Monday, April 16, 2012
Re-Writing "The End"
Growing up, one of the first "real" books I remember reading was Little Women. I devoured the book in one sitting, but when I got to one particular section, I got so angry that I threw the book across the room.
Wait just a second. Jo refused Laurie?
Not only that, but she married old man Professor Bhaer?
And not only that, but Laurie then married Jo's bratty sister Amy?
That was SO not right. I was so angry with Louisa May Alcott that I had a hard time finishing the book, much less reading it over again. So I would only re-read to a certain point in the story, around Meg's wedding, and then I would stop and imagine my own ending.
Years later, I read that Alcott was pressured into marrying Jo off by her editor. While Alcott always intended for Jo to remain a spinster, she had to create a love interest for Jo—and in a rush, she created Professor Bhaer's character. And while that eased some of the sting of this ending for me (after all, as a writer, you often bow to the wishes of your editor) I never liked that Laurie married Amy. I never forgave Amy for burning Jo's book of fairy stories, or for getting to have Jo's trip to Europe. She certainly never deserved Laurie!
Over the years, I've read other books that I loved, but in many of them, the endings weren't really as satisfying as I wished. Here's just a few of them:
Manderley should have never burned down, and the DeWinters should have lived there together as a happy couple;
Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe shouldn't have taken four books to get together. Anne of Windy Poplars was an exercise in frustration—it was written in the epistolary style, but only from Anne's point of view. No hope of reading Gilbert's letters to Anne. And when Anne began to get too romantic in her letters, the door was slammed shut in our faces—"several pages omitted," LM Montgomery would summarize. Not fair! By the time we got to Anne's House of Dreams, it was a wedding that had been delayed almost too achingly long;
I was OK with Margaret Mitchell leaving Scarlett and Rhett's future up to question, because knowing Scarlett, she'd win him back. But I was always sad that Bonnie Blue had to be sacrificed in the process. She was so precocious and so cute—I wanted to see what she'd be like when she grew up.
As a writer, I love working in a genre that pretty much demands a happily-ever-after (HEA, for those in the know). I love the satisfaction of allowing my characters to realize their dreams, and as a reader, I love reading stories that have an entirely rewarding ending. For me, there's nothing lovelier than a fade-out on the blissfully happy hero and heroine, their love secure and realized at long last.
So, let's start the discussion. Which books would you re-write, if you had the chance?
And while we're at it, are you on Team Laurie or Team Bhaer?