Cliffhanger Endings: Love to Hate Them or Just Plain HATE THEM?

I’m in final edits on Three of Swords, Precog in Peril #1. I mentioned a while back about pumping out 4500 words in one day and getting so involved in the story that I shot right past the end.

Last night, I contemplated where the end of the first book should be and came up with a doozy of a cliffhanger. But that raises the question of whether or not a reader will stay tuned for book two. Logically, I’d think their tongue would be hanging out for it, even as they cursed a blue streak at me.

Look at the serial movies in the early days of theater. Every week, the hero was placed in a dangerous situation and you weren’t told until the following week how he escaped it.

How about television shows? The ones that tell a season-long story always end on some kind of cliffhanger to entice you to return for the next season.

Books generally don’t do that, and I wonder why. Doesn’t it make sense to give something to the reader that makes them want and wait for the next book in the series? Just how cruel is it to end a book at the edge of a cliff? How much would you hate me if I didn’t wrap up everything nice and neat but left one mystery for the sequel?

I want your opinion! If you really hate cliffhanger endings, let me know. If you love to hate cliffhanger endings, I want to hear about it!

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About Fenraven

Fenraven happily lives in south Florida, where it is really hot most of the year. Find him on Twitter, Google +, and Facebook by searching on 'fenraven'.
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23 Responses to Cliffhanger Endings: Love to Hate Them or Just Plain HATE THEM?

  1. AJ Rose says:

    Personally, I love them unless it takes years for the sequel to come out. The way you write, that’s not a problem.

  2. karmicangel says:

    I’m with AJ, as a reader/watcher I love and hate them at the same time… But they are delicious! If you have a great cliffhanger, and if you’re going to reward your faithful readers with a timely solution, I say go for it!

  3. I say, end with a cliff-hanger, and a juicy epilogue, just a hint as to what’s about to come. Think of it as the prequel for book 2. I don’t know if I’d use something immediately preceding the end. Perhaps something that’s an outcome of your cliff-hanger situation, so the reader is wondering what happens to get things to that point.

    • That will be tricky, as it ends mid-scene. It just seemed like the place to stop, ya know?

      • You know, for one draft, don’t go with your gut. Finish the scene and end somewhere more conventional. If you’re repulsed by it, you know you’re right. Or have you already done that? I “fix” things like that sometimes, and end up going back to what I had originally.

        • I was writing merrily away when I realized I’d overshot the ending of book 1. The question is, just how far did I go past it?

          Where I’ve ended it now is mid-scene. I could be far less shitty about this and add more from what I put in the sequel. And I may very well do that! I have a feeling AJ is going to hit the fucking roof when he reads that last page.

          Shall we take bets on it? 🙂

          • But aren’t we both going to be betting for roof hitting?

            And as someone mentioned, it’s different when you’re prolific vs. writing something every 3 years.

          • I’m pretty prolific. I could write the sequel in the next couple of months. Unless I hit The Wall, which as any writer know, can happen at any time. Disregarding that, the second book will be out fairly quickly after the first one, which I’m planning to release at the end of August.

  4. Suze says:

    Like AJ i think they are fine provided the next story is quite quick, otherwise the impetus to go out and buy book 2 (or3) disappears – i dont mind a small wait but i’m waiting for some that are nearly a year after the previous – too long for me really.

  5. W. Lotus says:

    I hate cliffhanger endings. I must prefer each story/book to stand on its own two feet. A cliffhanger ending seems arrogant, as though the author is saying, “I KNOW you are going to buy my next book.” No, I may not, just out of principle. I’m stubborn that way.

  6. Meghan says:

    A lot of it has to do with the author writing what seems best for the story versus drawing things out for the heck of it. If the first book of a series has a big cliff-hanger, it better be a REALLY good book with a sequel coming out relatively soon. In general, I hate HUGE cliff-hangers, except for towards the end of a series and as long as loose ends are eventually tied up. Then it’s kind of good to give something of a jolt as a series wraps up. In other words, it just depends.

    • Well… some things were resolved and some things were left open. I’m really divided about the ending as it is now. The wicked part of me wants to let it stand, because it really is full-stop in the middle of a scene and I kind of like the idea of freaking the readers out.

      However… the nicer part of me is thinking that would just be too nasty.

      Won’t it be interesting to see which side wins out? AJ is reading it now. His reaction is going to carry a lot of weight. You may want to start yelling at him with your opinions. 🙂

  7. AJ Rose says:

    Okay, just finished it and I think in this case, there are enough questions answered in the first book to leave a satisfying end. The book, however, leaves room for more questions to be answered in the second book. I want to know what happens. Aside from the fact that I buy everything you write anyway, I’d want to get the next one to see where this goes. That said, I’d want to see where it goes anyway without the cliffhanger, but the cliffhanger makes me more anxious for the next installment.

    On the other hand, it is a good place to stop book one because the very last scene perfectly sets up book two and the beginning of it, giving that story a purpose from the get-go. It draws the reader into the desire to continue reading the series and find out what happens next, letting us know that while the whys of book one have been answered, there’s more to the story. It’s not the kind of cliffhanger that made me want to yell at you and demand answers.

    Good job, babe.

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