Warning: be wary when searching the term “happy ending” in google. The results are a lot less educational than this article.
You probably think you already know what makes a happy ending. If you’re a new writer, you would most likely go with the traditional stereotype of everything working out in the end: your protagonist gets what they want, all problems get solved, and the characters live happily ever. You can go that way, or you could try something different. We say, try something different.
The way I look at a happy ending is that it’s a ending I’m happy with. Meaning, as the reader, I’m happy with the way the story concluded and felt there was a solid resolution at the end. This can be all of your characters solving their problems or the story ending with a murder scene. You just have to figure out what YOUR happy ending it is.
No matter the ending you create, one fact remains true; it needs to leave the reader with a sense of fulfillment or they won’t feel a connection to your story. But that can’t be the only driving factor of what makes a happy ending when it comes to the conclusion of your story.
As I stated before, your ending must give you personal satisfaction as the writer. If you aren’t satisfied with your ending, the readers certainly won’t be. The goal is to create a ending you feel good about and think is happy. Then you just have to hope the ending resonates with the reader as much as it does with you. A good rule of thumb is to test it out on a group of beta readers and mull over the feedback you get. If the majority agree you hit the mark with your happy ending, you should be in the clear.
It will be difficult trying to create the happy ending both you and the readers are satisfied with. That’s why it’s one of the last things you do, duh (actually, you can come up with the ending anytime. For fun, try writing a story backwards, from the ending to the beginning).
Another thing to remember, just because it sometimes seems like the obvious ending, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad one. I know I’ve talked before about trying not to be predictable with your writing, but sometime the ending doesn’t need a surprise twist. You should spice it up a bit—but creating a good happy ending doesn’t always mean you need to avoid the typical formula of everything working out. It all depends on the story you’re telling. If you’re writing is good enough, it won’t matter if the reader can see part of the ending coming; they will still enjoy it. So, if you take one thing away from this article, it’s that a happy ending is one that resonates with the reader. The guy doesn’t have to get the girl in the end and live happily ever after for the ending to be good. It just needs to leave the reader satisfied.
If you found this helpful you should check out some of these other great writing articles.