The first Monday of every month is Inspirational Monday. Share something that inspires you. This month's post is about the trope "Earn Your Happy Ending".
The trope describes a happy end (maybe a straight up Happily Ever After) that comes after a great deal of struggle and hardship and despair. I like these kinds of endings because they are indeed 'earned'. Also, they are a potent weapons against the tragedy freaks shouting True Art Is Angsty. *
These types of endings are inspiring because they say that 'No, you don't have to be miserable because of your circumstances' and 'yes, you CAN earn your happy ending'. Only a cynic would say that tragedies or bittersweet is realistic. On the contrary, Earn Your Happy Ending is truer to real life because real people want to be happy. They wish for it and work at it. They don't strive for bittersweet unless it's ice cream.
Earn Your Happy Ending can contain all the deep introspection and all the thought provoking conflict and all the examination of the human condition and everything else tragedy is praised for but still end happily.
Are happy endings made from a cookie cutter? Yes, and so are tragedies. Depending on the writer's skill, a tragedy can be as bland and formualic as the 'light hearted comedies' they despise and said comedy can inspire more discussion and human reflection then a tragedy.
Someone that Earns Their Happy Ending will have an end that is unique to them and this provides wide open creative freedom. Downer Endings can only come down in so many ways; the hero dies, he doesn't get the girl, his mission/goal fails, etc. There is nothing original or thought provoking about any of this. With Earn Your Happy Ending, you can determine the nature of the ending and avoid a 'cookie cutter' tragedy.
Struggle, yes; conflict, of course; Despair and hardship, absolutely! These are the things that drive plots forward but one or all of these together does not preclude a happy ending. By enduring this struggle, facing this conflict, and overcoming the despair and hardship, their struggle has meaning and it is this meaning that is the soul of the drama. Without a goal and the belief that this goal is, despite all odds, attainable, then the conflict is nothing but "a lengthy description of unremittingly unpleasant things happening to someone." (as said on Darkness Induced Audience Apathy)
All of the above take place in the writing process: struggling to get the plot on paper, conflicts with time and energy, despair from horrid drafts or negative feedback, but never let this distract you from your goal; the finished, published product. The journey may be long and hard but the book will be finished, it will be fantastic, and readers will flock to it. With enough patience and effort, any writer can Earn Their Happy Ending!
(For help avoiding un-earned endings of all sorts read "Gods and Demons in the Machine of the Story")
*I have nothing against tragedy itself but I can't stand forced tragedy. If an author relies on plot holes, contrived coincidences, or idiot balls to make an ending tragic or bitter sweet then their character are derailed and their plot is cheapened.