Friday, October 21, 2022

Ending the Stories You Write with Hope, not just Happily-Ever-After

by Crystal Bowman

Everyone knows how fairytales end: And they all lived happily ever after. It’s the perfect ending for fantasy stories—where frogs turn into princes, and mice and pumpkins turn into horse-drawn carriages. Anything can happen in fantasy and fiction, where magical stories delight readers young and old. But in real-life stories, devotions, or realistic fiction, “Happily ever after” may not be the right way to end your story.

In one of my I Can Read! stories, Jake, a lop-eared rabbit, is frustrated because he can’t hit the ball when he swings his bat. He tries and tries with no success, until his friend gets bored and goes home. Jake’s grandma comes to the rescue and through a series of comical events, she finally teaches Jake to hit the ball. Now let’s jump to the ending. 

My original version was: After dinner, Jake played baseball with his family, and Jake hit the ball every time. On second thought, I decided that not only is it unrealistic to hit a baseball every time (even in the pros), but it also gives kids a false hope that if they practice, they will be 100% successful. So, I added a six-letter word that changed everything: After dinner, Jake played baseball with his family, and Jake hit the ball almost every time. With the addition of that one word, the story has a satisfying, but more realistic (and slightly humorous) conclusion.

A few years ago, I wrote a picture book about a boy who has a grandma with dementia—a tough topic to tackle. I Love You to the Stars, When Grandma Forgets, Love Remembers was published in 2020. As Grandma’s disease progresses, she moves to an assisted living home. At the end of the story, the boy, his mother, and Grandma’s dog spend happy times with Grandma at her new home. When it’s time to leave, the boy whispers the special rhyme Grandma always whispered to him at bedtime. It’s a sweet ending to a sad story and leaves the reader with both a smile and a tear. 

In writing devotions for kids, I’ve learned that when I get to the end, I should not make a statement that gives false hope or a promise that’s not found in Scripture. One of my devotions began with a child going for a walk and watching the squirrels run away. The message in the devotion was about giving your worries and cares to God. My conclusion was: When you give your problems and worries to God, they will run away from you just like the squirrels. But on second thought—that’s not what the Bible says. 1 Peter 5:7 says, Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. It doesn’t say, Cast all your anxiety on him because he will make your problems run away. 

And in Philippians 4:6-7 we read, Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. The promise is peace, not a problem-free life. So, I ended my devotion this way: You can talk to God about your problems and your worries, because He loves you and cares about you, just like he cares about the squirrels. 

Novels are another genre with critical endings. I do not write them (because I can’t), but I have noticed that in a series, authors often end their books with a tease that will make you want to read the next one. Brilliant!

As we write our stories or devotions, we need to remember that there are no perfect endings on earth. But when we get to heaven, we will all live happily ever after. 

Crystal Bowman is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than 100 books for children and four nonfiction books for women. She also writes lyrics for children’s piano music and is a monthly contributor to Clubhouse Jr. Magazine. She loves going to schools to teach kids about poetry. She also speaks at MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) groups and teaches workshops at writers’ conferences. When she is not writing or speaking, she enjoys going for walks, working out at the gym, and eating ice cream. She and her husband live in Michigan and have seven huggable grandkids. 


  1. Great wisdom here, Crystal. There is a difference between hope and happily-ever-after. It's a wonderful thing when a person comes to an understanding of that truth.

  2. Replies
    1. You are welcome, Diana. Thank you for commenting.