Happy Endings

Michael Atkins
3 min readJun 5, 2021

“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” — Orson Welles

Do you know when you can claim that you have learned what true love means? It’s when you have anticipated an end to a love story, yet you still love anyway.

A story always has an ending. What that ending is like is up to the readers. I have shared a bit of my life as a writer, but I have yet to tell you about how I create my happy endings. They are not all happy endings in the conventional meaning of the phrase. However, I consider them as such because they make my readers think. That is enough for me.

“Every song ends, but is that any reason not to enjoy the music?” This statement came from the lips of a fictional television character. As a reader myself, I tend to be sad at the end of each book. It doesn’t matter if I read a happy ending or a sad one. Perhaps, more than sadness, it is just a feeling of disappointment that the story had to end. It means that I have to go back to reality again, which I am sometimes reluctant to do.

Now let me tell you how I write my happy endings. Sometimes when I write, I have a tendency to overthink. I worry about things I shouldn’t worry about, and I write as if I have something to prove to someone. Over-thinking is often a huge mistake, especially when it comes to the ending. What usually happens is I try to outsmart the reader only to outsmart myself.

When I tell a story, I typically want the story’s ending to deliver a specific message. Sometimes, when I’m halfway through a story, I feel my main character doesn’t deserve a happy ending. As much as the character wanted it, I just think he doesn’t deserve it as much as he was willing to fight for it. After all, life is constantly teaching us that we don’t always get what we want.

So, I often end up writing a different ending, which was supposed to make the reader realize something I just couldn’t really comprehend myself. If, as the author, I am puzzled, then my readers have the liberty to create the ending they feel is apt, not necessarily a conventional happy ending. I believe people who read more yearn for more depth and are similarly dissatisfied with a typical ending.

I don’t always know who my readers should be rooting for in a story, or even if they would root for anyone at all. When that happens, I end up doing the next best thing. I will give the story a new ending, an ambiguous one. And I will give the reader a choice.

“What did you think of the ending?” I am often curious to know the answer to this question. It’s quite a lot of power for a reader to have, and I’m well aware that some readers don’t always enjoy it.

What I’m trying to say is that we don’t always get the ending we want. In life and literature, we don’t always get what we want, and most times, instead of finding the answers we’re looking for, we end up finding more questions.

Michael Atkins

Technologist and life-long language learner. Speaks fluent Japanese and Indonesian among other languages. Inspiring the world through love of language learning