I love a good antihero, but don’t normally sympathize with villains. And Annie Wilkes (of Misery, by Stephen King) really was a villain. After all, she captured an injured man and refused to release him, making him write stories for her, then injured him when he made her mad. That’s firmly in villain territory.
One of the things that made her really mad was “cheating.” You know, when an author promises one thing and delivers another? Or when the author says one thing happened, but then backtracks and says “It was all a dream” or “It didn’t really happen that way.” I mean, when those things happen, I kind of understand her desire to break the ankles of the offending author.*
(*I’m not actually advocating violence here. Please don’t go out and break anyone’s ankles.)
I recently read a book that I love and hate at the same time. It was good, and it paid off all the promises the author made. But the ending was sad. I don’t want to like the ending. I want to demand the author take it back. Kind of like when JK Rowling went on a killing spree in Book 7.
But it was the right ending.
The author gave the book the ending it deserved. No flinching (well, probably flinching), no cheating. It hurt. I mean, if it hurt me, it probably hurt the author more.
It’s just that I was so emotionally invested in the book. I wanted everyone to be okay, to have a magical happily ever after. And while a lot of books do end like that, not all of them do. And not all of them should.
As a writer, I wand to give all of my characters happy endings. After all, technically, I can. I could write a happy ending for everyone because I’m the one typing the words on a page.
But stories are a living thing. The good ones breathe life into the reader, and the reader breathes back. If a writer forces the story into a corner, it will do what it’s told, but it won’t breathe magic anymore. Maybe in the moment, the ending will be satisfying, but ultimately forgettable. Because if the ending isn’t real, right, alive, then there’s no point to writing it.
And sometimes real, right, and alive hurt.
The logical part of me knows this. But the emotional part? Well… I think I’m going to go reread Misery.
Are there any books that ended in a way that felt right, but still hurt? Or any books you’re still mad about because they “cheated?”
(On a side note, for those of you who follow my blog, I’m going to try switching to a Monday/ Friday update schedule. Sunday/ Wednesday just wasn’t working for me.)