Before I launch into my nonsensical rambling of the day, the title of this blog post just reminded me of something. Literally, just this moment.
Sitting in my piano teacher’s house, leafing through her Reader’s Digest Songbooks, and picking out an inspirational song called Whispering Hope ( And because I’m a dork, find a beautiful rendition of it here). My teacher, Mrs. Jeanne Lance, had a habit of humming songs she loved while her students played. Whenever I played this one, she couldn’t hold herself back. She actually sang the lyrics out loud in a sweet, shaking soprano voice that I’ll always remember her for. I am not a religious person and I had only picked the song because there was a picture of a dove on the sheet music, but this song has always lifted my spirits. Whenever I play it, I can’t help but sing it out loud and proud as well. I’ll always remember Mrs. Lance fondly. I don’t quite know what happened to her in life. But I imagine she is happy and hopeful in her cozy home where she welcomed so many students and families and gave them the gift of music on her sturdy upright piano.
Now that I am sitting happily in this memory, I am not sure how much I need to elaborate on the concept of hope. But, in a recent writing workshop, we discussed happy endings. It was unanimously agreed that happy endings are not necessary. In fact, a majority of the class agreed that they enjoyed a real devastating ending now and again. Craved the depressing reality of things. Killing protagonists were generally frowned upon (imagine if Voldemort defeated Harry?!) but nobody seemed to mind the fictional sudden death of the old, beloved neighbor who just won the lotto (Anyone know that one?) the tragic loss of a parent, or the suicide or cancer diagnosis of beloved friend. We can handle these things.
What we determined readers can’t handle is an ending without hope. Even if your protagonist has been literally and figuratively bruised and battered…beaten down by life. Even if the last thing that happens is so down-right awful it’s not clear how anyone will go on. They need to GO ON. You always need to leave the reader with hope.
I agree with this conclusion. A moment of hope is how every story should end.
So what do you think? Too bold of a statement? You know plenty of hopeless stories the world loves? (If you do, please let me know, I’m trying to think of one.) Let ’em cry and close the book dejected? A little tough love is just what the world needs? What has Hollywood done to tragedy? Inquiring minds want to know whatcha think about the necessity of ending with a lil’ hope.