Friday, May 07, 2010

Where's my @#$%&! happy ending?

I've spent the last twenty years secretly dissatisfied with what I was reading and not really realizing it. How so?

Well, I like thrillers, mysteries, and novels of suspense. I read a lot of Clancy, Baldacci, Grisham, Flynn, Grafton, and Meltzer. All of these writers know how to produce a great story that keeps me up turning the pages, but in many cases, I would close the book with a slight sense of disappointment when the hero didn't get the girl (or didn't even try).

It's not about sex scenes, though I never object to a few well-written encounters. ;-) It's about the emotional build up between the MC and the love interest, and getting the payoff at the end. It's about finally resolving the sexual tension that's been hovering over the story for 300-400 pages.

Maybe I didn't pick up on it because Follett, Finder, Francis (hmm, there's good stuff in the F's) and Cussler usually gave me some kind of happy ending, even if it wasn't an HEA. Grisham too, on occasion.

It was only recently, after spending the last 18 months devouring romances that I came to recognize that sense of disappointment for what it was. I'd just never given it much thought before (unusual for me, I know).

What brought on this moment of self-awareness was David Baldacci's book TRUE BLUE. (SPOILER ALERT!) I had a hard time putting it down, and he even built in some sexual tension between the heroine and the guy she starts pal-ing around with. I spent the whole book waiting for the payoff, but at the end there was none. NONE! Not even a kiss.

He's probably setting this up as a mini-series, but for me it was as if he set up a joke and failed to deliver the punch line. The joke was on me.

If you like Baldacci, TRUE BLUE won't disappoint, but if you're looking for even a hint of HEA, just keep looking.

So now, when I pick up some of my old favorite authors, I do it with full knowledge that I'll probably enjoy the book, but I won't get my happy ending.

If only I'd realized this years ago, I could have been reading romances all along.


Christine said...

And that is why I read romance writers and romantic suspense... I NEED the pay-off.

Great post!

Gwen Hernandez said...

Thanks, Christine. Now that I've discovered RS, I'm a happy camper! It's what I was missing all along.

Callie James said...


Gwen, I just had to say I saw your title and thought ... seriously, that's my life.


Gwen Hernandez said...

Yeah, Callie. We all need one, don't we? =)

Carla Swafford said...

I agree, Gwen. Over the years I've read so many types of books, but romance is the only type I finish with a smile on my face.

Oh, and movies are the same way. So many of them have a romantic subplot and I'm royally pissed by the end if I didn't see one kiss. Something that said they may, just maybe, get together (commitment wise) off screen later.

Gwen Hernandez said...

Carla: I know! Movies too. I have a list of movies that set me up for disappointment. The book/movie doesn't have to be a romance, but if there is a hint of it, at least give me *something*, otherwise why put it in there at all?

I guess that's why we all write what we write.

William James said...

I picked up a copy of "True Blue," on audio at the Seattle public library and the book was missing the last disk. This is was very unsettling to me. I was so close to the conclusion of the story only to have it denied me.

There was very little romance in this book. Just a little sexual tension. Which suits me just fine. I don't understand romance. However, I wouldn't mind learning how to write it. Maybe, I could make a buck that way.

Gwen Hernandez said...

Wow, William, that would drive me nuts not to get the ending! And Baldacci set up some great tension between the characters, which is part of why I was so disappointed.

As far as learning to write romance, if it were easy to get published, everyone on this blog would be already. It's as tough as any genre, and--pardon the pun--you need to have a passion for it. ;-)

Good luck with your own writing!