Thoughts On: Cliffhangers

Helpful for climbers AND readers.
Ah, the cliffhanger. There are a number of definitions and contexts, but Wikipedia's contributors put it this way:
A cliffhanger or cliffhanger ending is a plot device in fiction which features a main character in a precarious or difficult dilemma, or confronted with a shocking revelation at the end of an episode of serialized fiction. A cliffhanger is hoped to ensure the audience will return to see how the characters resolve the dilemma.
Almost a sure-fire was to incite strong emotions in a reader; it worked well for Scheherazade, no? Yet sometimes, the mere prospect of such an element will cause a person to avoid reading a book in the first place (or perhaps wait for the story's resolution to be revealed.
Anyone who enjoys serialized material will have inevitably come across a number of cliffhangers. One would also notice the many possible reasons for their incorporation into a story. Like for instance...
...because a main plot line has been wrapped up, but side plots (or maybe a second main thread) must be connected to the following title.

...strictly to ensure a reader will buy the follow-up book. A pessimistic possibility, but I'm sure there are books out there that have employed the device for this reason. I'm not such a big fan of this type, because the resolution is often resolved with the first few pages of the next installment, sometimes even undoing the cliffhanger in the first place. "change the game." If a drastic change is going to occur, one that will affect future books (or even the series as a whole), the end of one installment is not a bad place to put it. In my opinion, these can actually be quite fun!
And so it goes on and on. Personally, I don't mind a good cliffhanger (though I'm not overly crazy about the gimmicky, blatant marketing ploys...I'm looking at you Stephanie Plum book #5). Sure it's devastating at first, but with a bit of time (and the next few unrelated books) the anxiety of "needing to know" settles into a softer form of excitement and anticipation. That said, if the follow-up book is immediately avaiable...we'll let's just say I'd prefer to buy 'em as a pair. And if it's possible to have a general heads up on a cliffhanger ending, I'm a happy camper.

So, how about you? Do cliffhangers usually excite or frustrate you (and are there specific circumstances in which you like/don't like them)? Do you like to know ahead of time if the book you're thinking of reading has one?


  1. They drive me insane! Especially if it takes a year for the next book to come out. That is just evil. But if I know about them, well then I can wait and buy the book later

  2. 'the anxiety of "needing to know" settles into a softer form of excitement and anticipation'
    Lol so true!
    l felt this mostly about Crescendo and Linger.... l was so angry when l put them down, mostly with Crescendo but now l am just VERY VERY excited!!!

  3. I think it's a great marketing technique because people will just need to know what happens. I don't mind them but if I know a book is going to have one I try to wait until the next book is out so I can satisfy my curiosity right away.

  4. Hmmm, I'm gonna have to answer in the most frustrating way: It depends.

    If someone may or may not be dying... I'm NOT a fan. If it's a romantic cliffhanger then I actually find that stimulating. As far as general plot cliffhangers go, I'm usually pretty cool. I never start a book expecting a pretty ending... is that twisted? :P

  5. Welllll, I think it depends on the book. I've read books that I was like WHAT!?!?!?!? And couldn't wait for the next book. But then there are the cliffhangers that leave me loving the book even more and wanting to continue with the series. Those ones I really enjoy and make me excited for the books to come. :)

  6. Cliffhangers definitely have a purpose, especially when used to continue a terrific story line. The Potter series certainly got me hooked. J.K. Rowling uses cliffhangers to great advantage resulting in readers clamoring for the next installment in the series. The films have the same effect. Anyone else counting down out there?

  7. By the way, I'm follower #100!! Glad to have found your blog!


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