Monday, June 13, 2011

The Wrench in a Writer's Tool Box

The question I pose is, cliffhangers, do they work for you or not? I personally LOVE a good cliffhanger, one that has me on the edge of my seat, screeching with excitement because I can hardly wait for the next book/chapter/movie.

But of course, there is a downside too. The cliffhangers that are plopped in and then the next book/chapter/movie doesn't satisfactorily answer the question/climax. Or worse than that is when you can't get the next book/chapter/movie for some reason. The publisher takes two years per book, the author didn't want to write anymore or the blockbuster movie house goes bankrupt. This list could go on and on.

My feeling is that if they, cliffhangers, are written and used well, they can be a great tool in your writer's box of tricks. I, for one, will be using this technique for a series of novella's I'm working on and look forward to the reactions the cliffhanger moments draw from readers. I planned this series specifically so I COULD use cliffhangers. :)

What are your thoughts on the use of this particular technique? Love it, hate it or can't be bothered to bother with it?


L. Hild said...

I enjoy a cliffhanger so long as it is the type that makes me want to read the next book, but I'm definitely frustrated by them if I feel that a book is just cut off without a proper ending. Most of the books I read are standalone, so perhaps that is why intense cliffhangers in a series bother me more. But Harry Potter, for example, I thought had perfect hanger endings. I was always satisfied with that book, but definitely excited to continue on with the characters and get the answers to lingering questions.

Best of luck with the novellas!

Sarah said...

I don't mind cliffhangers as long as I know when the resolution is coming out. I also think there could be some debate as to what can really be called a "cliffhanger"--what about books where there's some closure (like, a major battle fought and won) but one thing left undone (the hero captured by the opposing side so the heroine has to journey off to rescue him in the next book)? Or is it pausing right at the edge of major action? Is anything left undone considered a cliffhanger?

Tanisha Rule said...

For me, cliffhangers at the ends of chapters are okay if used sparingly. Cliffhangers, if over-used, start to seem like cheap tricks. It starts to seem as though the author doesn't trust that she has the full attention of her reader and so must dangle a carrot on the end of a stick.
I used to be totally anti-cliffhanger when it comes to the ends of novels, but the Left Behind series by LaHaye and Jenkins changed my mind — sort of. The way they constructed their endings left no doubt that there was more to come, but I wasn't left in complete limbo while waiting for a new hardcover to hit the shelves. However, I've seen other work where the author may as well have just broken off in mid-sentence.
Short answer — since I can ramble a bit when it comes to the mechanics of writing — cliffhangers work for me if they aren't overly dramatic. For instance, if a character jumps, unprepared, from an airplane, the novel shouldn't end with him free-falling! That would just be mean!!!