The true story of Spartacus (or as much of it that can be ascertained from the history records) tells a far more intriguing account, with an implication it was ready-made for Hollywood. In descriptions virtually identical to the ending of John Carpenter’s Halloween, Spartacus was seen going down on the battlefield. When the Romans went to retrieve his body – it had disappeared. Nobody will ever know what truly became of him.
This concept opened the door to myriad creative possibilities, and yet Kubrick opted for the most downbeat alternative. In so doing, he left behind a revered classic that has stood the test of time.
But how can that be?
I will not deny that I was riding on the shoulders of giants when I wrote the Hold On! series. Learning from the winners has always been the way of the wise. I knew what the ending of the Hold On! Trilogy would be, long before I actually wrote it. I also knew that what I had planned was a risk. Playing it safe rarely yields long-lasting results. In the case of Run! – Hold On! Season 3, I wanted my cake and eat it too. On the one hand, it was the ending the reader didn’t want to see. On the other, there was a hint that something awesome would result from it. This was firmly punctuated in what I refer to as my ‘miracle book’, Hold On! – Tomorrow. With the collaboration of the Gods of Rock, we gave everybody what they wanted, along with a soundtrack song.
And I was right. At the time I am writing this editorial, Run! – Hold On! Season 3 is enjoying unanimous five star reviews on Amazon. However, on Goodreads and the collected Trilogy boxed set, it has picked up a few three stars. There are some people who are unable to accept the sad ending of Run!, despite the fact that it’s no longer the ending. Nevertheless, the ‘five’s’ still remain dominant by a considerable margin.
So, why not just end every book on a HEA (Happy Ever After)? Well . . . for precisely that reason. Virtually every book ends on a HEA, to the extent that people know how it’s going to end before they even start. This dictates that every book they read merge into one, and they can’t recall one from the other. HEA is the perfect way to make a story forgettable.
Why did Hollywood writers kill Michael Schofield after four seasons of Prison Break? NOBODY wanted Michael to die. OK, they cleverly brought him back seven years later, but during those seven years, Michael was dead and buried. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when he died. It was painful to watch.
And yet, it’s that very pain that made the narrative memorable. While there might be a few who balk at the ending of Run! – Hold On! Season 3, they will retain it in their memory for far longer than the hundreds of HEA novels, with identical endings, they’ve read.
HEA is how to ensure a story gets lost in the swarm. Daring to stand out from the crowd is no guarantee of great fortune . . . but then, neither is HEA. Doing the unexpected is just an effective way of not being forgotten. It’s not about giving an audience what they want. It’s about giving them what they need.
I’m not saying never write a HEA story. All I’m suggesting is that it not be considered mandatory.
In any case, Brandon Drake never really died.