During my teens and into my adulthood I read many of Phyllis A. Whitney's novels. When I picked up a book of essays by many authors, I read one of hers that struck a real note with me. I remember reading this years ago and put the advice in a note I was compiling about writing. This was about endings to the story. Yje gist was to leave your readers satisfied. A happy ending isn't actually necessary but the reader should be left with a feeling that this was the right ending to the particular story.
Those of us who write in the many genres are used to producing happy endings. The hero and heroine are together. The villain is being punished. Sometimes this happy ending isn't the right ending to the story but the ending should satisfy the intent of the story. The long drawn out ending where the writer spends pages explaining the entire story as a recap may make the reader scratch his or her head. This kind of ending has been used in mysteries written in the past and doesn't work today.
What if the ending is unhappy and there are those that are. I once had a reviewer really like the book but the lack of a happy ending troubled her. But because of the hero and heroine's cultural background they couldn't be together happily every after. What I wrote was a satisfactory ending with the promise they would see the other again with the hope that there would be a future for them.
Another thing that will lead to an ending that isn't completely satisfactory is letting some of the strings od the story remain unresolved. Not this can happen when one is writing a trilogy or a series. A writer must write a satisfactory ending that shows the story isn't over and there's more to come. I call this the tease ending. This meand the current story has ended but the reader will look forward to the next one in the story.
There are also times when the happy ending of a story seems forced. To me this often happens when the writer adds a postlogue that takes place in the future that shows the characters in a scene saying, "See this is a happy ending." As a reader I am usually turned off by this kind of ending.
What's your take on this? Are happy endings necessary for a story to end or should the ending be satisfactory? To quote Phyllis A. Whitney "If you keep in mind where you are going from the beginning, you will be likely to leave a satisfied reader at the end."