Wednesday, September 26, 2012

SIX STRATEGIES FOR WRITING THE “HAPPILY EVER AFTER” ENDING

Janet here.
Had to share this photo taken after the Awards Gala at ACFW with Myra, Missy, me, Audra, Debby and Mary celebrating Melanie Dickerson's Carol Award. 

Before I get to the subject of my post, I want to share an ACFW workshop I absolutely loved entitled Live Free. Write Free. Presenters Allen Arnold and Jim Rubart stressed the importance of nurturing the heart of the storyteller, pointing out we can’t write what we aren’t. Allen and Jim reminded attendees that Jesus came to give us freedom. When we’re struggling with our writing, they suggest we look at our hearts.

We need to remember who we are. Our identity isn’t writer. Our identity is son or daughter of God.

Our writing is our calling. It’s good to drive toward something like publication, but it’s not good to be driven, obsessed. Instead of chasing our dream, we need to follow Jesus. Jesus will open doors in His perfect timing.

The first step to live free is to remember our schedules belong to God. If we cram each day to the brim, we leave no room for God to show up. Freedom comes from asking God each day, “What do You have for me to do?” We should see interruptions in our schedules as divine appointments.  

Yes, writers have deadlines, day jobs, and family responsibilities pulling us in different directions. Some days we may have twenty things we truly must do. If we must do them, God will redeem the time to get them done. But too often our schedules become over-packed because we can’t say no. When we can’t say no to others, we haven’t really said yes to God. Instead select the best over the better so our schedules are loose enough to do what God wants us to do and still give ourselves time to breathe. Hurry is an attitude that comes from agreement with the lie that says God expects more of us than we can do. God gives us all the time we need to accomplish His tasks.

This is only the beginning of the wisdom offered by these two godly men determined to see people set free. If you want more, you can order the CD here. Or later download the individual workshop.
Now to return to the topic of my post.

One of the things I love about romance novels is the guarantee of a happy ending. The reason I read and write romances. But haven’t you read romances that held your attention, kept you turning the pages and then at the end, when you expected the big pay-off, the story let you down? The resolution came too easily, didn’t feel real, or relied on someone besides the hero and heroine to fix their issues. Characters need to earn their happy ending, their reward for the suffering we writers put them through. If you’re not making your characters suffer, start there. J If you’re writing humor, you’ll use a lighter tone, but characters still need to walk through the fire and come out victorious. To find their happily ever after, characters must change. Like most of us, characters won’t change unless forced. That’s the writers’ job. The process is painful for the characters, and yes, sometimes for us authors too. But once our characters are redeemed or they see how their inner conflict prevents them from falling in love, they will let down the barriers separating them from happiness.

The specifics of reaching that happy ending depend on what the story is about since plot and character entwine. That happy ending also depends on what the characters have gone through in their pasts. Epilogues give readers a peek at what’s next for the happy couple, but they’re not the HEA ending. These strategies might or might not be relevant for your particular story, but they’re general enough to jumpstart ideas. I’m using some early Seeker books as examples. I’m sure Seekervillagers have read all of our books—hint, hint J—and will want to grab well-thumbed copies to see how each author accomplished the goal of giving readers satisfying endings they’ll remember.

SIX STRATEGIES TO ENSURE YOUR ENDING SATISFIES READERS


  1. After endless conflict, the hero and heroine should not suddenly fall into each others arms. The hero and heroine must have strong attraction all along to make the HEA work. But even with strong sexual tension all through the story, the HEA won’t feel realistic if the characters don’t deal in a believable way with what’s kept them apart. All the issues between them must be resolved. The reason the HEA is called the resolution. Make sure your characters refuse to settle for less than they deserve. After Charles saves Adelaide’s life in Courting Miss Adelaide, September 2008, he’s so frightened he could’ve lost her that he proposes marriage, but he still hasn’t dealt with his demons and can’t proclaim his love. Adelaide’s a strong woman—all heroines must be—and won’t settle, even if remaining single means she could lose Emma. When Charles finally conquers his fears, he knows with certainty he is not only capable of love, he’s very much in love with Adelaide. He proposes in front of much of the town.

  1. Show the hero and heroine have grown and changed. The characters should be changing all through the story, but by the resolution, the characters must have grown enough to make the HEA ending realistic. Show that change using characters’ actions, conversations, sacrifices and/or symbols. In Missy’s Her Unlikely Family, during the HEA ending, Mike reveals to Josie that he’s resigned from positions he held in Atlanta and sold his house, all actions he took to prove his heart’s in Gatlinburg with her. In Single Sashimi, Camy uses symbols—stilettos/flats and pants/skirts—to show change in hard-nosed Venus who is now ready to give and receive love.


  1. Show the hero and heroine revealing their secrets, tearing down the barriers that kept them apart. The hero and heroine can have her/his own epiphany late or earlier, but to make the HEA meaningful, each must bring their secrets and barriers into the open during the resolution. In Debby’s MIA: Missing in Atlanta, Jude calls his father in an attempt to mend the mistakes he’s made. Once Jude faced his demons head on and had the courage to change, Jude and Sarah are able to love each other unconditionally.   


  1. In inspirational romances, characters struggling with faith issues will need to make peace with God. This may involve a conversation with God, or come about through the influence of other characters, or the character himself demonstrates restoration with God with a symbolic act. In Julie’s A Passion Most Pure, Faith has loved Collin all her life, but his lack of faith keeps them apart. Collin finds God while serving overseas during the war, imperative for these two to reach their HEA ending. A tragic or joyous event can bring characters to their knees and produce change. Without such an event, your characters must grow and change gradually. If you show them seeking God by reading the Bible, talking to Christians and attending church and being impacted by those events, the reader will believe this person came to faith in a realistic way.   


  1. The HEA ending works best when the story comes full circle. If possible tie the resolution to the opening. For example, in Courting the Doctor’s Daughter, LIH, 2009, I open the book with Mary, the doctor’s daughter, opposing Luke’s homemade remedy that she sees as worthless. I end the book with Mary suggesting a recipe for a remedy for her and Luke’s new life together.


  1. The resolution feels bigger than life and inevitable. In the resolution the reader should see these two people were meant to be together. Though you might want to give your characters some private interaction, giving the hero and heroine their happy ending in front of an audience feels bigger than life and has readers cheering. In Mary’s Calico Canyon, the resolution is chock full of characters and wrapped in the bow of good defeating evil. Then privately Daniel and Grace discuss how God brought them together through the twists and turns of their lives.


If you have more strategies for giving characters their HEA, please share.
If you hung in with me, I thought you'd enjoy the Dean version of a rodeo stunt. This is a living, breathing Longhorn bull with 6 foot span between his horns. Okay so he's tied up and probably old, definitely tame, but still I felt very brave. See that two-step box I had to use to climb aboard his very broad back. All this to celebrate finishing line edits for The Bride Wore Spurs, LIH, a rancher story set in Texas, coming April 2013. Wish I'd had Mary's Stetson.  

   
Leave a comment preferrably about the post, not my rodeo stunt, for a chance to win either a ten dollar Amazon gift card or one of my books. Winner’s choice.

151 comments:

Erica Vetsch said...

Janet, this was just the post I need as I embark on a new novel. Tonight I was working on what character archetypes to choose to make things difficult for my characters. I particularly like the point about how they have to earn their HEA and it shouldn't come to easily.

As always it was a delight to see you this past weekend, and the picture of you on the longhorn is wonderful! You go, girl!

Melissa Jagears said...

If you're talking up CD classes, the one "CE 04: The Heart of the Matter: Developing the Inner Journey of Your Character Level C" on the same CD set would be totally worth listening to, tells you about your steps you listed and more in depth on how to make that happily ever after believable and worth writing. It was a very good workshop for that, it was my favorite of all I took.

Vince said...

Hi Janet:

I just have to know: did you buy that purse to go with that dress? It’s such a perfect match that even a man would notice it!

Your six points go a long way to building a strong HEA. I don’t have any rules to add but I have a few things that I like and don’t like to see in an HEA. These are from the POV of a reader.

I like it when there are multiple problems keeping the hero and heroine apart and not just one conflict.

I don’t like it when the conflict is based on a misunderstanding which could be cleared up with a thirty minute heart-to-heart.

I like it when both the hero and heroine stop looking for the right person and both act to become the right person for the other party. This happens in Mary’s novella, “The Sweetest Gift”.

I don’t like it when the heroine won’t marry the hero because she does not want to risk having him die as her first love did. These always end the same way.

I like it when the conflicts are strong enough that even I, as a reader, do not want the hero or heroine to get together. In Mary's “The Bossy Bridegroom” I was against the heroine taking the hero back again. There were many conflicts. Half the fun was seeing how the author was going to make me a believer. She did.

I don’t like it when the heroine has a secret and she drives the hero away because she fears rejection. Like not being able to have a baby. The heroine is supposed to be so much in love but not enough in love to risk rejection. This is hard to buy.

I like it when the conflict is original enough that I shake my head and wonder how the author is ever going to solve it. This makes a great HEA when it works. This is the case in Juile's "A Heart Revealed" -- Emma's story.

These are just a few likes and dislikes. Please enter me in your drawing.

Vince

P.S. I think “The Substitute Bride" ends with a lot of the town taking part in the HEA. I remember that “The Substitute Bride" has a very strong HEA.

Melissa Jagears said...

oh, adding to Vince's "what I don't like in HEAs" I dislike having nothing unique to the story/couple HEA at the end. If it's just "I love you." "I love you too." Ugh, make it special, I know the romance ends with them in love, take something from their personalities, earlier conflicts, setting, something and put a twist on it! If you could lift the last few pages of the romance and put it on another romance and no one would notice it doesn't belong in that story, then it's not unique enough. IMHO

And I dislike it when the author writes a passionate kiss/scene somewhere in the book but the book ends with them just holding hands or a telling sentence of a kiss....if you're going to give me a good kiss somewhere in the book, make the romantic sparks at the end just as good, please! Otherwise you're setting me up for another good one and I'm let down. Or I guess you could just tame down the first one to match the last one, but what's the fun in that??????

Abbi Hart said...

First off I totally agree with what Melissa Jagears said her last comment!
And secondly this was a great post! I hate when endings are weak or anticlimactic. When I finish a romance book I want to have this warm happy feeling that makes me have a stupid grin on my face long after I close the pages!

Chiara Keren Button said...

This was a wonderful post-very helpful for me. I agree with everything it said, and all the insightful comments above, but I'm just wondering...
Where does the bittersweet ending come in? The hero and heroine shuld naturally get their happy-ever-after, but I like books that end with just a hint of reality. (Not just now-everything's-hunky-dory-and-we-can-live-on-cloud-nine-for-the-rest-of-our-lives.) Something more in the line of, say, the end of Lord of the Rings? (Everything's-ended-as-it-should-but-it's-just-a-little-sad.) Maybe I'm alone in this,it's just a question.

P.S. Please don't enter me in the draw.

Debra E. Marvin said...

My first comment is - Janet Dean I was so not expecting you on top of that beast!

I've heard a lot of chatter about that workshop. Wow! I know we all lose that vision at times. Thanks for that reminder, gentlemen, and Janet for including it.

A nice summarized list makes my heart pound. Thank you for great questions to ask when we face that pesky ending!

Vince..with the purse question. You are definitely hanging with us too much but your wife must be delighted as you now understand why she needs a new one.

Janet Kerr said...

Hi Janet,
Not only is this a great post, but really your picture on the bull is priceless!
Jan

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Janet, words of wisdom from a very smart gal!!!

First, I'm proud that you went to classes!!! Janet!!! Good girl!!! :)

Second, you have hit beautifully on the heart of the matter... although I do believe that people can live their life as a prayer, a living prayer and that Mother Theresa was one of those. She prayed as she went, and her Martha busy hands mindset has long been a favorite of mine. But since we're all different, it's important to find the best way for yourself internally...

But I really want to sit on a longhorn now. Oh my stars, woman, you look GOOD!!!

Cowboy Janet!!!! Yeeeee hawwww!

Janet Dean said...

Morning Erica! One of the best things about conference was getting to see you and all the fabulous friends I've met through Seekerville!

I'm delighted the HEA post was timely as you start a new book. It's fun to make up people but not easy. So many factors to consider to give them and our readers a memorable read.

That longhorn is nothing like the brutes in my novel. Still, I felt courageous. :-)

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Melissa. Fun to see you in Dallas! Thanks for the recommendation on the CE workshop. I thought the workshops this year were some of ACFW's best.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Abbi, you captured what we authors are after--a heart warming ending that puts a smile on readers faces. Thank you!

Janet

Julie Steele said...

Loved that pic since I saw it on FB. I think it is right up there with riding an elephant or a camel. Maybe cooler!

Sadly, I know my bugaboo is the rushed ending and then a perfectly wonderful epilogue.

Learning a lot from ACFW-Dallas and I wasn't even there!

Peace, Julie

Janet Dean said...

Hi Chiara. Romance novels guarantee a happy ending for the hero and heroine. Still, a dash of reality can be included, perhaps with a secondary character that the reader suspects might cause trouble ahead. Or a secondary character with a sad ending that tugs at readers heartstrings.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Debra! You weren't the only one who didn't expect to see me on that beast. :-) When you're out gallivanting around in Fort Worth with Myra and Mary most anything can happen.

There's way more to the Live
Free. Write Free workshop than the peek I gave here.

Delighted you found the post helpful!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Morning Vince! Love that you noticed the purse. I bought it long before the dress and have carried it mostly with black.

Thanks for the reminder that the reader wants strong conflict to feel the hero and heroine deserve their HEA ending. Glad you liked The Substitute Bride. I loved the stories you mentioned, too. The trick for the writer is to find strong conflicts with every story.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Janet! Wish I'd been dressed for the part. I look a little frilly for a bull rider. Well, okay, sitter. :-)

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Ruthy! Good workshops leave me feeling recharged.

To live free, we leave room in our lives for what God intends. The best over the better. Thanks for the perfect example of Mother Theresa!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Peaceful Julie! I didn't really ride, but close. LOL

I always mean to write an epilogue, especially since readers love them, but never have. For me the HEA satisfies and spells The End. But I keep thinking I will with the next book. :-)

Janet

Rose said...

Hi Janet,

That sounds like a wonderful workshop. Now it's just putting the presenters ideas into action!

Jessica Nelson said...

I'm at the end of my WIP right now so this post really comes at a perfect time!! Thank you so much, Janet!!

Mary Connealy said...

Ten seconds after this picture was taken of Janet and the bull, Janet grabbed the reins, cut the tie to the fence, gouged that bull hard with her spurs and took off. She rode that bucking baby for eight seconds and now she's home with her massive gold buckle.

We were too busy screaming to take pictures, but that's exactly how it happened.
Well, exactly-ish

Mary Connealy said...

Of all my endings, the one in Deep Trouble is to me, the funniest, because never were a hero and heroine so WRONG for each other.
She cheerfully tells him she's an heiress and she inherited all the furniture from her grandmother's three story mansion and wants to ship it to his home in Montana.
He mentally plans to build a second room onto his one bedroom shack on his abandoned, undeveloped, cowless ranch.
I predict a long and happy marriage full of shocks and adjustments.

Mary Connealy said...

And I think my sweetest HEA ending is of Montana Rose.

And as she walked, she realized that her whole life had led her to a plan God had all along. She'd been following a twisting, turning, sometimes treacherous path that had led her straight home.
(I get a little sniffly when I think of it.)

Digging for Pearls said...

Congratulations on your new book contract. I love the title. Thanks for some tidbits for HEA endings.

Blessings,
Jodie Wolfe

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Rose! Wonderful to see you in Dallas! I whole heartedly agree. Nothing easy about change.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Jessica, congrats on almost finishing another novel! Hope the post helps a teensy bit.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Oh, Mary, eight seconds of sheer terror. LOL Bummed you and Myra forgot to snap a photo!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Mary, love a hero out of his depth. Talk about Deep Trouble. LOL
Love your books!

Janet

Audra Harders said...

Janet, thanks for the lovely reminder to leave time for God. He knows what our lives are all about and will give us the tools and ability to complete our work for Him.

Great strategies for the journey to HEA. You're so right, why work so hard on the entire book only to let the reader down at the end?

You are one wise woman...and pretty doggone cute atop a longhorn!!!!!

Janet Dean said...

Mary, you make a terrific point here. Your HEA endings vary from sweet to hilarious depending on the hero and heroine driving the story.

Janet

Audra Harders said...

Mary, too bad no one thought to video the show, LOL!!

Cowgirl Dean. YeeHaw, LOL!

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Jodie. I love the title too. Though, the bride doesn't really wear spurs under her wedding gown. But she's sure spurring the story onward. The hero may feel a few gouges along the way. :-)

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good to remember, Audra, that God is bigger than our To Do list when He's at the center.

Cute? I was hoping for imposing, commanding. LOL

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Audra, I'm having fun writing cowboys. Mine aren't shooting like Mary's, but they're riding and roping and branding. Ouch. Not fun for the cattle, a mix of longhorn and Hereford.

Janet

Sandra Leesmith said...

Good Morning Janet and Seekers,

Wow, what an affirmation of what the Lord has been telling me this month. He comes first. Not all my busy ness. I'm so Martha when I need to slow down and become a Mary. smile Thanks for he reminder.

And love all the takes on the HEA. Yes, it is tempting to write The End and give the reader the HEA too quickly or without enough grit to go with it. l

Love the photo of you on the cow. Good Grief. He is HUGE.

Sandra Leesmith said...

And VINCE You noticed the purse? Good man. I bet your wife is crazy about you. smile

Thanks for the tips on HEA's that annoy. I'm with you on most of those.

Mary Connealy said...

Janet, I especially liked the part where you HUNG YOUR SUNGLASSES ON THE BULL LIKE HE HAS A SUN VISOR!
(Praise the Good Lord you didn't think it was necessary to kick his tires)

and can you imagine the carnage if she decided to check his oil and reached for the dip stick? We were lucky to get out alive.

KC Frantzen and May the K9 Spy said...

Janet!
Good morning and good morning Seekerville!

I've been lurking lately. ;D

Wow - was this good stuff: Instead select the best over the better so our schedules are loose enough to do what God wants us to do and still give ourselves time to breathe. Hurry is an attitude that comes from agreement with the lie that says God expects more of us than we can do. God gives us all the time we need to accomplish His tasks.

Powerful!

Good ideas from Vince. Isn't he something?!

And... I must say, never has a Longhorn looked quite so elegant! Though I do wish we had a video of that epilogue a la Mary's version. Please enter me.

Hope everyone has a day full of God's richest blessings!!!

Mary Connealy said...

Oh, and when it was MYRA's turn, she swung up on that old boy so smooth it was barely noticable, she just hopped up there.
Me getting up required intervention and the whole time the bull wrangler was helping to lift my leg over the broad butt of that bull (alliteration alert) I was thinking, "I've got to get back down off of this thing!)
But not Myra, she swung up there and nodded to the crowd and said, "This ain't my first rodeo."

KC Frantzen and May the K9 Spy said...

Still rejoicing over Melanie's big win! WAHOOO!

Would love to have been there in person, sharing the fun. Great photo of all you girls!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Sandra! Love how God talks to us when we take the time to listen.

Gotta tell you that getting on wasn't all that easy. The steps handled the height off the ground but I found throwing a leg over that rump a challenge. Bless his bull heart, he was tolerant. I wonder if they take them through the car wash. Very clean, no odor. Soft hair like they'd used a cream rinse.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Mary! LOL!! You're a hoot, gal! You were the one checking the tires. Funniest part I forgot where I put my sunglasses.

Janet

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh my stars, the lot o' youse are full of bull, LOL! What a great topic....

Myra, I can just see you throwing yourself up like you're mounting a horse. Soooo envious of your horsewomanship!!!

But Janet, you are the only person I know who can seriously carry off the look of a supermodel while astride a longhorn.

I. Am. In. Awe.

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, KC! Missed you. The workshop is full of power. I may order it just to hear Jim and Allen talk. Even their tones soothe4d.

Vince always adds more meat to a post. Though I gotta say, I'm most pleased about the purse. ;-)

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Mary, I was impressed with Myra's bullmanship. I could tell she was a pro from all those years on horseback.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

KC, we were so proud of Melanie! She just glowed with happiness!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Ruthy, supermodel for seniors, cowgirl style. LOL

Janet

Jan Drexler said...

Good morning, Janet!

Your description of the Live Free. Write Free. workshop makes me very glad I already ordered the CD - now I can hardly wait for it to arrive!

You're right about the importance of the ending satisfying readers. It's one thing I really work on when plotting out my books - not only what the ending is, but how they get there.

I like the characters to have a couple conflicts that threaten to stand in the way of the HEA, so that even when one seems to be on its way to being resolved, there's still another issue standing in the background they need to deal with.

And the longhorn? I heard it was snorting fire and striking sparks with its hooves...but that may have just been Mary's description :)

It was SO GOOD meeting you in Dallas. A high point of the weekend!

Julie Lessman said...

Goodness, Janet, you even look good on a steer!!

Excellent post, my friend, and SO very true!

Hugs,
Julie

Jeanne T said...

Janet, this was a great post. Your tips for a great HEA will help even in other genres. I especially appreciated this tidbit of gold: "Show the hero and heroine revealing their secrets, tearing down the barriers that kept them apart. The hero and heroine can have her/his own epiphany late or earlier, but to make the HEA meaningful, each must bring their secrets and barriers into the open during the resolution."

I also gleaned a lot from the thoughts you shared about the Live Free, Write Free workshop you attended at ACFW. I heard lots of great things about that class!

I'm hurrying right now, but I hope to stop by later today and catch up on everyone's comments.

BTW, you never met me personally at ACFW, but you looked beautiful in your pink dress!

pol said...

Janet really liked your post today esp the first with the men telling of "looking to your heart. They sounded like wonderful Christian men and that is something I like to see.
of course your writing points are always good and loved the bull pic-yep Mary's stetson would have made the pic authentic.
thanks for sharing today and should I be picked would love one of your books over money anyday...

Paula O(kyflo130@yahoo.com)
PS I liked the purse too

Melanie Dickerson said...

Endings can be so tricky, Janet. Thanks for the tips! With some of my stories, the ending just almost seems to write itself, as they say. It all just comes together and all the loose ends get resolved at one time. With other books, I have to really work at it. That was the case with my last two finished books. The loose ends didn't get tied up all neat and perfect as the other conflicts were resolved. I am still figuring out how the heroine and hero's character changes will play into the happy ending.

In The Healer's Apprentice, the hero had to decide that love was more important to him than duty, had to be willing to give up everything that he'd thought was so important in order to gain his true love's hand. However, the heroine had to be willing to sacrifice her own happiness to do what she thought was best for the hero. And they both had to believe that God's will trumps all and that he had a good plan. And he did! To me, this was the perfect ending, as God worked it out--after they had both made the right choice.

In The Merchant's Daughter, the hero had to realize that he wasn't cursed and he was worthy of Annabel's love, and Annabel had to have the courage to see the truth and to go after what she wanted, overcoming the untruths she had learned in the past. And this culminates in the last scene when the villagers attack Ranulf. I'm very partial to that ending as well. :-) But sometimes my endings need a lot of tweaking as I figure out just what it was the characters learned in order to be together! (This stuff doesn't come easily to me, people.)

Donna said...

Janet, this is a keeper. If I ever get to the end of my MS I'm pulling it out! And the pic with the bull made my day!

Vince, I'm printing your list of dislikes too. They would make a great post on their own!

Melanie Dickerson said...

I do love that cowgirl pic of you, Janet! You Seeker women are so wild, as I am reminded every year at conference! ;-)

Clari Dees said...

Thank you, Janet, for sharing from that workshop. The words challenged and encouraged me this morning. And as always, I love the how-to, nuts and bolts writing stuff.

LOVED the pink dress! and the purse. And of course, the bull! :-) Can't wait to read The Bride Wore Spurs. Love me some cowgirls and horses and ranches.

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, I just have to comment on the photo first!!! I have to tell on Mary. She came back after the trip to the stockyards and told me you and her and Myra all RODE a bull!! She kept saying her back hurt and she could hardly walk.

AND I BELIEVED HER! Well, actually, I believed she did it. But I say NO WAY would Janet and Myra ride a live bull!! LOLOL So when I found out you really just sat on a tame one, I laughed so hard. She had me fooled!

Missy Tippens said...

Chiara, I think I know what you mean. I think I have a little of that in one of my books, A Family for Faith, where the hero is overcoming the death of his first wife. There's a little of the bittersweet in him talking with his daughter about his moving on (and about how her mother will always be a part of their lives). I think of that as being a little bit of reality tossed into the happy ending. A bittersweet moment between father and daughter on his wedding day.

Missy Tippens said...

Audra! Is that a new photo made at conference? Or am I just slow to notice? It's beautiful!!

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Mary!!! Just read your comment about the dipstick.

OH MY.

:)

Christina said...

Janet, I think i knew each of this steps, I just haven't figured out how to effectively incorporate them.

Thanks for the post. It's ink and tape worthy.

Marianne said...

Janet, i will be watching for some of these ending in the next novel i read! So interesting.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Janet,

This is so good! Not only for me as a writer - but as a reader.

Lately I've been disappointed in a lot of endings. Even in some really good books, where I've suffered with the heroine through hundreds of pages and then WHAM, it's over in two paragraphs. WHAT?? I need a lot more happiness after all that angst! And like Melissa said - a heck of a great kiss to seal the deal!

Now I have to go back and check all my endings using your pointers!

Thanks for the tips and for the photos!

Glad to have you all back!

Cheers,
Sue
sbmason at sympatico dot ca

Vince said...

Hi Janet:

“Jesus came to give us freedom.”

This is an amazing statement. I believe in this God given freedom and I believe that this very freedom liberates our spirit in profound ways.

I think God is like a Garmin. He has a plan for us but if we use our freedom to make a wrong choice, He immediately recalculates a new plan for us. God can provide us with an infinite variety of paths home depending on the free choices we make. There is not just one plan or one path for us to follow but there is just one destination. God’s plans for us will never stand in our way of changing our lives or pursuing new dreams. This is the gift of freedom.

The Bride Wore Spurs and the Author Rode a Longhorn! There has to be one tough cowboy somewhere nearby.

BTW: As a photographer, I can say that your purse acts as a focal point for that picture. This demonstrates the impact of having the right accessories. I think this applies to writing as well. Add ‘sparkles’ to your writing and the reader will have a much more enjoyable reading experience even if the reader is not quite aware of why the experience is more rewarding. Have you ever wondered how many of the things we do to improve our writing would also improve our lives if applied? (This might make a post).

Vince

P.S. Tina is after me to get a post in to her by tomorrow! Got to go back and work, work, work.

Myra Johnson said...

Super post, Janet--as always! Thanks especially for the timely reminders from "Live Free, Write Free." Because lately I'm not feelin' the freedom so much. September has turned into a busy-busy-busy month, and I see no letup before crashing into October in a few days!

Oh man, the longhorn bull!!!!! That was a thrill!!!! I really wish we'd gotten photos of Janet taming that wild beast, though. Mary's right--it happened so fast that we were numb with shock.

Debby Giusti said...

Janet, love the pic of you on the Longhorn.

BTW, while Mary and Myra and Janet were riding the wild bull, Missy and I were working hard in Nancy Kress' Early Bird session on Scene Structure. Nancy was great. Her workshop was packed with fantastic info I'll use in my stories...but, riding the bull was probably an experiece of a lifetime that I'm sorry we missed.

Evidently Mary, Janet and Myra are the adventurous Seekers. Right, Missy?

Debby Giusti said...

Speaking of HEA instead of bulls...

In my next story, THE GENERAL'S SECRETARY, I stretched out the ending a bit and will be interested to see what readers have to say. I found it very satisfying to write, and it seemed to fit the story. Guess I won't know until January when the book comes out.

Donna said...

BTW I didn't know we could order individual workshops as MP3s. Good to know. How long do they wait to offer them? I'm going to shop 2010 & 2011 workshops too!

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

About leaving empty spots... Very true but God knows I'm up to my eyeballs so He doesn't waste time. He wants to say something, He better say it fast!

Kidding.

Mother Teresa said that all her sisters in the convent prayed an hour a day. And if they were very busy, they prayed TWO.

Because the busier we are, the more we need His voice and the silence of a restful heart.

Now, to read the rest of the post!

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janet Dean said...

Hi Jan. I loved the time you and I spent chatting in Dallas!

Glad to hear you got the CD. I should have. I really want to hear Jim and Allen's voices.

With all the external and internal issues between them it's a wonder any of our heroes and heroines find the HEA.

Mary's the consummate storyteller. She's who I'd pick to write my autobiography. :-)

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Julie, the steer made me look good. Not that he was ugly, far from it, but still, he's a beast. :-)

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Jeanne T!!! I'm terrible with faces and names. I'm hoping I didn't walk right past you! Mercy, I'm so sorry if I did.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Paula, you're so sweet to say you'd take my book over money. You might be wiser to take the money and buy two books, mine and someone elses, but you've made my day.

Janet

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

SCARY!!! The picture scared the pants off me! I don't even like big dogs...

I love the HEA. There are very, very few books that I love that don't have it.

Let's see... I love an HEA where every single person knows these two are perfect for each other, but the H/H are being stubborn. Because, take it the opposite way, how many times have we all told a friend someone was no good, and they ignore us? Ugh. When your friends say someone's great for you, the probably are. Friends know what's what.

I like to have the real conflicts out of the way before the final HEA because like VINCE SAID ( of course, smart man, and he noticed your purse) a 30 min tlk should be at the end, in the final kiss. Hate that. I like the HEA scene (before the epilogue wedding or whatever) to have them stop being stubborn. And that can be harder than the real conflict!

Ok, children running wild. Must go start school!

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Sorry, the big talk SHOULDN'T be at the end, in the final kiss. That's what I meant.

Janet Dean said...

Melanie, I got The Merchant's Daughter at ACFW. Can't wait to read it!

Love the very important point you made that the hero and heroine must grow and change before they've earned or even can accept the HEA.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Thanks Donna! And you're so right about Vince. He shares a lot of great tips. I think he's posting officially in Seekerville next month.

Janet

squiresj said...

Loved the interview. I read some of these author's books and review them. Enter me to win.
jrs362 at hotmail dot com

Janet Dean said...

Thanks for The Wild Women of Seekerville tag, Melanie. Who knew?

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Clari! I'm fascinated by the old West, though my story takes place after the invention of barbed wire so the days of the open range and long cattle drives are over. Still cattle country is a fun place to spin a story!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Missy, Mary probably threw her back into a twist getting astride that bull. But that ride was in her head. Her head is a fun place to visit. As were the two museums we visited. Met the nicest people eager to share Fort Worth's history.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Christina! Ink worthy is a post goal. Thanks!!! The tape I assume goes to Jim and Allen.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good afternoon Marianne! If the book is really good, you may miss the technique, at least on the first read. Taking out our favorite books and rereading them is a great way to see how the authors managed it.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Sue. You're right, two paragraphs of the HEA just doesn't cut it. It's like having your husband tell you something. You get the facts but miss all the details.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Vince, I love how you expanded the freedom in Jesus. I hope His "recalculating" is said in a pleasanter tone than our Garmin.

Ah, a fantastic point that the right details bring sparkle to our stories. Wow!

Oh, and Vince, obey Tina.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Myra, next time we'll take a photographer, better yet, videographer to capture the surprises. LOL

I plan to type all the notes from Live Free. Write Free. And study and pray over them.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Debby, I'm sure you selected the best over the better. But historical writers just had to see some stuff. Myra, even found some WWI pictures and mementos.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Oh, Debby, that sounds great. One of the tips with HEA is to slow it down. Milk the scene. Hmm, why does everything seem to come back to cows today?

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Donna, I think at some point you can download individual sessions, not get a CD.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Virginia, pray twice as much the busier we are is great advice. Yet I find myself hurrying through my quiet time with God when I've got lots to do. Duh.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Virginia, too much conflict talk can sap the kiss/resolution of its strength. Goodness, how do we even dare to write these books? Way scarier than bull sitting.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

SquiresJ, thanks for reading romance!

Janet

Mary Connealy said...

Atta girl, Myra. Work with me.

Mary Connealy said...

I will not share with you a true and traumatic event that caused me to say, "Sure, I'm totally ridin' that bull."

I have always wanted to ride an elephant. I don't know why.
Well, life has conspired to prevent me from realizing that dream. Mainly because there aren't any elephants anywhere around.

In case you haven't noticed.

So once I was at the circus, but I'm an adult. I'm driving a group of school kids to the circus. Well, there's a big ol elephant and a sign that says RIDES, and some ghastly amount of money.
If it'd just been me, then you know what? I'd have handed over the cash. But I could see clear as day that I was going to have to pay for EVERY KID THERE TO HAVE A RIDE.
Even at my most selfish I couldn't quite bring myself to say, "Sorry punks, Mary's gettin' a ride and not you."
So, I just couldn't cough up that much money so I had to skip it myself, too. I can still just TASTE the regret.

Then the next chance I had at an elephant, at the zoo, some zillion years later, I decided Id' do it. My own children were with me but I decided to pony up the money for everyone to have a ride.

I WAS OVER THE WEIGHT LIMIT!!!!

I have to say that there is no more wretched slap in the face than being told you're TOO FAT TO RIDE AN ELEPHANT!!!!!!!!!!!

So, there was that bull (btw, not nearly as big and strong looking as that wussy elephant) and I had to do it. I had to make up for the disappointment of my elephant ride (or the lack there-of).
So I didn't hesitate for a minute. I paid my money and hopped on and before you know it, there are Janet and Myra getting a ride, too.

Peer pressure??????

Mary Connealy said...

And after I hopped off (I use the word 'hopped' euphamistically because in fact, it took a series of cranes and winches to get me off that bull)
anyway, after I hopped off, I turned to My Cowboy and said, "Are you going to have a ride?"
He replied, "Not on your life. I'd have to shoot myself afterward to prevent the slow death of dying from embarrassment."

And yet he was fully supportive of me having a ride.

I can't figure out if he is story up blackmail by letting me on there or just patting me on my little head and letting me do what I want.

But I have pulled the venomous fangs of the blackmail by admitting it to you all, so no money can be extorted from me.

Kav said...

As a reader I agonize over all the angst you put your characters through. I'm always shouting warnings but they never listen to me and I get sooooo frustrated! But then if they did I guess the story would be over way too fast wouldn't it?

LOL -- so which one of the fearless bull riders is going to get to put that experience in her story?!

Carol Moncado said...

Can we leave a comment about both?!

I was pitching an MS to an editor this weekend and was very pleasantly surprised that I'd tied it all back to the beginning [kind of - it wasn't the beginning but the past comes full circle and I hadn't even realized it until then - gotta love it when God's working through it even when we don't realize it].

I read a book recently where I wasn't happy with the HEA until I realized there was a book 2 picking up right where book 1 left off. It wasn't a BAD HEA, just not everything I was hoping for. I can. not. wait. for the next book to come out!

Plus I love Janet on that longhorn!!!

Debby Giusti said...

Laughing so hard after reading Mary's elephant tale that I almost fell off my chair.

Good thing I didn't ride the Longhorn!

Debby Giusti said...

Waving to Carol. Loved seeing you at ACFW. Thanks for the yummy cookies.

Waving to Jeanne T! How did you and Janet not meet? Sorry, I should have introduced you.

Debby Giusti said...

Kav, I bet all three gals will have a bull riding scene in their upcoming books. Mark my words!

Jeanne T said...

Janet, I promise, you did not walk right past me. :) We had a brief conversation in the ladies room about dresses on the night of the Gala. Mostly, I didn't cross paths with you. :) I hope to one day, though. :)

Clari Dees said...

"I have to say that there is no more wretched slap in the face than being told you're TOO FAT TO RIDE AN ELEPHANT!!!!!!!!!!!"

Mary! You didn't shoot them for that!?! Were you ill that day? 'Cause that deserved some major retribution. And I bet it wasn't really an elephant. Just a person wearing an elephant costume.

Then again, this proves that Texas longhorns are tougher than elephants! =)

Donna said...

"wussy elephant" = priceless!

Janet Dean said...

Mary, my heart goes out to for the deprivation of an elephant ride-less life. I'm pleased to be part of your healing process.

Snort.

Seriously, I've wondered what made me get on the longhorn. I'm sure if I'd been by myself I wouldn't have, but for some reason I had an urge to do it that had nothing to do with peer pressure. Perhaps the book I wrote has changed me in subtle ways that involve risk and courage. Or perhaps you're just rubbing off on me, Mary.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Kav, I love that you shout at our characters. Sorry they don't listen to you, but then they aren't great at listening to me.

Knowing Mary, she finished the bull rider story this morning.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Carol, I love that you'd brought your story full circle without realizing it! How cool is that! God is the ultimate Creator.

I showed the longhorn picture to some gals at Curves and was amazed when they said they'd never get on a bull. I didn't feel a bit scared other than fearing I'd somehow make a fool of myself. A crowd formed at some point, probably waiting for that very thing.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Me too, Debby. Mary is such a fabulous storyteller. She tells what happens, we're rolling in the aisles or scared silly. I tell the same event and listeners wander off before I finish. Thankfully with novels I have multiple chances to liven things up.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Jeanne T, You were the gal in front of me in line that I talked to? Oh, mercy! I didn't see your name. Or maybe you weren't wearing it. Or maybe my contacts fogged. Or I temporarily lost my mind. I'm sorry! What a bummer.

Janet, on her way to hide in a stall.

The stable variety.

Janet Dean said...

Clari, great point!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Donna, only in Seekerville. LOL

Janet

Mary Connealy said...

Clari Dees, the zoo was a weaspon free zone.
Which ended up being for the best for all concerned

CatMom said...

Thank you Janet (you DID write this post for moi, right?!)---anyway, this was exactly what I needed to read today (not only your wonderful strategies but also what you learned at that workshop). ~ It was GREAT hanging out with you and some other Seeker friends last Thursday night--you ladies are so special. Wish I could've really brought along a Georgia Peach Cobbler *grin*. ~ Cannot wait for your next book to come out--I've loved everything you've written. Hugs, Patti Jo

CatMom said...

p.s. Just read Mary's elephant story---how funny!! Btw, Mary---you might not remember our "breath mint" conversation on Saturday, but you were right--the Prayer Room had breath mints! (don't worry, I also prayed while in there too). ~ PJ

Janet Dean said...

Patti Jo, loved meeting you in person! Even without the Georgia Peach cobbler, you're a sweetheart. Thanks for the kind words about my books. Hope you'll love The Bride Wore Spurs!

Janet

Cara Lynn James said...

Janet, I think you were really brave to get on that longhorn! No way would I ever attempt it. But I'm a suburbanite.

karenk said...

a wonderful posting...loved the picture :)

karenk
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Mary Connealy said...

I DO remember the mints CatMom

Anonymous said...

Love the pic, Janet....lol.

I'll take the A. card....then buy your boook and Virginia's.....lol
Have read some of your books and loved them!

Jackie S.

Valerie Comer said...

It was great to meet you in Dallas, Janet! Thanks for sharing the reminder that Jesus desires our freedom.

Ausjenny said...

im late, I am still not sleeping much so find it hard to concentrate on things.
Love the photos. Love the one on the longhorn. (maybe I should have had a stop over in Dallas next year).
I do like HEA endings and I do like epilogues. (just don't like it when it wraps up to quickly like when the book builds up the drama with issues between hero/heroine but then in the last 10 -20 pages it all gets solved rather quickly, like she has had issues with trust all book and suddenly she's ok with it without a gradual healing. (just an example of the top of my head).

Andrea Strong said...

Okay Janet, I Love the Picture! I saw Mary's somewhere...Facebook maybe, but I haven't gotten a look at Myra's yet.

And I love this post. Your number one item is my pet peeve. I really dislike for the I love yous to be in the last half chapter or so. I just don't believe people go from "I can't/won't be with you" to "I can't live without you" that quickly, and it bugs me when that's the HEA.

And what Melissa said about unoriginal, interchangeable endings.

I would love to win a book. I still want to read Courting Miss Adelaide, just because I'm in love with the cover. That hat is amazing! But if no copies are available...well, I'll just have to look and see what I have if I win.

andeemarie95 at gmail dot com

KC Frantzen and May the K9 Spy said...

Title of Vince's new book:

God is like a Garmin.

Gotta love it.

Checking back in before turning in - thanks so much. Missed y'all too! But all the work will pay off sometime in November it seems. ("") ("") That's 2 paws up from May!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Cara,

I identify. Not many longhorns in the suburbs, but Fort Worth's teeming with them. I'd be happy to give you a hand up next trip.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Thanks Karenk!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Thank you, Jackie S! I'm eager to read Virginia's book, too.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Valerie, Me too! One of the special things about conferences is getting to meet other writers.

If I'm in bondage, the fault is mine. The best part, we can change as much as our characters do.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Jenny, I sympathize with the lack of sleep. Fatique makes me mentally fuzzy. And achy.

Thanks for pointing out that to make the characters HEA real, we need to show their gradual growth in the story.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Andrea!

Be sure and see Myra's picture too. She really knows how to sit a horse.

Courting Miss Adelaide is my debut but I still have copies around here if you win.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi KC. Vince will appreciate the title. :-) Proud of you for keeping your nose to the grindstone.

Hi to May.

Janet

Walt Mussell said...

I agree with Vince. I like the way The Substitute Bride ended because the whole town was involved in the HEA. (I also love all the cooking-related stories in that one, but that's a separate issue.)

What I like best in an HEA is when I see an ending that I didn't know was coming. Of course, it has to be believable, but I like a good surprise.

Yes, I'm in for the book.

Christina said...

Oh no, Janet. The tape is to post it on my wall in front of my desk. Although, I'm definitely up for buying the conference CDS.

Keli Gwyn said...

I heard great things about that workshop. What a powerful, uplifting message.

I loved seeing so many Seekers at the conference. And I got to see that purse of yours in person. It's beautiful.

Marissa said...

Those are all very good tips on writing a satisfying ending!! I'm glad you had a good time at the ACFW Conference!

marissamehresman(at)aol(dot)com

marybelle said...

While I absolutely love a HEA, I need a satisfactory ending too.

marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

DebbieLynne said...

Hey Janet,

It was fun meeting you at conference. I loved The Heart of the matter in the CE sessions at conference. Susan did a terrific job on the HEA. I see you went to the Stockyards. We went there Friday evening and then on Sunday. Loved that town. Saw them drive the bulls down the street.

shelia hall said...

I agree with your suggestions! You have to let your characters have a strong attraction throughout the book or it just doesn't work! and I would have been afraid to do the longhorn stunt myself!!Brave Lady!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Janet. I have a question about the HEA. It's vital for a romance, yes....but is it for a women's fiction? I just finished a manuscript that has the HOPE of resolution, but the heroine doesn't get the full truth from her husband yet. He does enter treatment for substance abuse, though, which is a humongous step for him. (So that opens the way for a sequel...)

Am I all wet in my thinking? It FEELS like an ending where a great deal of progress has been made, just by him finally (and her, too) stopping their denial and admitting he needs help.

I also loved the workshop thoughts you shared -- being ME, I guess, is why I always end up with a women's fiction rather than a romance.....smile.

Thank you for whatever wisdom you can shed my way. Gail gkittleson at myomnitel.com

Janet Dean said...

Hi Walt,

I love a huge HEA. I used that technique in Courting Miss Adelaide, The Substitute Bride and Wanted: A Family. That doesn't work for all stories but when the townspeople or church are involved in the conflict, then it works.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

LOL, Christina! I was puzzled by tape but should've known no one would call a CD a tape anymore.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Keli, great to see you in Dallas!

I couldn't believe all the attention that purse got!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Thanks Marissa! I had a blast and learned a lot too. The best kind of conference.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Marybelle. If a reader doesn't find the ending satisfying, she may choose not to read another book of that author. The reason we take our endings seriously.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Debbie Lynne! Great to meet you! I love Susie's workshops. Deciding which CE session to attend was hard.

We watched the longhorn drive too. Visited museums. Ate yummy barbeque. We crammed a lot into one long morning.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Sheila! Though longhorns are known for testy temperments, if you'd seen that longhorn's gentle nature, you wouldn't have been afraid.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Oops, misspelled Shelia. Sorry!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Gail! Good question. The HEA ending is for romance. No other genre guarantees a happy ending. Your ending needs to reflect your story, which your ending does. I love that you give the reader hope and plant a sequel. :-)

Janet

Cathy Gohlke said...

Thank you for this post! I, too, took the workshop you mentioned at ACFW and was blessed. Your post reminded me about those Divine appointments--not interruptions!!!! I needed that today! : ) God bless!

Becky Doughty said...

Janet,

What a great post! Thank you for always bringing it back to the heart of the reason we believers write - to paint with words a clearer picture of who GOD is, not who I am. Freedom. Yes.

The points above are so true - and many more were contributed in the comments. I have a checklist of things like this - endings, for me, are the hardest part to write. Tying up all the loose ends, not rushing it, not leaving anyone (including my reader!) behind, and making sure that the important stuff is resolved and that everyone, characters and readers alike, closes the book with HOPE for the future.

beckydwriter(at)gmail(dot)com

Thanks for the blessing today!
Becky

Janet Dean said...

Hi Cathy,

Loved meeting you at ACFW!

I'm spending time with my Live Free. Write Free. journal today. Sad that I've been too busy until now. Obviously I needed the workshop badly.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Becky, I love that you write to give your readers hope for the future, such a precious gift in a time with too much doom and gloom.

God bless your work.

Janet