I need suggestions for stories I can read to get inspiration on how to tackle a nonfiction rags-to-riches-to-rags story with an uplifting ending.

It's easy to find rags-to-riches stories, but I'm having difficulty finding those about rags-riches-rags; i.e., the person who climbs up from nothing, does stupid things to reduce their hard-won place in life, and is happy with being back to "rags."

I put "rags" in quotes, because they don't have to be reduced to where they started from; just to a greatly reduced place from what they achieved.

Anyone have suggestions?

  • 2
    You may find real up-and-down stories if you look for big lottery winners. Don't know where... Quite a few get back "down" in a couple years. Sometimes lower than they started (as in, alone and gone to jail or so) So, I am not sure if they are happy about it :-) – Rolazaro Azeveires May 4 '16 at 23:33
  • You might try pretty much anything by Tennessee Williams; although his endings aren't generally uplifting. – Stu W May 4 '16 at 23:43
  • These are great suggestions. You're helping me think about some other sources that might do the trick. I.e., the "riches" could be something other than money. Power is an obvious "rich." Others? And the people or stories? – RJo May 5 '16 at 2:06

My favorite rags-riches-rags story is the classic folktale "The Fisherman and His Wife." It's not clear that the title couple is happier at the end, but there's a strong sense that they are better off as they are. http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/grimm019.html. Orson Scott Card's "Unaccompanied Sonata" also has the up and down story arc, with an ambiguous ending.

One of the best examples I can think of is the original novel The Neverending Story (not to be confused with the movie version). The title character completes an entire arc from bullied kid to godlike Emperor and then back, but he ends the book with a new sense of identity and self-confidence.

If you want a true life story, what about Jimmy Carter? From peanut farmer to leader of the free world, but arguably at his best in the years after his presidency, not during them.

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  • I truly appreciate all the suggestions in this thread, and welcome additional answers. In the meantime, I've marked Chris' reply as the answer because of the specific titles and explanations of endings. – RJo May 8 '16 at 3:11

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