hope that can lead to happiness. I don't think you can have hope without happiness because hope is an emotion of seeing something good coming. And I do know some Holocaust survivors who are happy and still hopeful about humanity, which surprised me when I talked to them. I asked them why and they told me that you have to see the potential good. I think that is a good message, but I am not into message writing solely. Truthfully, I never think of a soap box when writing. I think of how fun it would be if XYZ happened and then run with it. I ask: What if ... a lot.

Thanks for stopping by and responding. I've gotten some good feedback on Twitter about your discussion. It's enjoyable ... :)

Funny this topic comes up as I am revamping a fantasy novel idea and thought that is the way it started was TOO happy for what the story seems to want to be years later as I revisit it. LOL I'm scrapping the first four chapters written and keeping the characters. LOL

Nora Peevy said...

I also need to say that sometimes I do need a happy ending. I am disabled and my illness sometimes has me in bed a lot. Books are an escape. Sometimes I purposely look for something uplifting to make me laugh. I want to be that writer for people and also the one that has them sleeping with the lights on too because of a scary ending. I want to do both! I write what I want when I want to and that's why they're good, IMO. Because I write from the heart. Sometimes it's blacv and sometimes it's warm and fuzzy with a soft black ribbon wrapped around it and maybe, a black kitten. But I draw the line at fluffy white kittens. Bwahaha!

Anthony Rapino said...

"I have to be true to the story."


I don't avoid happy endings. If that's what the story dictates, so be it.

Although, Stant, your second point is interesting (hopeful vs. happy). In that respect, I'm more prone to "hopeful" endings. And I agree, we should be wary of purposefully writing happy ending simply to appeal to the largest demographic.