I’m reading a romance novel. Not a series. Not a paranormal romance. Just a good old-fashioned boy-meets-girl romance novel. There is no question about how the book will end. The guy and the gal will certainly end up together and have a happily-ever-after ending. So, if I knew how the book would end before I ever started reading it, then why read it at all?
Because there is comfort in predictability.
Knowing how the book will ultimately end doesn’t diminish the joy of reading it. Though straight-forward contemporary romance novels aren’t usually my first choice in reading material, I can still appreciate the books and the authors who write them.
I like predictability. I like knowing the main characters will find happiness. I like knowing both main characters will survive, that the hero won’t find the heroine’s severed head, thus ending their chances at happiness. I like knowing everything will work out for the best.
Not to say there’s no tension at all—there is. Instead of non-stop action and danger to drive the story forward, in a romance novel the tension is a result of the two main characters’ denial of their feelings for one another. And, there are usually other storylines in play, adding to the obstacles the star-crossed lovers face, or perhaps making it more difficult for either the hero or heroine to commit to the relationship.
What matters in a romance novel is the journey. How do the hero and heroine settle their differences? How do they overcome their obstacles, silence naysayers, thwart the evil plans constructed by those who would sabotage their tentative relationship? When does the first kiss occur? And what is it about each other they find so irresistible that they are willing to do anything to be together?
Romance novels get a bad rap and one of the reasons they get ragged on is because they are so predictable. Critics say the plots are weak, the characters unrealistic, the happily-ever-after endings implausible. I argue that romance novels are quite realistic. In fact, I believe the predictability of the ending is a parallel for life.
Life is predictable: we are all born and we all die. We all share the same beginning, and the same ending. How we live is the variable. Like a romance novel, it’s the journey that counts.
4 thoughts on “The Comfort of Predictability”
It's definitely the journey that matters. That's the part that makes the book exciting.
I don't think those critiques really want surprise endings. I write surprise endings sometimes and it makes me nervous. I think people prefer the predictable kind.
Although I don't read romance novels, there's a certain comfort in a novel with no nasty twists, but just enjoyment throughout. It's a little like nursery food for the mind.
Hi E.B., thanks for stopping by. It depends on my mood–sometimes I want the twist and turns, but other times I crave a predictable ending. I'd love to read one of your books with the surprise ending.
Thanks for your comment, Roger. Great analogy. Love it!