We’ve all seen that movie. We’ve all read that book. The one where our protagonist doesn’t “get the girl (or boy)” or their happy ever after. Maybe they learn from the story, maybe they don’t, but either way, the end isn’t hopeful or positive.
Before we go any further, let me just say that happy endings are my favorite thing. They’re incredibly important to me personally for the sense of closure provided. If I fall in love with the characters in the story, all I want is for them to be happy by the end. It’s satisfying to me, especially in a romance, to know that these characters have found happiness together.
Which is why I’m here to talk about how important sad endings are. Sure, there are people who say that sad endings are important because “life isn’t all sunshine and roses, cupcake, so get used to it”, but that’s not what I think.
Life is hard enough. We deserve happiness in the media we consume because real life can be a bitch and sometimes we need a reminder that good things still happen.
So why are sad endings important?
One of the reasons is because for me as a creator, sad endings inspire me to fix what went wrong in the story. They drive me to explore what could have been, the different avenues that would lead to an eventual happy ending in one way or another.
“Fix-it fic” is one of the most important aspects of fan culture there is, for me. There are so many ways to change the story, massage the ending, give these characters we love the happiness we feel they deserve. Not only that, but working within a known universe can give your own writing a boost. It’s a safe way to flex your writing muscles and play with prose, and you have a built-in audience if you decide to share it with the world.
But it also bleeds over into your own original work. “X didn’t get a happy ending in ___ so my character will.” We can be inspired to create joy even when what you saw or read has no bearing on your own story.
So go ahead and watch that sad movie, and when it’s over, wipe your eyes and sit down at your computer and tell us how it should have ended.