Cliffhangers. They’re a lot like Marmite, aren’t they? Some people love them, others hate them. And then you get the odd marbles who love to hate them, and hate to love them. Which one of these lovely specimens are you?
I’m somewhere in between the likability spectrum. You see, it all depends on the genre. Cliffhangers can’t work with every book. Can you imagine how infuriating it would be reading an entire novel full of crimes, only to get to the last page and not find out who the perpetrator is? You’ve been guessing all along only to realise you have to buy the sequel to get your answers.
That doesn’t work – it’s the key aspect of the plot. It’s also a bit of a con.
However, a paranormal read with a new twist at the end of the already-solved plot works. It’s a teaser of what’s going to come next. It gets you thinking, makes you excited, and fills you with anticipation. That’s what a cliffhanger should do.
The problem, of course, lies in the self-publishing revolution. We’ve been spoiled. No one has the patience to wait a year anymore, not unless it’s being traditionally published. We’ve become the generation that expects things instantly. It’s the disease that’s come with the internet.
But here’s the thing. A great cliffhanger is supposed to make you impatient not greedy – don’t expect the next book to land in your lap with a click of your fingers. Excellent writing takes a lot of time and energy.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t want to scoff the next book down like it’s chocolate cake day after a week of dieting. You should totally inhale those words as if they’re your last hit of oxygen for the day.
From a business perspective, if a well-written book ends on a cliffhanger, it’s no doubt a ploy to get the reader to buy the next. Fundamentally, that is it’s basic function. But it has to fit the story. There’s no point killing off a character for the sheer sake of it. There has to be a reason behind it or you’re gonna lose interest from your readers. They’ll think you’ve literally lost the plot. Logically, even in your fantasy land it won’t make sense.
What bothers me most nowadays is that authors (particularly self-published authors from what I’ve seen) are writing *WARNING* signs in their book’s description because it has a cliffhanger. Since when did the use of a cliffhanger become relevant in the decision of which novel you’re going to read next?
Are we really suggesting that a cliffhanger is a make or break decision on what could potentially be a fantastic read?
It’s like the author is apologising for writing what they wanted to; which is very sad. You shouldn’t be saying sorry for what you believe in. It’s your work.
So I want to know:
Where do you stand on the Cliffhanger Controversy? Are you for or against the movement?