Our Pages

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Rewriting a Happily Ever After Ending

Last week in NYC I had a chance to do something I’ve always dreamed of doing. I saw a Broadway show, and as a bonus, I got to see it with a great group of writers (Ava Stone, Heather Boyd, Julie Johnstone, Jane Charles, Sabrina Jeffries and the Tammy half of Lydia Dare). We saw “Wicked”.

What an amazing show! Everything was first rate: the story, singing, dancing, acting, set design, lighting. I was transported to another world and brought to tears. The story was lovely, and the friendship between Elphaba and Glinda so very touching.

I’m a huge fan of the book “Wicked: The Life and Times of The Wicked Witch of the West”. I loved the political overtones and glimpse into the making of a villain. However, I wanted Elphaba to be something different at the end. I cared about her. I didn’t want her to become embittered or to repeat the same patterns of poor parenting with her son that she had endured. I wanted her to have a transformation at the end, but it never happened. And after reading the last words, I wanted to rewrite the ending.

Well, I was giddy with the stage adaptation of “Wicked”. I got the happily-ever-after I wished the book had achieved, and I walked back to the hotel enveloped in a warm glow. I know not everyone enjoys musicals, but most of us who write or read romance do so because we like that warm feeling that comes with a happy ending.

I just finished reading “The Help” on the airplane trip back home. It was such an engaging story all the way to the very end, but for me, it felt incomplete. I know some people like to be left hanging, but all I could think about was how Aibileen would survive. Here was this character I had grown to love, and she might end up homeless. What the heck? I want to write a new ending.

And as long as I’m changing other writers’ masterpieces, Jack is surviving at the end of “Titanic”, Rhett Butler is coming back to Scarlet and saying, “Frankly, my dear, I DO give a damn,” and neither Romeo nor Juliette are really dead. They are living happily under assumed identities, perhaps on a thriving vineyard.

What about you? If you had a magic wand, what books or movies would you like to change to a happy ending?


  1. Interesting topic, Samantha. I think you're right in that those of us who write romance do so because we like happy endings. I won't go see a movie that will make me cry because "I can do so at home for free."

    Sometimes, though, I think I feel more deeply for a character in a tragedy. My favorite movie being Paul Newman's Cool Hand Luke. If there was a happy ending, it wouldn't have felt right with the tone of the rest of the movie. And the end scene with Newman dying (Spoiler Alert for anyone interested in a 44 year old movie) has made both his character and the movie stay with me ever since I saw it. Truly one of the most gripping scenes I've ever seen. But then again, it IS Paul Newman and he was simply awesome! I'm also a consumate rebel, so this movie spoke to me on many levels.

    AND Thelma & Louise would have felt very different if it had ended "happy".

    Still - I prefer happy books/movies. You mentioned Romeo and Juliet, which is not my fav Shakespearean play because it's a tragedy. Not a huge fan of MacBeth either. BUT I love, love, love his comedies... Twelfth Night and Much Ado About Nothing.

    So I guess I'm saying there's a reason not everything ends happy, but I still prefer a HEA in most things. :)

  2. I should also add that if I was going to tack on a happy ending to anything... you nailed it with Gone With the Wind. RHETT should totally have said he did give a damn. ;)

  3. I wanted Beth to live in Little Women- even now, I can read that story and cry. It is so heart wrenching, and they try so hard to make her well. Along those lines, sappy as it is, the movie A Walk to Remember" makes me cry, it is so sad that Jamie has only a limited amount of years, and that it is so soon after her and Landon find each other that she dies. And Steel Magnolias- it's too sad that little Jack is left without a mother. Sally Fields can make me tear up every time- especially now that I'm a mother myself. I also prefer a HEA, if I want to be depressed, I'll just watch the news....

  4. What a great topic, Samantha! I totally agree about Wicked - I love the HEA they created for the show.

    Speaking of shows…the original version of Anything Goes had the passengers of the ship in danger, but a couple weeks before it opened, a fire aboard the SS Morro Castle killed 137 passengers, so they decided to change it to a "happier" plot line.

    I'm totally with you on keeping Jack alive, by the way. That one really disturbed me.

  5. Dana hit on the one I'd change. Steel Magnolias. That movie makes me bawl like a baby every time I watch it, yet I can't seem to stop myself from turning it on if I find it.

    And a newer one that just absolutely kills me--Marley and Me. I've had to say goodbye to pets before, even pets that have been unbelievably bad at times, and it is so hard. I wish we could change it where they could stay with us forever. Along those same lines, there's a book about Dewey, the library cat, which I wish would end differently.

  6. Ava,

    There are definitely stories that just wouldn't have the same impact without some tragedy attached to it. One of my all time favorite movies was "Life is Beautiful". I wanted the protagonist to live, but his death really highlighted the great sacrifice he made for his son. I'm tearing up now just thinking about it.

  7. Dana,

    I never saw "A Walk to Remember", but I'm glad to have a heads-up. And Steel Magnolias makes me bawl every time. I wish Shelby could have survived, too.

  8. Jerrica,

    What an interesting tidbit about "Anything Goes". I'd never heard that before. I'm glad they made that choice.

  9. Catherine,

    I'm with you on the sad pet stories. "Where the Red Fern Grows" was one of the saddest stories I've ever read. And "Marley and Me" made me cry, too.

  10. If it were up to me, Manderley would never have burned in "Rebecca," Anne Shirley wouldn't have taken 3 or 4 books to find her HEA with Gilbert Blythe, and I agree that Rhett would have given a damn. I also hated that Amy got Laurie in "Little Women"--he always belonged to Jo.

  11. Sarah,

    I loved "Anne of Green Gables"! I'm glad she at least had a happy ending when all was said and done. :)

    I haven't read "Little Women" in years, but you are the second one to mention it. I should pull it out and read it again.

  12. Samatha! Great post, other than Steel Magnolia's the only other movie I would change the ending to would be Nicholas Spark's Message in a bottle. For such a beautiful love story I truly thought the hero's death at the end useless. I think he has an aversion to happy-ever-afters and I've refused to watch nor read another story because of it. It seemed unnecessary to tack on such a sad ending imho.

  13. Suzie,

    I had someone else make the same comment on FB about Message in a Bottle, so you are not alone. :)