As a romance reader, I tend to enjoy a happy for now (HFN) story over the traditional happily ever after (HEA) ending. After going on a journey with the couple in the story, I want them to finally get to a place where they are together. At the same time, I like the slight open-endedness a HFN ending provides, a bit of what if at the end. In a good story, I think about the characters long after finishing with an HFN: will they continue to put their differences aside and work it out? Will the conflict that tore them apart ever come back to haunt them? I think a book is more realistic that way versus a HEA where everything is neat and perfect.
As a writer, a HFN also has another advantage: it gives the chance to continue the story. Sure, a completely new scenario could always be developed. But with sequels, I prefer diving right back in where I left off- when both reading and writing. I don’t want to miss or skip over one second of the lives of the characters I’ve gotten to know.
But a lot of readers disagree.
A lot of romance readers want their stories to end in a concrete way- with the happily ever after. And I absolutely understand why. You invest several hours of your time with these people, and you want closure. I tend to write more HFN over the HEA and the feedback I get from my beta-readers (and a few reviews) have shown me that this is one of the biggest issues readers have with my stories. Sometimes a HFN is the only option, the only way a story can logically end. And for those stories, there’s another option- an option for a part two. Needless to say, I have a couple of sequels coming. I’m excited about them- they’re from a couple of my favorite books.
Honeymoon with the Stranger was always going to have a part two. I intended to have it released in the fall of 2016, but that plan fell through with my medical leave last year. I have about 25% of the sequel written, with most of the story outlined. Shae is such a complex character, and I love the power struggle dynamic between her and Terrance. They are so fun to write together, and even though their story can be dark at times, I hope readers of their journey have found it just as fun to read as I’ve found it to write. Part two of Honeymoon with the Stranger will be released the first half of 2017.
The next sequel? Love for Lonely Hearts. With part one, the story and the characters evolved into something completely different than what I’d intended- which sometimes happens when writing. I’d actually planned for this story to have a HEA ending. But their situation is so messy, a clean cut conclusion didn’t seem right for them. Because of everything they had to overcome to be together, that means there’s so much more to their story- enough to warrant a part two. I have a few ideas brewing, but nothing concrete yet. I want to focus on tying up the few loose ends I have from 2016 before I dive into this story. But it will be completed this year.
Long story short, I hear you. I listen to my readers and beta-readers, and I value your input. Closure is coming.
How do you feel about HEA versus HFN endings?