Writers are sociopaths, you know that? (Or is it psychopaths? I can never keep those two straight.) We create these characters, get to know them and their deepest hopes and dreams, then we sit around devising all the horrible things that could possibly happen to them to prevent them from obtaining their desires.


Jane is a perfectly nice, normal woman. Let’s make her a kindergarten teacher. She truly cares for her students as she guides them through the transition from preschool to elementary grades.

Enter the writer, and suddenly everything changes. Jane is no longer content with her existence. We make her lonely, and maybe a bit bored (because clearly, lonely isn’t enough misery). So we introduce her to John, a handsome, charismatic man. But we’re writers, so we let her meet him, get her interested, and then BAM! We tell her she can’t have him. Maybe he’s the father of one of her students. Or maybe he’s got a terrible secret and the FBI is hunting for him. Or maybe he’s almost as much of a jerk as the writer, and has emotionally abused all six of his previous wives!

Then, because this isn’t enough – it’s never enough for a writer – we toss Bob into the mix. Maybe Bob is John’s identical twin brother, so Jane won’t give him the time of day, thinking he’s John, the man she can’t have. Then she’s confused, on top of being lonely. Hey, at least she isn’t bored any more! Then we writers have to throw in a crisis, because figuring out which man is the love of her life isn’t enough drama for Jane to deal with. Now we start setting fires. (A lot of sociopaths are arsonists!) Maybe we burn Jane’s house down, so she has no choice but to shack up with Bob and/or John. Or maybe we start a forest fire that destroys the whole town! Now we’re getting somewhere…oh yeah, and let’s go back and give Jane a traumatic childhood experience. Maybe she was in a car fire and has panic attacks at the smell of smoke. Yeah, that will work! Let’s see her get out of this!

Whatever doesn’t kill our characters just makes them stronger, right?

I distinctly remember one summer afternoon when I was about 15, wandering around a video rental store (remember those?) with my mother. We couldn’t agree on a movie. She wanted a musical, or a romantic comedy. I wanted an edgy coming of age story, and I may have said something along the lines of “But Mooommm….there’s no drama in a musical. You know how it’s going to end – the hero gets the girl and they live happily ever after!”

That was a lifetime ago. Now I’m the Mom. And every time I pick up a novel – usually a sweet romance or a fantasy where the hero gets the girl in the end – I remember that afternoon. I think the difference is that now I have plenty of real-life drama. I don’t need it in my entertainment. When I find an hour to read, I want to know that while the hero and heroine may go through a lot, eventually they’ll come together for happily ever after.

Those are the stories I write too. I know the ending long before I’ve worked out how the two characters will get there.

What about you? Do you skip the drama and go straight to the happy endings too?