Our Love-Hate Relationship with Cliffhangers

Our Love-Hate Relationship with Cliffhangers

As a reader, there have been plenty of times that I’ve wanted to throw books across a room when they’ve ended on cliffhangers.

Nothing has made me scramble for follow-up books in a series faster than cliffhangers. They make for breakneck reading speeds. They’re a leading cause of staying up past our bedtimes to read as we tell ourselves “just oneeee more chapter.”

I know too well the niggling worry of the mental calculations that take place when you know there are a certain number of plot threads still open and the pages you have left to read looks a little thin to resolve them all. I’d say nine times out of ten, those situations end in cliffhangers.

Why? Easy.

Because they help make books unputdownable.

And it’s part of the reason that, as an author, I like to write them.

Now, I’ll always deliver a complete ending to a series. That’s part of the author-reader contract I’ll never break. But when it comes to individual books in a series, I’ve got to leave them hanging a little bit. You see, I like to keep them wanting more.

Some of my readers joke with me that when I write a series, I’m the “queen of cliffhangers.” It’s a title that I like to grin evilly over–because, here’s the thing I’m thinking from a craft standpoint:

I did it.

I made the book a wild ride. More importantly, they cared about the story. The reason we scream over cliffhangers is that we find ourselves invested in the plotlines and characters.

It’s not a coincidence that my books (unless they’re standalone stories or the end if a series) end that way. No, it was entirely intentional. I use them as a strategy. At the ends of chapters, cliffhangers help make books into “pageturners.”

At the ends of books, they lead to series sell-through. I know that if I do my job right–if I lead my readers through the plot and deliver an adventure they’ll never forget, only to leave them dangling on the edge of a precipice, they’re sure to grab the next book.

And as a reader, reading stories that end that way have been some of the ones that have stayed with me the most.

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