I love fairy tale structure in stories. I first caught on to the idea from an author named Alexandra Sokoloff. She goes into it in some detail in her book Screenwriting Tricks for Authors. Her breakdown of The Godfather as a fairy tale is wonderful. Here is a taste of it from one of her old blog posts: here. You have to read her book to get the full gist of it all. It’s a good book, if you’re interested.
There’s one part of a fairy tale that I don’t agree with, and that’s when they all lived happily ever after. I get that it’s supposed to be a reward at the end of a story, but it feels shallow to me. I’m sure it had more impact 500 years ago when security was a much bigger deal to us. Palaces are safe and warm (in a fairy tale). Most of the rest of the world had to worry about being jumped by a tiger when you stepped outside for your morning piss.
In real life, HEA doesn’t exist. We accomplish something and it leads to the next problem. Sometimes it causes the next problem. We struggle for years to build a better mousetrap, and eureka! The new problem is how to market it, and when we’ve done that, maybe the evil Victor mousetrap people come along and set up roadblocks. (No offense intended. Love ya Victor.)
My point is that life goes on, and that means struggles. I’m not saying Snow White’s first daughter looked a lot like Dopey, but damn. Have you seen her ears? Maybe Princess Jasmine developed a gambling problem and their lives changed in ten years.
I try to write satisfying and logical endings to my stories. Sometimes I even hint at future problems setting themselves up. I don’t do this for the purpose of selling sequels. I want to illustrate that life goes on. Sure, I write science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal stories, but I want your suspension of disbelief to happen for the right reasons. I don’t want to go to the well too often.
There is a risk of not sewing up loose plot threads, and it’s a fine line. The truth of the matter is that evil is never truly defeated. They hunted Nazis for decades after WWII.
For me, I don’t mind a hot new relationship at the end of a story. I don’t even mind a palace on the hill. I just don’t like the idea that nothing bad ever happened again – ever.
I like to mix and match story structures. I love using the number three, mentor characters, predictions, and other fairy tale items. I just don’t buy that they all lived happily ever after.
What do the readers and writers out there have to say? I’d love to hear from you on this.