Happily Ever After: Romances Aren’t Meant to Be Reality TV

Some people love reality TV. Some people hate it. Not everyone reads Romance. But there is a covenant in a Romance, a true Romance, that can never be broken: The Happily Ever After.

Did I call HEA a covenant? Yes, but also a promise. It’s the reason I began reading Romances, it’s the reason I write them. These days couples don’t have to get married. These days, three is no longer a crowd. There are no more unwritten rules. The expectations have changed. But one thing has not. The main characters have to fall in love by the end of the book.

So, then, exactly what is a Happily Ever After?

(Writing a synopsis for your novel? Here are 5 tips.)


Author-Picture-Linda-J-240x300        Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 10.10.04 AM

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I can’t tell you exactly how many years it took me to understand. A Happily Ever After is the promise of success. Think about it. What is a Romance? A love story. So the natural conclusion to that story has to be that the success of the love between the main characters, or that their love succeeds in whatever form the readers wish to imagine. Unless those characters are carried into a sequel, it’s up to the writer to decide how that happens.

Guess what? I win.

I know you just went ‘huh’? But think about it for a moment. As a writer, an ending that lets me succeed at my craft, and that puts me in a positive position every time I write a book—well—I’d call that a win-win, wouldn’t you?

That’s the beauty and the pleasure of writing a Romance.

Ah, I hear the question. What if they can’t succeed? What if one of them dies? The answer is: this becomes one of the best plot drives ever—right into a HEA.

(How can writers compose an exciting Chapter 1?)

I know. You’re asking, how is that possible? Very. And I’ll show you how.

My hero is in a fight to the death with the villain. I only have ten pages left to resolve my book. The villain is winning. But then I use something I planted on page three or ten or twenty that I don’t mention for the rest of the book. This ‘something’ enables the hero to defeat the villain. Eureka! Success!

My hero is lying on the ground dead. He’s saved the heroine and the world. All is lost. They can never be together. But wait! The plot device that is common to every hero/heroine in the series enables them to live again. If you don’t believe me, go read Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter Series.

Reality TV is exactly that—it’s real. The idea behind it is to applaud human flaws and frailty. The idea behind Reality TV is to watch the characters fail. A Romance is the exact opposite. No matter what the challenges, no matter what the obstacles they face, the main characters have to succeed. That’s the promise of the Happily Ever After.


Agent Donald Maass, who is also an author
himself, is one of the top instructors nationwide
on crafting quality fiction. His recent guide,
The Fire in Fiction, shows how to compose
a novel that will get agents/editors to keep reading.


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