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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The HEA...

A romance must have a happy-ever-after ending—known as the HEA among romance writers. Romance authors sometimes write those HEAs even when their own lives are in turmoil. It would be interesting to conduct a survey to discover how many authors have written some of their more successful books during times of crisis.

Many years ago this particular topic came up as a question at an NJRW meeting and I spent some time thinking about it afterward. I’m guessing that the majority of romance writers are idealists. I know I am—but coincidently I am also a realist. I am very much aware of life's ups and downs. Though the sun may be shining in my life today, a cloud is surely looming on the horizon.

Life is like that for everyone and there is no escaping it. However, when the going gets tough nothing cheers me up as much as sitting down for a little while and working on a story—a story where despite difficulties, the hero and heroine wind up as perfect for each other and everything is rosy--not that I don't create a considerable amount of havoc for my beleagued protagonists. They do have some big problems to solve. Yet, they will succeed. I make up my own wonderful little world and—in my mind at least—erase some of the gloom and doom of the real world.

I think this is better than drugs or other self-destructive behaviors. Obviously, if someone has a serious problem with depression, they should get professional help. But if you’ve been following along on this blog and you read between the lines you know there have been a host of disruptions in my life. If you're a friend of mine on Facebook, you are privy to more details.

Still, I never stop writing—except for a day or two when I truly don't have a single moment to spare. Most days I write even if I’m not feeling particularly happy, or romantic for that matter. My hero and heroine are going to get their HEA, no matter what. If something good is happening in my characters’ lives, I feel better.

It’s as simple as that.


Marguerite Arotin said...

Hi Penelope :-). Saw your post on the NCP list and I think it's a great topic. I try to rise above any of my own personal problems worries as well to give my hero and heroine thier HEA. They've earned it after all I usually put them through :-).
But I've found that the same turmoiled emotions work great when it comes to writing the "black moment" of a story. On the fantasy romance I'm currently revising I had to kill off a group of characters I grew to love form y black moment to work. I kept putting it off, putting it off, becuase I didn't want to write it. I grew to love the girls I had to kill off so much that I dreaded killing them off. But one night, I had a huge fight with the hubby. We made up afterwords but I was able to put all the emotion I felt during our fight into my black moment. I killed the girls and cried as I did, but then concentrates on the big blowout between my hero and heroine, using all the rage I felt when I argued with my hubby into the fight scene. Anwyway, though you can't use the turbulent emotions you feel when things go wrong in your HEA sometimes they work splendidly in your black moments :-).
Take care,

Jane Bierce said...

Sometimes I am almost afraid that my HEA is too simplistic, or on the other hand, too complicated, too elaborate. . .all those possibilities that make the HEA impossible in a real world. Yet in real life, I have seen the HEA grow out of the struggles that lead to the black moment and beyond.

All couples are taking their hearts out of their chests and exposing them to every vile element just by thinking of forming a relationship with the other person. It doesn't always work. . .we have all had occasion to wonder why a couple can possibly break up after fifteen or twenty years together, when they seemed so perfect for each other. And we often wonder why people are together after forty years when we see very little they have in common.

The seeds of the union are always in the struggle, and the seeds of eventual distruction are in that same HEA. That is what makes life so fascinating!

Sandra said...


I've written during all sorts of emotional states in my life. Sometimes when I'm most upset the emotions of my characters come out the purest.

When its time for the HEA or the HEA for now, it and I'm down writing the ending can remind me of the good things in a relationship and help me move on.

Personally, the emotion I use best is frustration, anger, and shades thereof. The turbulent emotions my characters experience become more real because they were real at the time of the writing!

Penelope Marzec said...

marguerite: Yes! Arguments with hubbies are great fodder for fight scenes.

jane: True. HEAs in real life don't always follow trying times. Sad to say. But in a book they always can. :^)

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Well, Penelope, this is a very interesting topic.
When everything is going wrong and I feel I have no control over any of it, I write like a demon. The world I create in my head is the one where I do have control. So I make my characters end up with happiness because it makes ME feel better and, let's face it, don't we just put those guys through hell first so they deserve it. There are times when someone or something has really ticked me off and the sure cure for that is to 'kill off' a meany in my story or give the villain some come-upance.
Sarah McNeal

Leann said...

HI Penelope,

Well, I finally know what I'm doing wrong... I'm not writing happily ever after when I'm down...LOL.....I'll work on that.

K. said...

You know what, I have been reading your blog for some time now. And I have noted the terrible things you have mentioned from time to time. But the next post of yours will sound so upbeat and so lively, I honestly thought that you were just the type of person who let nothing get you down. Now I know that all this just comes from your practice as a talented and positive writer. You're good girl.

Penelope Marzec said...

Sandra: Sometimes when I'm most upset the emotions of my characters come out the purest. That's the way I feel, too. I don't use my life situations so much as the emotions.

Sarah: Ah yes--the villain! What a perfect way to get revenge!

leann: Do give it a try. You never know--you might get published. :^)

k.: I do count my blessings and I do tend to see the glass as half full instead of half empty. However, writing brings me a great deal of joy.

Brenna Lyons said...

Since I write dark, turmoil doesn't interfere with my characters. It's par for the course. I don't write linear or write one book at a time, though, so days when I am in real turmoil will often find me writing a fight scene or a scene of loss. Days when I am a little more centered will find me writing the HEA. My moods do seep into the characters, and the readers seem to like that honest emotion.

Of course, their emotions seep into me, as well, so there are times when I START the day in a fairly good mood and end moody, because the characters are in a bad way. It's a two way street.

Penelope Marzec said...

Hi Brenna!

I am not a linear writer, but I am forever going back to different scenes in my works-in-progress and fixing them so that the emotions will ring true.

Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

There is a certain sense of satisfaction in working out other people's problems when your own life is in turmoil, that is for sure!

MarkD60 said...

City Of Angels is a romance that doesn't have a happy ever after ending.

I've always wanted to read a book that ended like this:

"After the wedding, the young lovers were on their way to the airport for the honeymoon, when a giant foot came down from the sky and squished them" THE END.

I saw that on Monty Python.

Penelope Marzec said...


If a story doesn't have a happy ever after ending--or a happy for now ending--it's not a romance.

I was never a Monty Python fan--though all of my daughters are.

I want my HEA!

Unknown said...

You wrote - If a story doesn't have a happy ever after ending--or a happy for now ending--it's not a romance.

So Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet isn't a romance? It the passionate story between two star-crossed lovers. They meet - they fall in love - they marry - they consummate - reality intrudes - they commit suicide. A romance without an HEA.

Penelope Marzec said...


Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy. Shakespeare wrote tragedies, histories, and comedies.

Romeo and Juliet were deeply in love, but they died--no HEA. Very unhappy. :-(

Very much a tragedy. Not a romance.