Some of you may have noted the addition on my sidebar of a second word count meter for another story I've been working on. Sabrina's Secret is an old story I wrote a few years ago that has been sitting largely abandonned on the hard drive while I wonder what on earth I should do with it. I knew it wasn't good enough as it stood, but still felt the story had potential. I just had to tap into it.
Well, after an EXTENSIVE re-write (that I got into doing when I hit a snag in The Honeymoon Effect - can you spell procrastination?) I think I have tapped into something and the story has improved markedly. Now comes the hard part.
Usually by about half way through a book I conceptualise the ending very clearly. It comes to me just as I fall asleep or wake up and it's right there - I know without question that is how the story will end and all that's left to do is work out the best way to get there. But with this story? Hasn't happened. I was never content with the original ending and have been waiting for a better denoument to spring to mind. So far, nothing concrete.
I think this problem arises from the fact I can only see these two having a 'happy for now' kind of finish rather than a traditional 'happy ever after'. There are just so many issues between my protags, and they're the kind of issues that don't get resolved in the space of a month which is the approximate timeline of the book. I want to leave off with an impression of optimism, that these two will work things out because they are right for each other despite their obstacles, but I think a marriage proposal would be precipitate - not least because the heroine has been married before and emotionally scarred by the experience. Would she marry a guy she'd known only a month, especially as she has a young daughter to consider, when she's not the impuslive type? I think not - no matter how much she loves him.
So my question is - how do you as readers feel about the happy for now ending? Does there have to be an indication of forever at the end of the story to give you that sense of completion? What about epilogues? For instance, if the ending was a happy for now one, would an epilogue showing how they were managing a year later acheive the the same result as a HEA? (Touble is, every time I think about writing an epilogue Jenny Crusie's voice sounds in my head... "Don't write epilogues!" Ugh.)
Personally, as a reader I'd rather have a happy for now ending than a forced happy ever after. I don't want promises of undying devotion between people who've known each other only a short time unless the author has done a really good job of convincing me their characters are perfect complements. The promise of future happiness is enough for me.
What about you? What about an ending puts a smile on your face? What makes you want to chuck the book against the wall? Does the ending need to be filled with drama, such as a life endangering event, or can it be subtle and still be just as emotionally satisfying? Help!