It’s been a while. A very long while.
This is a small series on writing that I have learned about. I’ll go through different things from character development, to conflict, to world building. All of it things I’ve learned and try to use when I do write. Even if it’s a simple essay.
Today’s topic; conflict and the happy ending.
No, not that kind. I was 12 once, I can hear you snickering.
We have been conditioned in a way to expect a happy ending. By that I mean when there is conflict in the story it needs to be resolved and it needs to be on a positive note. The good guys have to prevail over the bad guys. That wasn’t always the way of things. At one time, the bad guys often won by the time the story was over, and often the story was used to drive home a sort of morality tale or warning for the reader or viewer. One of the most immediate to point to which did this in more modern times is in comic books.
Tales from the Crypt, Haunt of Fear, Vault of Terror and other comics like those had a wide array of chilling tales which did not always end up with a good ending. The Vault of Horror line of comics was published by ED Comics during the 1950s. In 1954 however, when EC Comics was ready to launch a fourth title they were stopped dead in their tracks.
A moralized squad of parents, clergymen, psychologists and other who tried to link more violent comics as a direct result in the rise of juvenile delinquency. These comics were deemed immoral and a bad influence on American youth.
In order to survive, a self regulatory body was created which introduced the Comics Code Authority.
The rules of the code were based loosely on the Hollywood Production Code. As before the code when the American Comics Association had written in a little used draft, any authority figure such as police, judges and so forth would not be presented in an unflattering manner. The code also stated that in every aspect, good had to triumph over evil. Along with these guides, comics could not display graphic gore, violence or present any sexual innuendo or present art that was classified as “good girl art.” Also known as pin-up or nudity.
Hollywood already had a code in place that did exactly this. These codes ended up affecting much over popular culture over the next several decades into today.
Because of this, writers often had to create a visible antagonist for any plot. And the villain had to be displayed in an ugly and hideous manner. The rest of us, the consumer, grew used to this idea and just ran with it. So much so that by the time we were all older, we ended up having a need for these kinds of stories. There had to be a defined protagonist and a defined antagonist and by story’s end the protagonist had to come out the winner. Or at least what the reader perceived as “the good guy.”
These types of stories get bland after a while, however. And often, the bad guy isn’t exactly who we believe it to be. Art imitates life, after all. And if art were to depict judges and police in the manner presented in real life, they wouldn’t always be flattering (which will be something I’ll talk about in an upcoming article).
But such types of conflict don’t always have to have a resolution, or a happy ending. Sometimes a story can be presented in a manner much in the same way a news item is presented. By the time the story is complete, there is a resolution but it may not be the happy one that the reader wants or expects.
The good guys don’t always have to win.