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?

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Working on An Earl In Time

This is turning out to be a lot of fun to write. I’ve never written anything like this before. Being able to work outside the world of “realism” has opened up an assortment of possible story ideas to work with that regular romances don’t allow.

I chose to open a scenario where the American heroine, in our contemporary time, inherits an English estate and intends to sell it. But she’s unable to sign the contract to sell it, and she’s unable to leave the property. In both cases, magic is behind it, though she doesn’t realize this until about 1/3 of the way into the book.

On the historical timeline, there’s the hero who got transported, by magic, to a parallel world when he arrived at the same estate to deal with his father’s funeral. So he’s in the same manor she is, except their worlds are distinct. While her world moves forward in time, his does not.

The hero is in June 17, 1817, and he’s stuck in an endless loop of the same day. The servants aren’t aware of this. The hero is the only one who knows everyone in the household has being stuck in June 17, 1817 for a little over two centuries.

So those are the two main things I had figured out when I began this story. I started writing to find out why they’re in the situation they are and how they’re going to get out of it. My creative brain doesn’t work by outlining, at least not for long stories. I went into this knowing nothing except that the heroine is going to find a way into the past so she and the hero are in the same world. It’s a romance, and I want these two to be in the same physical space in order to fall in love. I also know there’s a happy ending. How to get to that happy ending is still a mystery to me, and I’m almost 50,000 words into the story. I think I have about 30,000 more words to go, but we’ll see how things play out.

In addition to this being a romance, my goal is to write something that can truly be classified as a fairy tale. I originally thought this was going to take on a Grimm fairy tale feel to it because the story does start out pretty dark. But as the story has been progressing, it’s taken on a lighter tone. Certain elements of this story started to remind me of Disney fairy tales. I’ve inserted three animals that were magically turned into humans. There are going to be two fairies who will pop up later on. Growing up and watching Disney fairy tales, it’s common for the main characters to be able to communicate with animals, sometimes animals turn into people, and sometimes a fairy plays a role in the storyline. So, really, I think An Earl In Time is going to be midway on the spectrum between a Grimm fairy tale and a Disney fairy tale. Not too dark and not too light.

One thing I decided I’d do early on is give colors significance because, to me, that helps with the magical flavor of the plot. Good and evil has its colors. I based the colors for good from the cover. (The entire inspiration for this story came from the pre-made cover I bought on the Book Designer website.) So that’s why red and gold represent good. It took some time to decide the colors for evil, and those finally ended up being pink and purple. (I happened to be working on perlers at the time and loved the way the pink and purple beads looked together.) Green is about to come onto the scene, and I suspect blue will soon follow. Green and blue will be the neutral colors.

I spent days naming (and renaming) the main characters because I wanted their names to have significance. I got the name “Willow” from the gothic names online search I did. (In the heroine’s contemporary timeline, the story does have a dark tone to it. I’d say why but that would be a spoiler.) Her last name has no significance assigned to it, though. I just remember the name “Knudson” from when I was a senior in high school in the Florida panhandle. That name was pretty popular there. I liked the name but never had a reason to use it until now, so I figured, “Why not?”

The hero was harder to name. In the end, I settled for Julian Azazel. I changed his name a couple of times, but this one finally stuck. Julian means youthful, which is to represent him never aging for about two centuries because he’s frozen in time. Azazel means scapegoat. The curse the hero is under was placed on him because of something that happened before he was born. In essence, he is the object of the villain’s wrath. The villain was unable to go after the person who got in his/her way, so he/she is going directly after Julian and (by extension of the curse, Willow). I don’t want to give the villain’s gender because it would be a spoiler. I have a very limited cast of characters in this book, so even a hint would ruin things.

At the moment, I don’t know if the villain is justified in being upset or not because I’m still trying to figure out how the big conflict even began. All I know is that in the villain’s eyes, the “sins” of the grandfather have passed on to the grandson.

This is one book that I really don’t know what is going to happen beyond a chapter or two as I’m writing it. I feel like I’m writing in the dark with no roadmap. I only have a flashlight. So when a turn in the path comes up, I only know about it right as I reach it. This has taken me outside my normal comfort zone for writing because I’ve never written a book so dependent on “trusting the creative process” like this. The use of magic has widened my options. I think it’s good for writers to break free from the same old-same old and explore new methods. I think it revives the creative brain.

I only said something to a very few group of people, but before I saw that pre-made cover up above, I was giving serious consideration to not writing in 2021. I felt like my creativity had dried up, and while I had ideas, I had no motivation to write. It’s why all of my projects are behind schedule right now. I wasn’t able to write anything for about 2.5 months. Then I came across that pre-made cover one day because I like to browse pre-made covers from time to time just out of habit. I fell in love with that cover. I held off on buying it right away because I needed a story for it. In a week, I had the idea, and I purchased the cover. As soon as I started writing the story that went with that cover, the motivation and desire to write all came rushing back. And I was able to finish Perfectly Matched, start on A Perilous Marriage, and continue with what I had started in Interview for a Wife. That’s why I think it’s good for an author who gets into a rut to break free and do something different. That something different could be the spark needed to light the creative fires again.

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You Don’t Need a “Six-Figure Income” to be Financially Successful (A Post for Writers)

While homeschooling my youngest, I am having him go through the book titled Everyday Millionaires by Chris Hogan as part of his Personal Finance class. I came across a very interesting piece of information that I think will relieve a lot of writers of the stress of having to make that golden “six-figure income”.

Here it is: “One-third of millionaires never had a six-figure household income in a single working year. Only 31% of them averaged $100,000 household income in a single working year.” (That’s on page 73 of the book.)

That’s great news, everyone. Okay, yes, I realize that means two-thirds of the millionaires did earn “six-figures”. But NOT all of them did, and that is good news. Why? I’ll explain below.

Over and over, this push for “six-figures” is a theme that keeps popping up in the writing community. This is in most writing groups, on podcasts, in blog posts, in online courses, and in books. Everything seems to revolve around the “six-figure income”. Everything. If making six figures isn’t your goal, you are not a “serious” writer. If you don’t make six-figures, you run the risk of feeling like a failure, and then you might conclude there’s no hope for you. And it is way harder to get the respect and approval of other writers if you aren’t making this kind of money.

Well, today I’m happy to say that it’s not how much you make that matters. It’s what you do with the money you earn that matters most. It’s a lot easier to get ahead if you have no debt. That’s why I avoid debt like the plague now. When you’re in debt, you’re not only forfeiting your future income to someone else (most often a bank), but you’re also paying interest on that debt, which means you’re paying more for the item you purchased than what it’s really worth.

I get that we all need a place to live and a car to drive. But the key is to pick a house and car that you will keep long-term. That way, when you pay them off, you have the benefit of owning those things outright. Then you can take the money you used to hand over to the creditor and put that in savings or an investment account instead. This allows you to get ahead. The problem comes up when you are constantly trading your cars in for a newer model or swapping homes because you like moving around a lot. If you like to move around a lot, rent instead of buy. You’ll be much further ahead in the long run. (My husband and I use to get newer cars all the time. The dealerships and banks loved us, but we were robbing ourselves of our financial sanity by rolling over one car loan into another. Also, we lost a lot of money when we sold our house in 2015 to move to Montana. For one, moving itself is expensive, and two, the new place you buy always needs some kind of work to get it the way you want it. We should have just kept renting while in Nebraska until we were ready to settle down in one spot.)

Also, cutting back on expenses overall helps, but this is common sense stuff and I’m sure we all know the ways that are best to do that. I won’t weigh down the post with all of that.

At this point, I’m sure everyone is wondering, “Is there a point to all of this?”

Yes, and I’ll get there right now.

A happy writer is one who isn’t stressed out about how many books they need to sell in order to bring in a certain level of income each month. You don’t need a lot of things to make you happy. Real happiness comes from being content with what you already have. Sure, look for ways to improve your situation, but don’t let the “I don’t have this” mindset rob you of enjoying what you have in this moment. If you woke up this morning with a roof over your head, food on the table, and clothes on your back, you’re already doing better than some of the world’s population. That is something to be thankful for. I’m afraid that our culture has become so materialistic that we have lost sight of just how blessed we really are. And losing sight of this blessing has made a lot of people miserable because no matter how much they make, they still aren’t happy. You might end up making a six-figure income with your writing, but it’s not going to magically make all of your problems fade away.

Also, you don’t need to be a millionaire to be happy. Personally, my goal isn’t to be a millionaire. My goal is to not have to worry about how many books I sell in a month in order to pay my bills. That requires a certain level of financial independence. The better you position yourself financially, the less reliant you are on sales to make ends meet. That removes a lot of stress from our lives and allows us the freedom to write more of what we want than writing what the market wants.

I’ve come across authors who are making a lot of money, but they’re writing to market, and this is making them miserable. They hate what they’re doing, but this is the only way they can make money right now, especially when businesses have closed up due to Covid. A few writers said they lost their jobs and need their writing to make ends meet, so they are stuck and absolutely hate it. But things other than Covid can come along. I know of a couple of writers who had to stay home to take care of a loved one full-time, and they are relying on their writing income to pay the bills. The problem in all of these scenarios is that these writers didn’t have money saved aside to help buffer them. That’s why it’s good to save what you can while you can. The stuff you save today could act as a buffer in case the unthinkable happens to you.

I believe in having some fun. You don’t want life to pass you by while you sit at home all the time. You need to live life. But the key is to find the balance between spending and saving. You do want to build up good memories with loved ones. The more well-rounded your life is, the happier you’ll be. And when you’re happy, you’ll get more enjoyment out of writing.

That’s all I have to contribute to this topic at the moment. I found it very encouraging to read about that millionaire myth since I saw how it can apply to writers. I hope this post will relieve the anxiety some writers feel about not making a six-figure income. People who made less than six-figures a year were able to become millionaires. If they can build up their wealth on less then six-figures, you can have a good writing career on less than that, too.

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