This last week I was reading a post by Lara Schiffbauer, How Dark is Too Dark. She was struggling with the darkness of her current WIP and the tragedies her characters go through. And it got me thinking. Could I ever write a story with a tragic ending? Because even though I enjoy dark stories, I’m more of the Happily Ever After ending type.
I have read three stories with tragic endings, and I came away with mixed feelings.
Spoiler Alert… Skip the next 3 paragraphs if you don’t want to read about the ending to these stories
Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison – It’s been years since I read this, and I can’t get it out of my head. Maybe it’s a good thing, but I hated the ending. The mother of the main character deserts her to go with the man who sexually and physically abused the mc. I have never been left with such a feeling of desolation after reading a book. Others may interpret it differently, but my feeling at the end was that this teenage girl would have nothing but a life of misery due to her story. Even though her extended (but dysfunctional) family was there for her, HER MOTHER left her for her abuser.
Claws by Will Weaver – This was one a total punch in the gut. I was riding along, almost to the end. The 2 characters, brought together by their cheating parents, who initially hated each other, eventually fell for each other. After a harrowing experience in nature, WHAM! The girl dies in a helicopter crash. I seriously had to go back and re-read the words. I couldn’t believe the author did that. This was a few chapters before the end. And although I got the impression that the main character would put his life back together, I couldn’t get over the shock of the girl’s death.
Shattered Soul by Jennifer Snyder – This is a story that involves drug abuse. At the end, the main character finds his girlfriend who committed suicide by overdosing on drugs. The boyfriend/mc holds his own brother responsible (I do too) and tries to kill him. The cops are there and the mc essentially commits suicide because he knows the cops will shoot him if he shoots his brother—which he does.
End Spoiler Alert
I thought about the above 3 stories and their tragic endings. I LOVED Shattered Soul. I really liked Claws, until the ending. I liked Bastard out of Carolina, until the ending. (Although the overall tone of the story was depressing.)
I think for me, there is one big difference. In Claws/BOOC, the tragic ending is something out of the main character’s control. It was not really due to the decisions he or she made. They had a crappy situation because of others in their life and a crappy ending.
Whereas SS, the ending was completely due to the choices of the mc and his girlfriend. The story was about the mistakes they made, over and over. They had control over their lives, and they chose a path which sadly led to death.
So back to me. I’m not sure I could do it. Maybe a story like SS, where the consequences of a mc’s actions have a tragic ending. But one where that tragedy is forced on the mc due to other’s actions… I don’t know if I could do it.
Maybe one day I’ll try. I have no ideas as of yet, but it’d be interesting to see if I could stick with the tragic ending. Or would I have to make it happy. I don’t know.
Could you write a tragic ending to your story?
And can you think of other current novel that ends in tragedy? Did you like it?