HEA (Happily Ever After) or USBCA (Until Something Better Comes Along)?

            Happily Ever After or HEA is the way we writers describe the moment in our stories when certainty is sure.  The promise of hope is fulfilled.  Do not laugh at or minimalize the HEA.  It is one of the defining points of humanity.  There is a bone deep need in humans to be assured that events will bring about that condition.  HEA is the goal for almost all of our endeavors.  Striving for it defines our lives.  This is why a HEA will beat a USBCA every time.

            Do you think I give it too much importance?  Follow me.

Words were made to express every aspect and thought of human existence including those we hope to have.  Villians are vanquished.  Good triumphs over evil.  The woman gets her guy.  Babys are still coming.  Spring arrives after every winter.  Such is the foundation of hope.  Without hope every life is emptier and more barren.  Using the certainty of past HEAs, we know the future has the potential to be as good or better.

Whether the writer was Edgar Rice Burroughs writing of Tarzan or Moses heading for the Promised Land, hope plays an integral part in the makeup of the human spirit.  Without hope, man wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning, conquer new horizons, or get pleasure from testing the edge of a knife against his thumb.  All of these things are essential in some way to achieving a unique HEA.  Stories express this need, and the journey of fulfillment of the need, using different styles of writing and words to accomplish it.

Let us look at other writing categories.  Mysteries.  They start with a question and end with a certainty.  Horror.  The same.  Adventure stories.  Not much of an adventure if no one lives to tell the tale.  So, again, certainty.  Someone overcame odds to live to tell about it.  A personal happily ever after.  Westerns.  The hero fights horrible odds and ends up with his heart’s desire or justice. In every popular story style, the more uncertain the outcome as the story is read and yet certain in the end, the more the reader will experience emotional validation/satisfaction when the story is completed.

An interesting thing about HEAs is that they can happen in multiples.  Just because a couple get together and have a happily ever after doesn’t mean they can’t have another one after the first baby is born and another after the second one is born or a third after the house is built.  HEAs are milestones of certainty that hope is fulfilling its role in our lives.  Our lives are richer for every HEA we experience, even if we only get to watch.

What is wonderful about Romance HEAs are that they are the big ones.  Stories of Great Loves are the ones that others are measured against.  Romantic HEAs, whether readers read romance or not, are still the ones they hold in their secret hearts.  Everyone yearns for their own Happily Ever After.  Through romances, we are able to relive the wonder of our own or confirm hope that one is there for us.

I believe it is a wonderful thing we writers of romance get to do.  Bring hope to humanity.  Does it get better than that?


Joan Vincent said...

Very well done! I couldn't get through a month without an HEA fix. HEA's and readers' reactions to them are two of the best things about writing. Having people tell you that your book eased their sorrow or took their minds off their troubles for a bit is very rewarding. It is so rewarding that I still have the last page of the editor's copy of The Promise Rose on which she had written "Well done,my friend," about that book's HEA.

Rox Delaney said...

Wonderfully said, Nina! You've explained the reason why romance books are doing more than surviving in this down economic climate, as opposed to nearly everything else.

Women (and men!) can lose themselves in a romance novel with the always-kept promise of ending with an HEA, filling their heart with hope. No matter how bad things get, the HEA is proof that somehow, someway, the odds can be beat.

Becky A said...

Thanks Miss Nina,
Romance wouldn't be Romance without the HEA but I must confess, I never thought about why. They just always make you feel good, no matter what ugly things you might be going through at the time. Knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel gives you strength to go on. Even if it is fiction, the effect is still the same. Thanks for making me think about the "why" that goes with the ahhhh, how sweet!!!!

Penny Rader said...

Wonderful explanation of HEAs, Nina! And definitely one of the top reasons why I read and write romance.

I hope I'm lucky enough to receive letters from my readers telling me my stories touched them in a positive way.

Reese Mobley said...

It might sound corny but I think Happily-Ever-After is the whole reason to get up in the morning. It means you have hope and when times are tough in your own life you can escape into a novel and know their reward will be HEA. It's all we can hope for. I look forward to writing and reading the HEA in a romance novel and feel slighted when it doesn't deliver. Two books come to mind: Message in a Bottle and The Horse Whisperer. Loved them until the end.

Nice job, Nina!

Starla Kaye said...

You nailed it, Nina. I read many genres, but romances are what please me the most. I'm a sucker for a good Happily Ever After and I work hard to create them in each of my stories.

Nina Sipes said...

Thank you ladies. You're all very kind. I too hope to have a genuine editor's note one day on one of my HEAs. Wow.
I think that romance holds more appeal to me than some of the Chick Lit that has come along because they don't have HEA's they are more likely to have USBCAs. I wonder if Chick Lit will stand the test of time.

snwriter52 said...

This is one Major reason we read books. HEA is an important factor in our story telling as writers. Great blog. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.