Don’t you hate it when you are reading, you hit the 90% mark, the suspense is rising, and then the book ends? Does it make you just want to throw something? The trend of leaving a book on a cliffhanger is rapidly increasing. Many readers ask (in a very dramatic voice) WHYYYY??
By definition, “a cliffhanger is a plot device in fiction which features a main character in a precarious or difficult dilemma.” (Wiki) Using a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter is great because it builds the readers’ anticipation. Using one at the end of the book is an incentive for authors to ensure the next book in a series is read.
Sure the cliffhanger has worked for several popular series, The Hunger Games Trilogy, The Covenant Series, and The Mortal Instruments Series to name a few. So, why are so many authors using this writing technique?
A good cliffhanger brings out the complexity of the story. They raise questions, complications, doubts, and possibilities, they tease us. So when an author uses cliffhangers, they’re not only engaging the emotions but the readers’ minds as well.
My gathered data from readers: Cliffhangers leave many readers feeling cheated. They wait patiently for the answers to their questions. Some readers (especially me) will wait until most of the series is published before reading. Others feel that they are extremely overused.
“I particularly dislike it when I’ve waited patiently for the next installment of a series only to find the book is mainly ‘filler’, the plot hasn’t progressed and it ends with another cliffhanger!” anonymous reader
My Rant: There is no reason that a book can’t have a solid beginning, middle and ending. Sure there can be loose ends that could carry on to another book, but the reader should feel some sort of resolution to the initial problem. If your writing, world, and characters are strong and engaging, you shouldn’t have to resort to such played out tactics. It makes the cliffhanger so much worse when the reader has to wait a year and a half to read the next book. A great example of a good cliffhanger, for me, would be Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi. The book ends right after a climactic scene, which resolves that book, but leaves us pondering, ‘what will happen in the next book?’ It didn’t feel like I was punched in the face at the end, I was energized, happy, and ready for the next one.
If you feel the need to include a cliffhanger at the end of your novel, please consider your readers. Make sure to resolve the initial problem. Please don’t make it a Sopranos ending…meaning at least finish the scene or thought.
What are your thoughts on Cliffhangers? Are they evil incarnate or just great? What’s the worst cliffhanger you’ve read? (Be mindful of spoilers!)
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cliffhanger (accessed February 28, 2013)