And many days have passed when a well-meaning friend would ask me with earnest, “Why do you write such depressing prose? Why must someone suffer at the end?” And I would merely smile, more for the reason that I know not what this friend of mine is referring to. When I had posted this, a friend of mine called me and asked me, “Why do you want me to cry?” and I told her with all the honest I could command that I didn’t want her to cry. Something similar happened when I wrote this post. As stupid as I can get, I laughed it out every time someone told me that they cried. Frankly, they weren’t meant to be tear-jerkers.
Recently, friends tell me that they would like to see a happy post, maybe a love story with a happy ending, even something quotidian but saccharine. Some go one step further and ask me, “Is it not possible for you to write a happy post or story?” And I smile for laughing is popularly considered rude.
As a writer, I cannot preordain what I shall write. I am a writer, a slave and I shall go where the pen takes me. Maybe I will write happy posts (like this and this and wacky ones like this) maybe I will write dark ones and saddening ones. I really do not know where a post takes me, or where a story leads me. To decide the tone and ending and what each character will do at every turn of the story is like planning a love-making session (let’s wrap this up in 30 minutes, lady! You need to lie there, no slightly to the left, yes… purrrfect!….).
Last night (and it is never yesterday night, for pete’s sake!) I read this very interesting piece and it cajoled me into writing this post. It would be funny to follow the ideas that the author mentions. E.g.
Madame Bovary could also do with some cheering up. How about this: Emma marries Charles, a terrifically entertaining and virile country doctor, they have eight children, someone invents Prozac, Emma buys an Aga and wins first prize for home baking at Yonville agricultural fair
Even though Austen ended all her books with a definitive full stop, dozens of imitators have added sequels and prequels, new endings and new beginnings. There are sequels to Treasure Island, Kim, Lark Rise to Candleford and even Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. No one has yet written The Sisters Karamazov, but it is only a matter of time.
What I liked most was found towards the end, and it always helps to find a piece of clove (such as this) to chew on after a long read of rib tickling ideas!
No writer worth the name sets out to produce happy or unhappy endings, let alone seeks to alter existing literature to produce one or the other. It is not the mere happiness or unhappiness of fiction that grips us, but the questions it asks, the people and situations it creates, the complexity of emotions it stirs. Some of the greatest endings in literature are neither uplifting nor distressing, but inquiring.