Do You Believe in Happy Endings?

About a year ago, I was putting the last few chapters together for my six-year Christian suspense project, The Champion Series. It follows a pastor, Harris Borden, through extraordinary circumstances over a period of 22 years, as he is imprisoned, branded a terrorist, establishes an underground army and takes on big business and then even the government.

At the end of everything, I was confronted with the question, Should he live or die? It was not a simple question. There were arguments on both sides. In the end, I let him live, but recently have questioned whether I ended it appropriately, considering the nature of the story.

As I mentioned in a recent blog, I am presently reading the book, Story, by Robert McKee. He writes specifically about scriptwriting, but as a novelist, I am finding many many ideas that have direct impact on how I write.

In it, he quotes William Goldman in saying: “The key to all story endings it to give the audience [reader] what it wants, but not in the way it expects.”

This tells me two things: first, if Harris Borden lives, I need how he survives to be in an unexpected way. Second, it begs the question, is living or dying what’s most important in the story? Are there no larger questions to be answered?

And of course this raises the question of what my–or your–story is really about. Is it really about his efforts to overcome the bad guys and survive to return to his loving wife? Or is my mission to answer other questions, in this case, what does it mean to really surrender your life, purpose and soul to God?

Put that way, whether he lives or dies is really moot. Because if after six years and 900 pages I haven’t answered that bigger question, I am wasting my time and the time of my readers.

As always, I don’t have all the answers, just more questions. But I would welcome any comments you might have.

2 thoughts on “Do You Believe in Happy Endings?

  1. Was Job happy with his new family and new stuff or did he miss his dead children and destroyed property so much that he was miserable? I believe in surviving to fight another day and I believe in endings, but happiness is a fickle measurement subject to reader perception and experience…maybe a bittersweet yet ironic conclusion would make Harris Borden jump off the page and grab the reader by the brain cells.

  2. Whether he lives or dies should further the overall message of the novel. The question is whether your reader will gain anything from the story if Harris Borden dies.

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