Why I Hate Sad Endings

As I was browsing WWII movies for my homeschool kid to watch, I ended up down a rabbit trail and saw a movie that looked like a cute romance with a feel good ending.

The reason I believed this movie was a romance is that it was branded as a romance. It had a cute cover with a man and a woman on it. The trailer made you think there’s going to be a happy ending. At first, the trailer presents a man who is bitter due to his paralysis, but later in the trailer, you see him laughing because the woman has come into his life and cheered him up. I get that trailers aren’t there to give away the ending, but the entire way this trailer and the movie cover were presented screamed “this is a romance where the couple ends up together”. This is part of branding. Other movie trailers have been like that. Other movies have used covers like that. In other words, this particular movie followed all of the tropes that actual romance movies do. This sets up the expectation that this movie would be a romance as well.

A part of branding comes in with customer expectation. The marketing department is responsible for tying in key ingredients to alert the right audience that THIS is the movie for them. (The same thing happens with books.) If you promise something you don’t deliver on, you’re going to upset people, and those people won’t want to watch/read anything else because you will have lost your credibility.

Anyway… I scrolled through the reviews because I happen to be the person who wants to know what I’m getting myself into before I read a book or watch a movie. (Since I have a husband and four kids, homeschool one kid, and write books, I have a very limited amount of free time on my hands. That being the case, I don’t want to waste that free time on something I won’t enjoy.)

I saw a review that said something along the lines of, “Terrific movie. Get your tissues ready. He’s going to do the best thing for her and let her live a life with a man who is normal. He’s making the ultimate sacrifice just for her. How touching!” I’m paraphrasing, but that was pretty much the gist of the review, and it told me this is NOT a romance. How can it be? The main characters don’t end up together.

My original thought was that the man, who is bound to a wheelchair, decided to tell the woman it would never work. I thought that was why they didn’t end up together. That, in itself, would have been a bummer. But it’s actually worse than I thought because as I continued scrolling through the reviews, it turns out he ends up committing suicide so that the woman he loves (who happens to love him back) will be free to be with a man who can walk. (Or, in the words of the reviewer, “Give her a normal relationship.”)

I can’t tell you how much that ending upset me. One reviewer basically said that the movie missed the potential to show how a disabled man could find redemption and hope despite his circumstances. I wholeheartedly agree. I know people who have loved ones who are disabled. They’ll never live “normal” lives. But does that mean their lives have less value? I understand not all disabled people can fall in love and get married (as is the case with my friend’s grown son who has low-functioning autism). But the character in this movie is paralyzed and in a wheelchair. He has the mental and emotional capacity to love and be loved in a romantic sense. So why shouldn’t he be allowed that? Just because he can’t have sex or have children, he’s not deserving of love? There’s more to love than the physical intimacy side of things. There’s companionship. If my husband ever ends up being unable to be intimate with me, I’m staying with him. You don’t flush love down the toilet because things aren’t perfect. But that is, in essence, the message in this movie.

Also, I was floored by how many reviewers thought this movie was a romance. It was a tragedy, not a romance. Is it any wonder why there are authors out there who think their books are romances when the couple does not end up together due to separation or death? It’s movies like this that make the romance genre difficult to explain to new writers who want to place their books in the romance category when their books don’t belong there. These are authors who want to give a tragic ending to the story, but they want to label it as a romance because romance is popular and they want the book to be in a popular category. They do this in hopes of increasing sales, not because they understand the romance genre or even care to understand it. Readers like romance because the couple ends up together. That’s the whole point of romance.

I don’t know if any writers are reading this, but when you are working on your cover and book description, make sure you focus in on what the book is really about. Don’t promise something that’s not there. If you have a serious story, have the cover and book description reflect that. Don’t make the reader think they’re getting themselves into one thing when you deliver on something entirely different.

I’m so glad people leave reviews, esp. the spoiler ones. If it hadn’t been for those reviews, I would have wasted my time on that movie, and I would have been depressed for the rest of the day. I want happy endings. I’m not a sad ending kind of girl. I know people out there who love sad endings. I have a friend whose favorite movies involve people and pets dying because they’re “emotionally touching”. I’m not the same way. I hate endings like that.

I live in real life. I’m aware that bad things happen in the world. All the news does is tell me the sky is falling and that we’re all doomed. I swear, social media has only made things worse. It’s why I limit myself to what I do online. I don’t need more of this negative stuff in my life. When I pick up a book or sit down to watch a movie, I want to escape. I don’t care if bad things happen during the course of the book or movie, but I want there to be a happy ending. Happy endings are about hope. They give out the message that even though something bad happened, it doesn’t mean you have to stay in a pit for the rest of your life. Happy endings are really about overcoming obstacles. You can’t control everything that happens around you, but you can control whether or not you let it break your spirit. To me, happy endings emphasize that. That’s why I prefer them to the sad endings.

What about you? Are you a happy or sad ending kind of person?

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to contemporaries romances and other genres (such as science fiction thrillers). For more information, please go to www.ruthannnordin.com or check out https://ruthannnordinauthorblog.wordpress.com.
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24 Responses to Why I Hate Sad Endings

  1. Tina Grace says:

    Definitely a happy ending person. Real life can be sad so when I read a book or watch a movie I want a happy ending.

  2. Patsy Ezell says:

    I love happy endings. My husband had prostate cancer at 55 which left him unable to perform in the bedroom but the surgery saved his life and sex was not all that our marriage was about. We had a wonderful marriage that lasted till he was 77 years old and yes we missed the sex but we had such good cuddles and kisses and enjoyed just being together and one glorious day we will be together again. Marriage is a wonderful thing but you have to work it. Give me a happy ending any day. Love your books.

    • I’m glad after his cancer, he was able to live to 77. I’m also glad you two had such a great marriage! That’s wonderful to hear. It will be wonderful when you two can be together again. πŸ˜€

  3. Wow, this movie and its fans seem to have very ableist views of the world, as well as a poor understanding of what “romance” is, as you said. Please tell me the title, I’d like to avoid it in the future.
    With horror, you sometimes get happy endings, sometimes tragic endings, and sometimes bittersweet endings. I’ve written plenty of them, though I usually gravitate towards tragic or bittersweet. Really, it depends on the story, and the journey. Actually, I’m often as much interested in how well-executed that journey and ending is done as I am in the ending itself. But that might just be me.
    If you want a WWII movie with a happier ending, I might be able to think of one. After all, WWII was the focus of my history major.

    • The movie wasn’t a war movie. The actor happened to be in a war movie, and I liked him, so I started searching through his other movies. The movie was Me Before You. I did a search on Amazon since it had been based on a movie, and apparently, this is a trilogy. So Book 1 ends up with her losing the man she fell in love with. A quick look at the other two books indicate she finds love again. So the theme of the trilogy is to overcome loss in order to give love a second chance. It looks like the movie just did the one book. As far as I know, there’s no plans to finish the trilogy. This is something a romance author shouldn’t do. You shouldn’t get people emotionally connected with a certain couple only to kill one off to make room for another. The book description calls the trilogy “heartbreakingly romantic.” I guess there is the warning of a crappy ending. I can see this succeeding on a literary scale but not a romance one. I think what upsets me so much about it is that it was marketed as a romance.

      In horror, I expect the ending to be up in the air. I’m not a big fan of those endings where you think everything has been resolved when it really hasn’t been. I know authors are using that as the twist, but I prefer a clean cut ending. If a character dies, that doesn’t bother me. If the villain wins and goes on to keep doing their thing, I can deal with that, too. I find happy endings rare in horror, and since that’s the case, I’m not disappointed in the way the story plays out if there’s not a happy ending.

      What is a good WWII movie? So far, the movies we’ve seen have been pretty slow. We’ve seen 1917 and Fury. While they gave us a good flavor for the battles, there was little I found in an actual plot.

  4. Irish Mary says:

    I’m a happily ever after person, myself, though, I’ve felt the value of some well- written dramas. If you’re looking for war movies, I remember some that have value. Many old ones focus on the relationships and not as much of the violence of war. “The Best Years of Our Lives” is a good one. It’s going to be rough. It follows three servicemen who return from WW2. It’s as truthful as can be for a 40s movie. One of the actors was a regular man who really did have both arms blown off in war. He’s returning home to his sweetheart without telling her what happened and not planning to resume a relationship with her. The ending there will make you cry, but not from despair. The other two have a rough time fitting back in to society. It runs the gamut of emotions.
    Another one that I remember, I think it’s called “I’ll Be Seeing You.” Joseph Cotten stars as a serviceman home during the war with a unmanaged case of PTSD- before they called it that. Ginger Rogers plays a woman headed for jail, because she killed a man that was attacking her (yeah, 1940s.) They meet on a train, and feel a connection. It has a lot of sadness, yet other emotions, too. And they must part at the end, but you know Joseph Cotten will be waiting for her when she is free.
    I know this won’t be many other’s opinion, but I dislike Nicolas Spark’s books, with the exception of The Notebook.” He puts in a gratuitous death in every book, where there doesn’t even need to be one, so it ends with the love interests parted. He wrote an essay for a magazine putting down authors like Jane Austen, and that really made me dislike him further. She was ahead of her time, and as another author I admire, Ms. Nordin, spoke out against the treatment of women in her time.

    • Erica R says:

      Totally agree about The Best Years of our Lives
      I love that movie. It’s a great film with a terrific cast of actors.

    • Thanks for the recommendations for those movies! I appreciate you letting me know what they’re about, too. πŸ™‚

      That friend I have who loves those sad endings is a Nicholas Sparks fan. She just loves everything he writes. I’m not surprised given how much she and I differ in our tastes. I tend to like the opposite of the things she does. So if she says I “must watch” a certain movie, I know it’s not for me.

      I remember watching something where Nicholas Sparks was putting authors like Jane Austen down. That was years ago, so I don’t remember the specifics, but I think he mentioned something about the fact that he wrote “real books” was somewhere in there. When an author says something like that, it rubs me the wrong way. It not only puts other authors down, but it criticizes people who like certain books.

      Thanks for the kind words. πŸ˜€

  5. Lisa says:

    Always happy I don’t invest in sad. Life already has enough sadness πŸ˜‰

  6. Erica R says:

    I know exactly which movie/book your are referring too. I fell for the trailer and bought the book to read thinking it was going to be and happy ending. Thank goodness I read a review that warned me of the suicide before I started reading. That book went into the give away pile real fast.
    I also am a happy ending only person. I stopped watching or reading sad ending entertainment about 20 years ago. I think there is enough sadness in the real world I don’t need it created for me.
    Happy endings only. Absolutely!
    I love your books because I know I will have my happy ending after a great read with characters I know I will want to visit again. I was saving the Wyoming series books for a long weekend to enjoy and with the east coast storm last week the time was right. I enjoyed them so much! I actually read The Fugitive’s Bride twice, although I would love for Jeremiah to have his own book.
    Thanks for a great weekend of happy endings and thanks for this blog. Nice to know I’m not alone in thinking this way. Keep writing.

    • I know. It sounded like such a good story! I’m still bummed that I can’t watch it. The story had so much potential.

      I used to watch sad endings. I didn’t realize it until now, but my mom used to watch some movies with a sad ending. She was another who enjoyed them, but her first love was mystery and horror. When I started writing romance when I was 12, she didn’t get the appeal. I just always loved to watch movies and read books about people falling in love and ending up together.

      The Fugitive’s Bride is one of my favorites. It’s definitely my favorite in the series. I was itching to get to it while writing The Rancher’s Bride, but I made myself wait. That was hard to do.

      Whenever I thought of someone to pair Jeremiah up with, I kept going to Katie. But their age difference is pretty big, so I’m not sure that would even work. This would be when she is 19 or 20, but that makes him in his early 40s (if I remember right). That’s why I ended up having him head up an orphanage. I felt that it was a better way to end things for him. Would such an age difference bother you? I just can’t see writing him with anyone else. I’ve tried to talk myself into it, but my writing instinct insists that if he remarries, it has to be with Katie.

  7. Erica R says:

    As I was reading The Fugitive’s Bride, I kept think that you were hinting at at a pairing between Jeremiah and Katie. It made perfect sense to me. Then I remembered you saying the trilogy was complete when Fugitive’s Bride came out. I had an awwwwww moment but knew you would not leave Jeremiah hanging. The orphanage was a real nice ending, but I still think a story for Katie and Jeremiah would be wonderful. The age difference is not really that big a deal. It would not bother me at all. Katie is a very mature girl. Losing her parents young and her Uncle having physical limitations would have matured her earlier than other kids her age. She may be 20 in physical age, but I would bet her mental age closer to 30. They could run that orphanage together. The trick would be Katie convincing Jeremiah that he is worthy of the happiness. If he shaved that beard I bet he would look 10 years younger:)
    When I was thinking they would fall in love, I was reminded of the book Little Women and Jo falling in love with her much older friend the professor. Some girls need older men because boys their age are just too immature for them. I would love to read that love story and visiting with the others would be a treat. Thanks for writing.

    • I think we all wanted Jeremiah’s story. But if the story is done in the author’s mind, then it has to be that way. You can’t force a story.

    • I haven’t done an older man with a younger woman scenario in one of my books before where the characters had a significant age difference. Wade and Milly have the biggest age gap of any characters I’ve put together to date. He was 31, and I don’t know if I actually said her age, but she’s 19. I worried that I was pushing it. But if people are fine with a bigger age gap, I’d love to write about Jeremiah and Katie. I had to go back and check their ages. Jeremiah is 24 years older than Katie. So when she’s 20, he’ll be 44. I didn’t want Katie to be too much older in The Rancher’s Bride.

      Originally, Katie was supposed to be 7. I bumped her age up in case I ever wrote about her and Jeremiah, but since I had already put Jeremiah down at 34 in The Outlaw’s Bride. I had spoken about the possibility of putting Jeremiah with Katie with a close friend while I was writing The Rancher’s Bride, and she said it was too great an age difference. Her recommendation was that I should pick someone else for him. The problem is that there is no one else I can pair him up with. Katie is it. Katie has the only personality type that is the best fit for him. He needs someone super optimistic, persistent, and able to break through walls. I do feel that she would find men her age immature. She is more of a motherly figure for the kids Abby and Thane have rather than a “sister”. It’s in her nature to assume responsibilities that are usually reserved for someone older than her. That is another reason she would be a good match for Jeremiah.

      Since people who actually read my books aren’t disturbed by a large age difference, I’m going to proceed with the story. I already had a plot in mind for the two, so that part is done. I just need the cover to get started. I’ll probably start it after finishing An Earl In Time.

  8. I hate it when a story is labeled a romance but doesn’t have a happy ending. The main characters have to get together. If they don’t, it should be labeled as a love story, not a romance. Those are different.

    I can tolerate sad endings in other genres. You can expect that. But never in a romance. I’m a fan of horror, but I know it could end badly. But not always. Sometimes those have happy endings, too.

    • I think the expectation of the genre makes all the difference. As you said, in. horror, anything goes. If there’s a sad ending in horror, I’m fine with it as long as we find out why the villain is intent on doing evil or we know why some strange situation is happening. My pet peeve in horror is when they leave the ending open to interpretation. If I wanted to develop my own ending, I’d write the story myself. I feel that leaving the ending open is lazy writing. I read reviews on books and movies in the horror genre only to find out if the ending was left open. If it is, I don’t bother with it.

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