Happy Ending Bait-and-Switch

I thought of this a few hours ago, but I haven’t felt like writing anything, so I put it off until now. May be a rant, may just be a load of mildly bemused observation. I want to ask what the point of this practise is as an opener, but the thing is, there is probably an answer and I don’t think I’d like it. Not because I’m a brat (which I know I am) but because the answer wouldn’t actually help.

I don’t like happy endings in the middle of stories.

They always come with trapdoors, for one thing. For another, they’re appallingly manipulative. The book gets you to care about the characters and want that happy ending they’re holding onto or walking towards as much as they do… and then nobody gets it. This is, to me, the most obnoxious spark to action for a story. I don’t want to start a journey depressed. The start doesn’t necessarily have to be uplifting or anything–heck, I find Robert Jordan occasionally dry and dull, but I was kind of with it for The Eye of the World. And Breath of Fire.

Seriously, game or book. Burn down the village and send the hero off to find flaxen keys to open the black space gate, I’ll take his hand and go along with it. Just don’t have a mini story with a happy ending that gets snatched out from his fingers.

Maybe I sound like this has happened a lot, but it’s only been in two books that I’m thinking of at the moment. Airman was the first, and I stopped reading. The hero had a nice life, and then BAM people are dead and he’s basically several feet under the bottom rung. I stopped reading. Sometimes I can’t get over character death. Don’t show me the happy ending and then show me that it’s gone forever.

I think the thing with that one is that if you kill the princess whom the hero thought to be his true love, it doesn’t matter if he gets a shiny happy ending with a new love. The one I liked is dead and it was cheap.

The second time was when I was giving Celia Rees‘s Pirates! a second (read: last) chance before my digital library copy expires. Same basic deal, only worse, thanks to the jumpy nonlinearity. After getting dragged back into a multi-chapter flashback that should have been the bloody beginning, the love interest is kicked to the curb by the evil stepmother and the main character is being sold off in marriage. Right after promising to marry the love interest and lead a good life. Just… I would have been right geared up for an elopement and then becoming a pair of wedded pirates after a storm and a near-cannibal experience. Or something.

Yeah, I know it’s just me. It’s probably just when this kind of thing happens within the first five or so chapters that it gets on my nerves. These are absolutely the only examples I can think of, and I did stop reading both books at those points.

Btw, these are both good books that I would tell other people to read. Except people who think like I do. They’re well-written (Airman is Eoin Colfer!) and interesting. I’m just easy to annoy and have some odd berserk buttons.

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One thought on “Happy Ending Bait-and-Switch

  1. Lol, sometimes I have a hard time with the happy ending we get at the actual end of a story. I’m so optimistic that I’m disappointed with what we’re given. I’d have rather gotten more actual story. But I’m weird. xD

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