Recently I’ve been working on the ending scenes for my contemporary romance. It’s a nice change of pace from dealing with the Mess in the Middle. The Problems have all been solved; Obstacles removed; and my hero and heroine are getting their long awaited Happily Ever After.
Naturally this involves addressing that final declaration of love and raises the question: Private or Public?
In one of the classes I took – or maybe it was a writing book I read or conference session I attended – there was a discussion about the need for the final declaration/confession of love, when our hero/heroine have made it past all the obstacles and are going to finally get together, to be done in public.
The public nature of the scene was supposed to make the declarer/confessor vulnerable, while showing that they were so focused on their loved one that nothing else mattered but doing whatever they needed to do to get that Happily Ever After. A spontaneous romantic gesture that raised the stakes. After all, how can a character go back on a declaration once they’ve made a big deal about it in public?
I’ve always found the public declarations to be a bit awkward. Sometimes the scenes include a crowd of disinterested strangers who seem almost oblivious to what is going on with the hero/heroine. At other times, there is an actively attentive crowd that bursts into applause at the successful conclusion of the scene. Both results have the potential to be rather awkward or distracting.
In the Hallmark Channel move Anything for Love that I watched the other day, the heroine professes her love for the hero over the hospital Public Address system. There was crowd cheering at the end. Unrealistic and a little embarrassing.
In Jenny Crusie’s Bet Me, the hero Cal proposes the heroine Min in her apartment while their friends, family, and exes all mill about. No cheering, though there were doughnuts. Fun and charming.
In real-life, there is always the chance that it won’t go well (YouTube is littered with examples of public proposal disasters). When a public declaration doesn’t go well in a book or movie (generally when it’s done too early in the story), it can be down-right cringe-worthy.
The public declaration, as noted by TVTropes, is often preceded by a desperate race/chase by one character to get to the other character before It’s Too Late.
“At the end, there will usually be some kind of Race for Your Love situation, where the Protagonist desperately has to chase after the person they love before they walk out of his / her life forever. There may also be a Concert Climax situation where a very public declaration of love is made, followed (hopefully) by a Concert Kiss.” ~ TVTropes
* Sorry; got lost for a while following links at TVTropes.*
Anyway, a popular example of the big race to the public declaration occurs in When Harry Met Sally, when Harry has his ah-ha moment and then races across town to get to Sally to clue her in.
“I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” ~ Harry Burns, When Harry Met Sally
In the movie Made of Honor (as I’ve seen in many other movies/stories), the declaration comes in a church packed full of wedding guests, to the bride, but not by the bridegroom.
“. . . 10 years ago, I got in bed with the wrong girl. She turned out to be the right one. I love you, Hannah. I always have. And I always will.” ~ Tom, Made of Honor
Sleepless in Seattle, Love Actually, Notting Hill, and Georgette Heyer’s The Corinthian are additional examples of the race and/or public declaration.
The most charming example of the public declaration that I’ve come across has to be the Friends with Benefits “Closing Time” flash mob ending. If you haven’t seen it before, check it out. It’s fun while also being a subtle commentary on public declarations.
So, what’s your preference? Do you like your hero/heroine to make a big, public declaration – telling all the world of their love – or do you prefer a private, intimate moment? Any examples to share?