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Masterplots Theater: H is for Happily-Ever-After
And today we’re discussing Happily-Ever-After stories. Do you like happy endings? According to this article, most people do. And since authors often write what they like, that means there’s a good chance you’re writing an HEA.
Happily-Ever-After Plot Notes:
Obviously, the defining element of this masterplot is a happy ending. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the protagonist achieved their goal or got exactly what they wanted, it simply means they are happy with the outcome and expect to be happy from now on because of it.
When people hear the term “happily-ever-after” they usually think of a love story or fairy tale, but really any genre can be a HEA as long as the protagonist attains happiness in the end.
A true HEA starts with the hero in an unhappy place, emotionally and/or physically. The more miserable the hero, the more rewarding the happy ending.
Obstacles are necessary in every story, but especially in the HEA. It’s no fun for the reader if it’s obvious from the start that the hero will win the game, or the couple will end up together, or the secret agent will save the world. So pile on the challenges and really torture the hero, make it worse and worse and worse, tease us with a bit of hope, and then make it worse again! The situation must become so miserable and hopeless that when the happily-ever-after happens, we feel relief and joy along with the hero.
Example to Study:
The nature of this masterplot is kind of a spoiler, but hey, as long as I don’t tell you how the ending came about, that’s okay, right?
Also, I realized as I was going through my reading list that I don’t read a lot of true HEAs. So I’ve turned to a classic fairy tale retelling to illustrate the HEA masterplot: THE LUNAR CHRONICLES by Marissa Meyer.
· ENDING: Yes, Cindar gets the prince! Plus the whole kingdom. And all her friends are happy too. Win!
· GENRE: This is a retelling of Cinderella, so fairy tale is at the core of this story, but otherwise it’s very much an epic adventure (Hero’s Journey) with a dash of romance.
· UNHAPPY PLACE: Cindar is an orphan whose evil stepmother forces her to work and pay the rest of the family’s bills. No one loves her except her little stepsister, but then the sister dies. Cindar’s only friend is an android. Oh, and she’s a cyborg so the rest of the world discriminates against her. She’s basically resigned to a life of misery before this story kicks into action.
· OBSTACLES: Four books worth! Yes, this HEA takes almost 3000 pages to achieve! There are villains and monsters and mechanical failures and political conspiracies and cold-blooded murderers… so many obstacles to happiness that when it finally happens, the reader is practically cheering with relief.
Books: THE LUNAR CHRONICLES by Marissa Meyer, HOW TO SAVE A LIFE by Sara Zarr, THE LORD OF THE RINGS by Tolken, PRIDE & PREJUDICE by Jane Austen
Films: JERRY MAGUIRE, UP, THE FULL MONTY, GOOD WILL HUNTING, BACK TO THE FUTURE, and many, many more. Movies love happy endings.
Thank you for joining us today. We hope you enjoyed H is for Happily-Ever-After and we invite you back on Monday for our next installment of Masterplots Theater, I is for Institutionalized.
Please share your own favorite happy ending titles and tips below.
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