As an author and also avid reader I sometimes wonder what the fascination is with happy endings. I understand that for most people reading is a form of escapism, but does that necessarily mean the reader will be satisfied with anything less than a positive resolution to proceedings?
Done well, a happy ending can work fantastically, be it the overcoming of adversity, or the blossoming of a relationship that has been bubbling under the surface. Done badly, it feels like everything that has gone before has been disregarded. Characters have instantly got over the stresses and trauma they've been experiencing throughout, that annoying, bossy, opposite sex character is suddenly transformed into the object of their desires etc.
Sometimes a novel has so many loose ends to tie up it seems inconceivable they would all be resolved in the closing chapters. I'd prefer the author not attempt such a feat, although they should at least reference the existence of the loose ends in the protagonist's mind.
I've never been a fan of Disney-esque parables, where the Princess meets her Prince Charming and long lost lovers or pets are reunited with their mates. To my mind life is hard, and art should reflect life, not offer up a distorted saccharin sweet version of it that is frankly unattainable to all but the most morose and passive in society.
The secret of good writing is creating conflict. If everybody felt the same way, stories would play out in a pretty boring fashion. Having invested so much time in creating that conflict, why would an author then rush to resolve it all by the end?
I'd take a sad ending, a bitter-sweet ending, or perhaps even total unresolved chaos over a happy ending any day. If you've got a hum-dinger of a sad ending in your new novel why not drop it to me for a free review? Especially if you've been panicking over the reception you'll get as a result of it!