Sunday, January 4, 2009

happy endings

Happy endings are a problem for me.

They have been all my life. I won't even get into my hardcore belief in having a happy ending in life (failing to realize over and over and over again and will over and over and over again in the future that happiness is a process, a path, NOT a destination). I'm talking about having happy endings in my plays.

My plays have them. I just don't know how I feel about them. I'm of two minds.

1. The typical happy ending. You know the one. It's the one in fairy tales where the princess gets saved by a knight in shining armour, the princess awakens from a curse with true love's first kiss, you know the stuff. The one where everything is wrapped up neatly in a bow and there's a happily ever after.

2. The atypical happy ending. This is the one where the hero or heroine gets what he or she wanted but it wasn't exactly what he or she had hoped for. You know, like in 'The Shape of Things'. This story is just as messy as the first example, but just is messy still at the end.

I'll admit, I'm a sucker for a good typical happy ending. The scene in 'The Wedding Singer' where Julia realizes it's Robbie singing on the plane--that makes me cry every time. Let me amend that earlier statement--I'm a sucker for a good typical happy ending when it's done right. It has to tug the heart strings the right way, and the only way to do that is to actually get the audience invested in the characters. If the characters are crap--partially formed or, even worse, just random stereotypes, investment is hard. If there isn't investment, there aren't tears at the end of the play on the part of the audience--there won't be a reaction--at least the one the writer intended. I don't know about other writers out there, but the worst thing when I'm writing is to have the completely opposite of what i wanted out of the audience--not satisfaction that the ending was happy, but annoyance that it was drawn out of them--that they were TOLD how to feel about it, not allowed to feel whatever it is that they would feel.

Perhaps that's the problem I have. Actually, it IS a problem I have. I have a tendency in my work to tell people how to feel instead of drawing it out in the writing. And I'll be honest--I don't know how to fix that. I don't think I do it all the time (if I do, SHOOT me please and take the pen of out my hand), but I know I'm doing it at the end of 'A Death in the Family'. It's the final scene where everything gets wrapped up neatly and it's a good happy ending. All the arguing is done, everything is forgiven, but I guess I'm not sure how to make it work.

I guess the only thing I can do for my happy ending with this play is to just keep working on the happy ending. Maybe watch good examples of happy endings. Read good examples.

All I know is that I need to get this thing tied up. The play is in its seventh draft, and with the exception of some bits and pieces, the last scene is a mess that stands in my way. There's transition problems and then there's the happy ending problem.

Guess I have some work this week.

Happy New Year!

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