Harperpages

The blog of author Harper Alexander

Cliff Hangers

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Today we’re going to talk about cliff-hangers. You know, the suspenseful cut-offs that leave you stranded and tearing out your hair at the end of a book, that apparently nobody likes.

I myself never really minded reading cliff-hangers, and as a writer I find that I almost CAN’T write a book without ending it with one. But this does elicit some negative feedback from other readers, so I’m rethinking the whole cliff-hanger approach.

I don’t know. I mean, I always found it maddening, of course, but in a good way – a way that made you go ‘AAAAHHH I can’t believe it, I have to read the next book RIGHT NOW, omg, this is crazy’. Personally I LIKED getting hyped up for the next book. And being THAT AFFECTED by what I had just read.

Now, I suppose the issue could lie in the fact that I’m not necessarily speedy at producing sequels. I can see how that would get a little frustrating. But even when the sequels are already out, I’m learning that a cliff-hanger at the end of every book causes an unsatisfying lack of resolution, which can backfire and make readers want to give up as much as pursue the  next sequel, because they can probably count on IT having a cliffhanger too. When there are, oh, six books in a series, I’m told that’s a big commitment. Too big.

But for some reason, it feels wrong to me to end a book that’s in the MIDDLE OF A SERIES with a nice, satisfying, well-rounded ending. And maybe that’s something I just need to get over, but it’s my natural inclination to dismiss that kind of notion outright.

It’s unnatural, when the whole point to me is that it takes six books to tell the story. And I want them to want to read the next book, don’t I? To absolutely NEED to read it. Right now. Yesterday.

Well, this is where I might do well to realize that maybe a mere case of good writing, and lovable characters, goes a long way. If the writing is good, and you love the characters, you’re going to want to read more about them, right? That in itself has spurred me to buy sequels time and time again. It doesn’t take a cliff-hanger to make you fall in love with a story, with the characters, and to never want their story to end.

I could also benefit from realizing I can skip the ultimate cliff-hanger, but still leave a few loose ends. There’s no reason why I can’t grant the readers a little satisfaction and still lure them onward, right?

I just have such a knack for dreaming UP cliffhangers, that it’s going to be hard telling them ‘no’. They’re so EPIC. But it’s not like I can’t put them at the end of chapters, and fill a book chalk-full with them that way, so I’m going to go ahead and say this is one area I’ve decided I do need to choose my battles in order to perfect my craft. At the very least, I need to make sure it isn’t EVERY  BOOK.

What are your thoughts on cliff-hangers? Are they different as a reader vs. writer?

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