Occasionally people who know I’ve done some writing would ask me if I’d consider writing this kind of story, why don’t I write that kind of story, etc… you know, the ones that tend to be very epic, very popular, often made into movies, and get talked about incessantly. And in many cases, I’ve had a very good reason for my not wanting to write those kinds of stories.
It boils down to consequences.
This Observation Deck article and discussion breaks the issue down perfectly: So many exciting sci-fi and fantasy stories tend to overlook the consequences beyond their story… consequences that aren’t so inconsequential.
Like: After an empire is defeated, how does the infrastructure of caring and feeding for everyone continue on in the hands of the small band of plucky but inexperienced rebels? Are all soldiers on “the other side” evil… and what about the families they leave behind as they are gleefully wiped out by the heroes? And in pretty much any movie that features massive action scenes in a city, surely killing hundreds, thousand, maybe more innocents… aren’t they worth more than collateral damage statistics?
I wrote Verdant Pioneers because it wasn’t enough to say that the satellite Verdant survived the events of Verdant Skies; it was a pretty major achievement, and it left them in a very unique and perilous situation, which required a new story to tell how they survived it. Fortunately, the story was very interesting and exciting in itself, so I felt sure someone would want to read that. So I wrote it.
There are consequences to every action; and when those consequences, when you stop to think about them, are pretty heinous, a little man inside my brain draws a line, and says: “I don’t wanna tell a story where we create mindless mayhem, then ignore the heinous consequences.” If I do create heinous consequences, I want to write about how they were fixed.
Not a lot of readers want to read that part, if you ask them. They don’t care about the creation of a plumber’s union to repair all the busted plumbing that the galactic rebellion caused. No one wants to watch the reconstruction of a city after a horrible terrorist attack. And no one wants to see a hero taken into court to answer to the families of the innocents caught in his crossfire. But if you’re a writer worth your salt, you should be able to make that a story just as compelling as the story about everything being torn down.
Most of my novels don’t need additional stories about the consequences, partially because most of my stories are fairly personal, and the consequences are self-contained. But there are always consequences that you might not have thought of at first, that are revealed to you later. And sometimes the process of dealing with those consequences demands to be written.
Most importantly: If your story has heinous consequences at the end… maybe you should be writing about dealing with those consequences. And maybe you should rethink your definition of a “happy ending.”