Should you only write happy endings? (Three book endings that *almost* made me cry)

Hi, TWNers!! It’s been a long time since I’ve last posted over here. Though my hiatus went longer than I had wanted, I did have a good break and made several accomplishments. While I had hoped to be saying I had finished the first draft of Project: Believer, that did not happen. Instead, I had decided to write, edit, and publish a contemporary romance novelette in a month and a half! Yes, I have finally released my first solo writing project!

May We Make Them Proud is a Christian contemporary romance novelette about love, healing, and learning to dream again. One of the reviewers on GoodReads I thought had described it best when she wrote that it was a “childhood friends to lovers to enemies to second chances.” That about sums it up. If you’re interested, you can purchase an ebook or paperback on Amazon or add it to your GoodReads TBR shelf! If you’re wishing you had heard about this before now, then you should be subscribed to my newsletter Vintagely Izzy where I (usually) spill sneak peeks and writing announcements first!

Now, I promised I did not write this post just to self-market my book. Let’s get on to today’s actual post about story endings!

When discussing story endings, one usually thinks of things such as having open endings or closed endings, resolved or unresolved. However, for today, I want to talk about another type of endings: happy, bittersweet, and tragic endings. There are many things to consider in your story’s ending. Do you want all the conflicts resolved, or leaving something open for a sequel? Do you have an ambiguous ending or a cliffhanger? Is the villain defeated or is he left to attack in another book? But you also have to consider what the atmosphere of the ending is. Will it be happy? Bittersweet? Or tragic? Those are the three types of endings we are exploring today with tips on genres these endings work best in and examples of three endings that (almost) made me cry!

#1 The Happy Ending

What is it?

The happily ever after is one of the most common used endings in modern fiction. There’s nothing readers love more than a sweet, beautiful conclusion to tie up a story of challenges and victories, first loves and terrible breakups, joys and losses, pain and tears. It’s what most readers now have come to expect in stories because it is done so often, and most readers want the happy, hopeful tone of this type of ending. However, it does run the risk of being over-done or make it seem too-perfect or unrealistic. (Confession: this is actually my least favorite option out of the three. What can I say? I love a good tragedy. *shrugs* I never said I was normal.)


[SPOILER ALERT! I will try not to spill the entire ending, but there will be spoilers in each of the example sections for the ending types. As, how else can I explain an ending without giving it away? So proceed with caution!]

Words on Fire by Jennifer A. Nielsen is one book ending that literally almost had me in tears. But here’s the thing. It wasn’t a sad ending. It was actually a beautiful, perfect, very happy ending. So why would this send me to tears? Because it wasn’t so much the ending but the journey to get there. We saw Audra’s struggle through the entire book that she deserved this happy ending and we as the reader deserved to have it. 

Benefits of the happy ending:

Though happily ever afters tend to be made fun of, they do have benefits. One of the best times to choose the happy ending is if your story is full of a lot of pain or struggles. Showing that light, that hope, in the darkness can have such a profound impact. As in my book example, it was an impactful ending because we knew how much this ending meant to our leading protagonist and how much this protagonist fought for her ending. She had more than earned it. This happy note might be just what your story needs if you’re worried it’s too dark or depressing. Think about it, the beloved fairytale of Cinderella would not be the same if she didn’t get her happy ending!

Where to use it?

While the ending of your story is always up to you as the author and what you know is best for your story, this is the one time I’m going to tell you the one genre you should highly consider using the happy ending for. And that is romance. 

I’ve mentioned before about the invisible contract you have with your reader depending on your story’s blurb, first chapter, cover, and even genre. And the romance genre is the best example here. While it is criticized for being basic and the same thing over and over again, this is what makes it so loved and popular. If I pick up a contemporary romance novel, I’m expecting the ordinary. And that’s usually why I pick it up because it is a comfort zone. I know what will happen and how it will end. Now there are exceptions but the general rule is Girl A and Boy A must end up together in the end with a beautiful sunset in the backdrop and a kiss. okay the sunset is optional but I’m serious with the kiss. Let’s say you’ve already decided that your romance is to end in a tragedy and now you’re worried the romance market won’t accept it. You don’t have to rewrite the ending, but I would consider picking up another plot that will serve as the dominate plot and make your romance then become a subplot. For instance, Project: Believer (my WIP) is historical fiction with a romance subplot, so I am not held to the same expectations of a happy ending because my audience isn’t romance readers but historical fiction readers.

Basically, I can do what I want. 😉

*evil laughter sounds in the distance*

#2 The Bittersweet Ending

What is it?

The bittersweet ending is one I have seen gaining attention more and more lately. It’s the perfect option if you want somewhat of a happy ending but don’t want it to feel too perfect or too easy. The bittersweet ending has quickly become my favorite because I think it offers a good balance between hopeful but realistic.


The Memories We Painted by Caitlin Miller. *sobs again just thinking about this beautiful book* My favorite part with Miller’s debut is actually the ending. It was unexpected, and I never saw it coming. I actually would’ve sobbed if I wasn’t reading it with my mom and sister sitting right across from me. This ending worked for the book because it was a shock to a reader who never saw it coming and it helped instigate the completion of the main character’s arc.

I mean why else do you think I love this ending? I love making my readers cry.

Benefits of the bittersweet ending

This is the thing, writers. The ending is the very last thing you leave your readers with, the last thing they will think about. What type of note do you want it to end on? That is something to ask yourself when considering which ending to choose. If you’re writing a story about a real tragedy or awful events in history, I find this to be a good option because we all want that hope, that promise that things will get better in time, but at the same time we have to be honest with our readers. Not every story gets a happy ending. Bittersweet endings can leave deep and profound impacts on the reader that will stay with them long after they’ve passed “The End.” They work for just about any genre, and the author is in control with how much bitter and how much sweet they want in the ending. While I haven’t finished Project: Believer yet, I am considering to use the bittersweet ending for it.

#3 The Tragic Ending

What is it?

The tragic ending is not as popular as the above options, but it is used at times when the author wants to make a bold statement or a warning in his message. In recent years, I have come to see the strong benefits the tragic ending can have even though it is such a hard ending to write, especially if you love your characters so much and want them to have much better. Plus, the tragic ending can turn out to make your story very depressing and dark.


The example I am using for this one is Fled for Refuge by Kristina Hall. While there were definitely some positive notes in the ending, it takes a turn for the worse by the end and leaves readers on a shocking, heartbreaking note. (However, this is the first book in the series, so you have to continue if you want to see what the final ending will be!) The tragic ending worked so well for Hall’s Christian dystopian suspense novel because it leaves with a thoughtful conclusion. Throughout the story, the reader sees how terrible things have gotten for Christians in this dystopian version of America, but the one question lingering through the whole novel is how far are the characters going to go for Jesus. This ending then causes readers to ask themselves if they would go that far or not.


I know it might be shocking, but there ARE benefits to the tragic ending if you overlook all the readers who will hate you for the rest of their lives

You might want to use this option if you are telling a fictionalized version of a real story or if you are basing it off of real events. This type of ending will leave readers thinking about how this real tragic thing happened and how it could have been prevented. Instead of glamorizing the past or real life, you bring something authentic to your readers. As a Christian author, you might want to use this if you want to make a strong point that even through the dark times and through terrible circumstances that no one can change, one thing will always be the same: God. It can be an opportunity to answer the often used question of “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?” You could paint a profound (although heartbreaking) picture of trusting God even when you can’t understand why it has to go or end like this. It can also be used as a warning. If you don’t do X, Y, and Z, then A, B, and C will happen. (Just make sure that’s an accurate statement. You don’t want to do something like if you don’t brush your teeth, you will be disowned by your parents and beloved dog for the rest of your life.)

And that’s all that I have for you today!! Let’s chat! Which is your favorite story ending? Has there ever been a book ending that made you (or almost made you) cry? Which ending do you think you read or write the most? Tell me all about it in the comments below!!

Until the next post,

~Is Perry

Issabelle Perry is a proud Jesus follower, an extroverted writer, and a homeschool graduate. When she's not writing, you can find her reading, jamming to Skillet, studying history, hunting for Narnia in wardrobes, or envisioning herself wielding a magnificent sword (but due to her clumsiness, let’s hope that never happens). This self-proclaimed exclamation mark enthusiast can be found hanging out at Teen Writers’ Nook, a community of teen authors Issabelle co-founded in 2020. She is the author of Don't Let Me Go (Sky's the Limit Press 2024), May We Make Them Proud (2023), and a co-editor for two anthologies. What she’s probably doing right now is fangirling about her favorite books to random people or scanning the pantries for chocolate.


  • Emma

    Ahhh this was such a great, helpful post, Issabelle!! Your explainations and tips were so clear, and those books you choose were PERFECT examples for each ending! (especially The Memories We Painted, I agree with you 100% about how That Plot Twist was a shock but was my favorite part. *sniffs* it was amazing but so sad.) I probably read happy endings the most but I think bittersweet endings are my favorite…which is why I’ll probably use it in a story someday hehe *grins*. XD Anyway, love this post, it was so amazing and beneficial as always!!

    oh and CONGRATS ON PUBLISHING MAY WE MAKE THEM PROUD!!!!!!! I know I’ve congratulated ya so much already lol but eyy it’s the first time you’ve mentioned it here and it totally deserves the hype and celebration! XD <333

    • Issabelle Perry

      Aaaaah thank you SOOO much, Emma!!!! I’m so glad it was helpful!! Oooo that means SO much you think so, especially cuz this was such a last minute post. I was just saying my prayers one night and my mind got to wandering (like it often does) and somehow I started thinking about three book endings that had almost made me cry when I was supposed to be going through my prayer list. *facepalm* Anyway, that was the whole backstory you didn’t ask for. XD (YES OH MY GOODNESS THE ENDING FOR THE MEMORIES WE PAINTED PRACTICALLY DESTROYED ME!!!!!!!! *also sniffs* I loved it. And yes it was my favorite part too!!! Totally made the journey to get there worth it!) Girl you are my twin! I am the EXACT same way!!! Hehehehe YES YOU GO GIRL!!!! Bring on the bittersweet endings!!! *also grins* Aww thank you SOOO much!!! <33333

      THANK YOU A THOUSAND TIMES OVER EMMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hahaha hey I'm not complaining. Aww you're the sweetest. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! <3333

  • Diamond

    I enjoyed reading these different ending ideas! I think I make use of bittersweet endings? But I also feel like it’s sorta happy…kinda like how in a lot of Pixar movies the character’s journey is wanting to reach one specific goal and a lot of times the goal is never met, but yet the ending is better for the character? idk if that makes sense, but that’s my favorite sort of ending to use.

    • Issabelle Perry

      EEEK THANK YOU SO MUCH DIAMOND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      Aww thank you! I’m glad to hear that!!! Yes bittersweet endings are the beset!!! Ooo yes I totally get that! I love stories like that because I think it’s a good contrast between what the character wants vs what he needs! Haha, nah you made total sense, sister!!! And I do so love those endings!! Probably why I love your books so much!!

  • Saraina

    Fantastic post!!! Although I LOVE a happy ending that leaves me with warm fuzzy feelings, bittersweet endings might be my all-time favorite!! *thinks of The Wingfeather Saga* As long as there’s some hope for the future. XD (Oh dear, I didn’t realize you liked tragic endings so much…I guess I’ll have to prepare myself for Project Believer!! 👀😅)

    • Issabelle Perry

      THANK YOU!!!! Yesssss those endings are sooo good and fun to both write and read too!!! Ah you and me both sister! *high fives* I LOVE bittersweet endings too! (Though yes, as you said, happy endings do have their place in the writerly world. But what can I say? I find enjoyment in my reader’s tears at the final page. *evil laugh*) AAAAH GIRL I NEED TO READ THE WINGFEATHER SAGA LIKE SO BADLY! Yes, definitely!! (Hehehe oh yes, girl, you must definitlely prepare yourself. Hehehehe. *rub hands together*)

      *is slightly concerned for my mental health*

  • Ava Coulter

    This is FANTASTIC!!! I love it! Bittersweet endings are by far my favorite to read and write (I think I’ve only written one happy ending out of all my writing projects XD). Like The Wingfeather Saga and LotR. I actually prefer sadder endings because, as you said, they can be so powerful and thought-provoking if done right. Also, I tend to be a particularly evil author. Hopefully my future readers won’t hate me too much. 😂 😂 But I definitely see the value in happy endings as well. I think the world needs more light and hope, and happily-ever-after endings are so uplifting. Thank you SO much for this post! <333

    • Issabelle Perry

      THANK YOU SO MUCH, Ava!!!!!! Yes same here, sister!!! I think bittersweet endings can have such good value to a story! (Hahaha, wow, you’re not kidding with loving the bittersweet endings.😂) YESSSS!! I LOVE LOTR’s ending, and this is making me want to read The Wingfeather Saga even more!!! Yes, I 100% agree with you!!! Hehehehe. Well if it makes you feel better, if they hate you, that probable means they also despise me. We’ll just end up being the two most hated authors on the internet for our tragedies. XD Yes, that is so true! I think each ending, no matter what you end up choosing, all have their own place and impact in the world. Aw, you’re SO VERY welcome!!! Thank YOU for reading and stopping by!!!!!

  • Joy Calle Martinez

    Amazing post, Issabelle! Personally, I definitely prefer bittersweet endings, since I feel they’re most realistic and far more poignant than totally happy endings. At the risk of sounding like a broken record here, the ending of Les Miserables will always be one of my favorites. It’s so sad because almost everyone, including the hero, dies, but I love the emphasis it places on unconditional love being the only way to truly live.

    • Issabelle Perry

      Aw, thank you, Joy!!!! Yes, I am right there with you!!! That’s exactly why I love them!! Hahaha, no worries, sister. If you bring up one of your favorite books, it always lets me know that it has to be the real Joy and not someone impersonating her. because yes I’m weird and freak out sometimes about what would happen if someone hacked into one of my friend’s accounts and I never knew it But, yes, I do hear a lot of mentions about the ending of Les Miserables and how impactful it is. Awww, I bet that really is such a bittersweet, emotional but also brokenly beautiful ending!! I really should read Les Miserables some day!! *places it on the long list of classics I need to read*

  • Ellie

    Woohoo! You’re back! (By the way, I’ve already read May We Make Them Proud cuz I saw the preorder was 99 cents and 99 cents is my weakness, and I LOVED it!! Congrats on publishing a solo story for the first time!) My favorite story ending is probably happily ever after, though bittersweet is right after. I just love the idea of the struggle being over, though I LOVE bittersweet endings for some weird reason. *shrugs*(All my favorite books pretty much have bittersweet endings. Well, I don’t think the last Little Women book does but it was bittersweet for me because I didn’t want it to end. XD) I think I might like them because they’re realistic. No story will end perfectly until Christ returns. I don’t think I’ve ever cried from a book, but every single Little Women book and the last Wingfeather book have made me come this close.(And, somehow, those are my favorite books. And Melanie Cellier’s Four Kingdoms series, which are all happy endings haha) I probably read happily ever after the most, but I read a lot of series, so maybe more bittersweet/tragic/cliffhanger in that range. Writing…. So far it’s happily ever afters(except for books in a series mwahaha), but I have plans. There’s two books, and let’s just say that they take place in 2019 and 2020(evil laughter) Thanks for this post! I LOVE how you broke down the three main types of endings. I’m one of those people who loves thinking about endings a lot, so I loved this post!

    • Issabelle Perry

      YES I AM BACK!!! *pumps fist in the air* (EEEEEEEEKKKK ELLIE YOU ARE SO SWEET AND PRECIOUS THANK YOU SOOOOOOO MUCH!!!!!!!!! Hahaha, don’t you just love cheap books???? They be the best!!! D’awww THANK YOU!!!! <33333) Ooo happily ever after! Good choice!! Yes, I definitely agree there! Especially if the book has a particularly dark and depressing tone, I just want something happy for these poor characters. Hahaha I am with you there, sister! (AWWWW! That is awesome!!! I love story endings that are sad just because it's over!!) Yes, that's why I love bittersweet endings too! It's not a false promise for an ending, but also still hopeful. Amen to that one, sister!!! Awww, I love that!!! (Hahaha Melanie Cellier IS the queen of fairytales and romances!) Oooo yes that makes sense!! Hehehe book series endings are SO much fun!!! Oooooo I am intrigued by this story idea. Especially the one set in 2020. Can I Just say I'm a little scared? XD You're SO welcome! Thank YOU for reading!!!! Aww THANK YOU!!!!! Yessss!!! Another author who loves discussing book endings as much as I do! *high fives* Thank you so much!!!

  • Natasha Joy

    That was such a good article!!! I always tend to ignore the different types of endings but you really gave me something to think about! And yes, bittersweet for the win!!

    • Issabelle Perry

      Aw, thank you SO much, Tasha!!! Yes, I think it’s definitely something that can be overlooked. Especially if you’ve been writing your novel for like five years and you’re too busy focusing on finishing it rather than how you finish it. Yessss bittersweet is the best! *high fives* Thank you for reading!

  • Allie Jo Andersen

    Ahahahaha the Frodo gif made me laugh 🤣 But I totally agree–there are so many types of endings out there that can be boiled down to these categories. My favorite story ending is by far The False Prince (because ✨️spoilers✨️), because I totally thought it was gonna be a tragic/bittersweet ending up until the last few chapters, and then the twist happened and *chef kiss* It was perfect. Honestly, the only book that has ever made me cry was Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate, because it kinda had that bittersweet ending, but when I went back and reread it recently, it didn’t quite have as much of an emotional punch as it did when I was younger (maybe I was more sensitive? Idk). Anyway, fantabulous post, my friend, I have missed hanging around your blog and chatting with you and your lovely sisters! ❤️

    • Issabelle Perry

      Aaaaah yessss!!!! LOTR gifs are ALWAYS the best!!! Oh yes, yes, yes! I LOVE how The False Prince ended! I was one of the few people who never saw the twist coming and I can still never figure out how most people I know guessed it! Awww, I’ve heard of Crenshaw and it’s always seemed like such a sweet and touching book! Ah, yes, that makes sense. Li’l Allie was more of a softie than Older Allie. 😂 Aw, thank you SO much!!!! Awww, yes, I’ve missed chatting with you and reading your posts too!!! We’ll have to set some time to do a video chat again or something this summer! <333333

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