Thursday, September 06, 2012

All That They Desire...


I saw this picture on Pinterest today, and it made me stop and think about my own characters. Do I give them all that they desire at the end of the book?

Yes, Jane Austen's books have happy endings. Yes, I tend to write happy endings, too. But I don't know that I give my characters "all that they desire." Why? Because that would be too easy. And, well, too unrealistic.

Life is made up of challenges. That's what makes it interesting. Sometimes, it's what makes it unbearable. But I am a firm believer in the saying, "One cannot know joy without first knowing sorrow."

I wonder if Miss Austen perhaps meant that they would have "most" of what they desired. I could live with that. Of course, it doesn't make for nearly as 'neat' of a quote.

Do you give your characters all that they desire, or do you deliberately keep them from having what they want the most?

22 comments:

  1. I don't give them what they want because what they want is not REALLY what they want. The last book I actually completed the heroine got nothing she wanted and everything she didn't, but it wasn't a romance and it was necessary and she understood why she got what she got.

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    1. You're so right - what they want isn't usually what they REALLY want. I love figuring out all of these different nuances to characters when I'm writing. So much fun!

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  2. I think there's another angle to that quote, too. Ever notice how some of Austen's characters get "all that they desire"—and it turns out to be exactly what they deserve? I always think of the extended Ferrars family in the end of Sense and Sensibility. They wanted so terribly for Edward to get out of his engagement to Lucy...and look what they ended up with!

    I think there may be a little bit of tongue in cheek to the quote. A lot of books involve characters who realize, like Rene said, that what they originally wanted (or thought they wanted) wasn't the best thing after all. Perhaps Jane Austen meant that her characters would achieve the basic end they desired, even if the specifics weren't what they expected (e.g., Elizabeth Bennet certainly didn't start out by wishing for Mr. Darcy as a husband!).

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    1. Well said, Elisabeth, and I think you're right. Her characters certainly do get what they deserve!

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  3. This seems so appropriately timed! I literally finished watching the Pride & Prejudice mini-series for the first time last night! Somehow, for being an English major, I have never read any Jane Austen.

    Alas, I'm afraid I could apply that quote to very few, if any, of my stories, nice as it sounds! My characters have an awful lot of trouble and, while they might achieve their goal by book's end, it won't be in the manner they planned, and will usually cost them something.

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    1. Y'know, I haven't read a lot of Austen, either, though I did visit her house in Chawton once!

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  4. Your question made me really think. My characters are usually happy at the end, especially the MC, but they don't always have what they wanted. I've written a few short stories that have sad or tragic endings, so I'm a bit of a mixed bag.
    I'm with Elisabeth on the quote: Jane Austen is the queen of tongue-in-cheek!
    BTW - love the new background.

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    1. Thanks, JT! I love the new background, too. I am flighty. I love to change it about once a week!

      I have written a few short stories that end tragically, too, which is odd, because I am definitely a "happy ending" type of gal.

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  5. Ah... just makes me want to pull out an Austen to read!!! :)

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    1. I am thinking perhaps another viewing of Pride and Prejudice is in order for me! ;)

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  6. I don't give my characters all that they desire because that wraps it up too neatly. Stories like that are a bit contrived for today's savvier audience. I agree with you in believing that Jane Austen meant that we should give our characters most of what they desire, or highlight that what they wanted the most wasn't exactly the best for them. That being said, I am a romance writer and I stand by the happy ending, not the perfect ending :-)

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    1. Well said, Brandi! I think that is a common misconception in romance novels - that the happy ending means it's a "perfect" ending, which couldn't be farther from the truth.

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  7. I'm with you, I don't give my characters all that they desire, either. Life isn't like that. It's interesting how books like that still appeal to me though; and I think the majority of readers like HEA endings. It'd be fun to do a survey on that.

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    1. I agree, Margo. I've always gravitated toward "happy ending" books, too, which is probably why I read a lot more genre fiction than literary.

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  8. This is off-topic but have you read any of Laurie Graham's novels? I'm slowly working my way through all of them and since you're such a fan of historical fiction I thought you might enjoy them too. They're light fiction, but quite funny in a British sort of way. The one I'm reading now is "Future Homemakers of America" which is about a group of Air Force wives stationed, at first, in England in 1952. Check her out!

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    1. Hi Pam! I'll have to check them out. Thanks!

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  9. I love Jane Austen's books, and the movie/tv adaptations too.

    I give my characters what I think they need at the end of the book, which sometimes isn't exactly what they might have wanted.

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    1. I think that's a great philosophy - to give them what they need. That is more important than giving them what they want - as usually what they want isn't good for them!

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  10. Reality and the endings of good books don't often get wrapped up with the shiny bows and ribbons.

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  11. I agree with Debs but this made me think about real life. I was talking to a friend yesterday about how my life has seemed to be one massive obstacle course - as hers has been - and she just said, "Yes but I wouldn't expect it to be anything else."

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    1. I think you're right, Flower. Life isn't a smooth road. I was talking to my husband the other day and we were both thinking what it would be like to go back to being 18 again with the wisdom we have now. We wouldn't make the same mistakes. But those mistakes are what gave us the wisdom we have now, so even though there are things I regret doing, they shaped me into who I am today. And really, I don't want to change that. :)

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