Creating alternate endings

This is cross-posted at The Season.

Gone With the WindI hate Gone With The Wind. Hate it.

I know it’s supposed to be one the all-time greatest films, but I’ve seen it once and as God is my witness, I shall never watch it again.

I was 13 when I watched it. No one had spoiled the ending for me yet. My mom told me it was her favorite film, so we watched it together. After investing quite a bit of my heart in the story…after watching the characters’ painful struggle to grow…the film ended sadly?

Uh uh. Not for me, thanks.

The Romance Writers of America defines romance as having an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. Perhaps my aversion to sad endings is a sign that I’ve been conditioned by all the romance novels I’ve read. Maybe I’m just naturally someone who loves a happy ending. But in my mind, Rhett and Scarlett stay together in the end. It isn’t a perfect relationship, but they’re perfect for each other and they continue to have a passionate, tempestuous marriage.

They have more children together, not because children are necessary for a happy ending but because Rhett and Scarlett want children again, only this time they won’t use their kids as a weapon against each other. They’ll adore all their kids, but Scarlett will secretly prefer the little boy who takes strongly after Rhett, and Rhett will dote on the little girl who reminds him of Scarlett.

They’ll have to struggle to rebuild their lives, but they’ll rely on each other’s strength and prop each other up when they think they’re going to fail. Their grandsons will fight in the First World War, but they’ll come home safely (and one will bring a sassy French wife with him. Scarlett will hate her.). One of their granddaughters will be an army nurse, and she’ll spend her life fighting for women’s liberation—a cause Rhett supports more vocally than Scarlett.

And, because they’re fictitious, they never die.

What book or film would you give a more optimistic, emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending? Or do you prefer gut-wrenching endings?

22 thoughts on “Creating alternate endings

  1. Ah…Gone with the Wind. I loved the book AND the movie, but I have never thought of it as a romance, at least not in the classic sense. It does not have a happy ending. But it shows the stubborn determination of a group of hard-nosed survivors whose lives ended up being so different from what they’d been brought up to expect. Some became hard and bitter like Scarlett; some became wiser and circumspect, like Rhett. Some faded away into living ghosts, like Ashley. Sometimes love doesn’t win. A great story of how the Civil War changed people, but not a romance.

    But I digress. I would change the ending of Lover Unleashed by JR Ward. My favorite of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, Vishous, got cheated by a half-assed ending and lo these years later I’m still pissed about it!

    1. No, I don’t think of Gone with the Wind as a romance, either. But I was expecting it to be because so much of the focus of the story was on their relationship. (And I was a pre-teen.)

      Okay, I’ll confess. I’ve never read any JR Ward novels. But any half-assed ending would piss me right off. I want something definite from my endings unless I know they’re a trilogy. Then I’m somewhat happy to wait, but I’ll expect an ending three-times as kickass as I do for a single novel.

      Does that make me a high-maintenance reader?

  2. Hmm I agree with the Lover Unleashed ending, on the other hand I was pleasantly surprised by Lover Enshrined’s ending because I honestly couldn’t see a happy ending for them most of the book.
    Wuthering Heights for me wasn’t a romance, it was a drama. The original Heathcliff and Cathy were irredeemably selfish people, and the book was magnificantly written but it certainly wasn’t romantic. In my perfect world, Heathcliff would have had at least one iota of affection for his own son and especially Cathy’s daughter, and not conspired to make them both miserable.

    1. I’m totally with you, Karen. Maybe it’s because I was a moody, angsty teenager when I read Wuthering Heights, but I loved the ending at the time. Now, though, I think it’d depress the hell out of me. I’ve had to deal with enough selfish people in real life; why do it in my relaxation time?

  3. I think if I were to change an ending, it would be to Charlotte Bronte’s Villette.

    I love happy endings; I find a lot to ponder in the sad endings. I really HATE more than anything in the world the endings that leave you completely hanging. They make me angry.

    1. I haven’t read Villette yet, Bookworm. But I agree with you that by far the most frustrating ending is the one that leaves you hanging. Or maybe the worst is the one that feels rushed and unsatisfying, like Suzanne mentions. If I’ve invested time and emotion in characters, I want them to have some sort of settlement.

      Glad you stopped by!

  4. I love happy endings, but what do I write? Stories with bittersweet endings because things can’t get wrapped up all neat into a bow before the series is done. *face palm* LOL!

    I can’t think of any story that I’d change the ending to because I don’t tend to read that way, but yeah, I’d definitely agree with your “Gone with the Wind” take. 🙂

    1. Maybe that’s the best of both worlds, Jami. As theveryhungrybookworm pointed out in her comment, sad endings give you something to think about. I often find bittersweet endings give me the satisfaction I want while also making me think about the story long after I put it down.

      Thanks for commenting!

  5. I felt the exact same way at the end of The Breakup. Sure, they had their hilarious breakup fun but they were supposed to get back together at the end! I felt so cheated!

    P.S. Maybe you should write some fan fiction. 😉

  6. “And, because they’re fictitious, they never die.”

    The last time I watched Gone With the Wind was when my parents were trying to keep my sister and I entertained as small children for New Year’s Eve. I don’t remember how the movie actually ended, so I will be replacing it with your ending. Immortal and all.

    1. Glad you’re adopting my ending! And your parents had the right idea – it must be one of the world’s longest movies so it probably kept you guys quiet for a long time!

  7. haha my mom keeps telling me i should watch that movie..made it through…ummm… 5 minutes… and nope couldnt do it. i agree though happy endings all the way. i have a huge problem with authors like steven king who kill off all their characters time after time… thats the easy way out! I have been working on a couple different books and the hardest thing for me is the ending. Why is it so easy to kill everyone off than it is to make a happy ending? *sigh*

  8. I had the same experience with Gone With The Wind, but the book version. It was awful. I listened to the first half on my work commutes, then when I realized my library didn’t have the second half on tape I snagged the book and devoured it over several evenings. After reading the ending, I felt crushed. I had invested so much of my self in this woman! It’s the mark of a great novel, to draw you in, but I don’t love all great novels.
    I think the reason it was so devastating was, the entire time, they come so close to admitting they care for each other. Or in Scarlett’s case, realizing. It’s pages and pages of an elaborate dance and at the end the orchestra house burns down.

    1. That sounds pretty much like I feel too! Cheated and devastated. I like happy endings as well. I’m not opposed to bad endings – if they are in line with the novel, and justified, and somewhat predictable through the story (even if you still hope for the good ending – you see it kind of coming – know what I mean?)

      But in this case, they do deeply care for each other. Even Scarlett knows it deep down. More than once she wants to tell him, ask him if he feels the same – but his own stubbornness and sarcasm always pushes her away. He blames it all on her at the end, but really – it’s half as much his fault. Every time she kind of opened up to him, having a moment of “Wait… could it be?”, he shuts her down, so she convinces herself that he doesn’t love her. And therefore, what’s the point in investing in her burgeoning feelings?
      Yes, of course, she also blind. She should be able to see pass the sarcasm and wall he builds up. I think that’s the whole point – they are never on the same page, always trying to protect themselves against the other, and therefore never reaching a point where they can just BE together.
      She even has moments where she realizes her feelings for Ashley are fading – such as when he takes her hands and she doesn’t feel a thing, just friendship. She is surprised by it. But she keeps on hanging on to it because it’s the only thing she can hang on too – she’s too convinced Rhett hates her by then.
      Why is so, so far from the true…

      I keep being hunted by What If’s… What if he had stayed after their big fight and he had taken her in her room, instead of running away? She was almost ready to admit her feelings! (though she worded it as being able to use them against him – ha – but it would have been a starting point for them to evolve their relationship). What if she had taken it back when she cast him out of the bedroom, like she felt like doing, instead of being stubborn? What if he had confronted her on the matter instead of just stepping out and indulging her? Ok, she might not have been ready to accept his views – as usual – but they were in need of a big fight that laid all true feelings in the open. What if, instead of trying to make her forget Ashley by just waiting it out, he ADMITTED his feelings for her? He was afraid she would use him – well sure, she probably would. But he’s smart, cunning, and knows her inside out. She would never have succeeded – especially if he knows she knows and all that yadi-ya. And once she knows his feelings, and then he expresses them to her, through all the kind things he was always doing for her – she would have seen, and in time, perhaps, just perhaps she could have come around. It would have at least given them a standing chance.
      What if she had called for Rhett when she was sick, instead of keeping it for herself. What if he had gone and see her, instead of waiting for her to call. Obviously she would have responded to his being there, being so sick and delirious – not really in a fighting state. What if she had said she was sorry after Bonnie died like she wanted to, instead of waiting for the “perfect” moment, which never comes, in any situation.
      The whole book could be summarized as “Just say it already! Sheesh, fiddle-dee-dee!”

      I get it thought that, in a way, a happy ending would have meant that someone as cunning and manipulative as Scarlett could get what she wanted in the end, and that’s immoral, and yadi ya. I think a happy ending might have stirred up discussions in the vein as well. Not everything in life ends well, and sometimes love story don’t work out because people lack basic communication skills and are too stubborn for their own good.

      But I still wanted a happy ending, after 1000-pages of courtship, and many, many hints of burgeoning coming-po-age and self-realization of where one’s true feelings lay.

      And it’s not just Scarlett and Rhett. It’s everybody else too. The last 150 pages or so were TERRIBLE to read. Not in style or writing or anything – no, Mitchell is brilliant in that sense. But did every single person in the novel needed to have their lives destroyed and shred to pieces? Nobody is happy at the end – not one person. Melly is dead, Ashley is a stunned ghost, Scarlett has no friends and no one to turn to (really, what will she do at Tara? Will merely tolerates her, and Suellen hates her. As the whole of Atlanta, really). Mammy is old and has pretty much nothing left for her either, with so many people gone. Wade & Ella don’t really have a mother, never really had, and she’s not in a state to become one now. Bonnie is dead, Rhett loss not only his wife, but the two loves of his life. So yes, Scarlett and Rhett bother me, tremendously, but so does the rest of it too.

      Oh, I’m in such a state! lol It’s comforting, actually, to see others feel so strongly about this as well.
      Perhaps I will fan-write an alternate ending – re-write Part IV completely (or almost) 😉 It’s a good writing practice, no? 😉

  9. I love both the movie and the book although I was constantly frustrated with their relationship. Why can’t we all just get along?! 😉
    Have you read Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley? Scarlett and Rhett’s relationship still continues to frustrate but you get a more “romance novel” feel. It’s been a while since I read it so I can’t exactly remember how it ends but I think I felt satisfied.
    I really liked the Black Dagger Brotherhood books until the most recent one. Plus I kept getting all the titles confused and could never remember which one was which.

    1. I haven’t read Scarlett, but I remember considering reading it when it first came out. I think it was when I was studying English lit and didn’t have time to read for pleasure. At least it sounds like the author kept up the theme of frustrating relationships!

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