Stories need closure. Since all wounds heal, all hurts must as well, too. Now of course, this doesn’t mean that all stories must have happy endings – though, I must admit as a writer, I am cut from the happy ending cloth – but audiences crave resolution.
Warning: spoilers coming if you have not read the stories I’ve been using to illustrate my theories so far. Stop now if you don’t want to know the endings.
Katniss survives The Hunger Games. The ending is exciting and hopeful and positive. (It’s also laced with suggestion that this story isn’t over yet and that there will be a Book II in the series because the bad guys are never fully vanquished – and yes, there is a Book II as well as a Book III.) In Animal Farm, the pigs have practically turned into men, creatures who have exploited their fellow animals even more cruelly than human beings did when they were in charge of Manor Farm leaving the reader to wonder and think about a heck of a lot. Hamlet dies, a victim in some ways, perhaps a hero in others, but tragedy befalls Denmark. Blood spills through the halls of Elsinore in a way that makes fans of catastrophe, misfortune and calamity proud. Hamlet’s dead. The Queen is dead. Claudius is dead. Laertes is dead. Polonius is dead. Ophelia is dead. The ghost even seems dead. Oh yeah, and the entire kingdom falls to Denmark’s sworn enemy, Fortinbras.
Talk about knowing how to bring closure to a tale. Shakespeare… the best there was ever was.
My book Cinder-Smella has a happy ending. My book Nerd Girls has a happy ending. My book Homeboyz has more of a bittersweet ending, yet still, I think it concludes on a hopeful note. No, it’s not required to have a happy ending; what’s required is that the hurts of the hero have been addressed. Yes, new hurts might be born, but the old hurt which were the primary engine of the plot at this point should have played its cards and run its course.
It’s why they call the end the resolution of the story. Indeed, it’s the laying to rest of the hurt. (Note: I know the word “healed” as I have used it infers a positive outcome but what constitutes a positive outcome is a matter of perspective. To Napoleon and the fat pigs of Animal Farm, their outcome is entirely delicious. To Boxer, not so much. The bigger point being that finality, to some degree, is what’s essential. Therefore the term the “healing of the hurt” is much more a resolution in some tales.)
Life is an open-ended story. Stories are not. Hurts, in some way, shape or form, are healed.