The Ides of Cliffhangers


You ever have a book that you wanted to throw against the wall because the story ended with a cliff-hanger?  Yeah, me, too. 

Rugged cliffs, and beach at the shoreline of the Montana de Oro Park in Central California
This is Montana De Oro Park, a beach in Central California that I’ve been to many times. It just looks like a place for pirates to be coming ashore–and there is a cave!

Istock Image by Yulee

I’ve been watching Earth: Final Conflict (on Amazon Prime for free right now for anyone interested).  The first season was really promising.  But at the end of the story, they did a cliff-hanger—like every other TV show.  The main character is seriously injured, and the show ends until the next season.

Only during that time, the actor evidently got into a contract dispute with the producers.  He did not return.  So the writers did a quick kill off of the character and moved on.  Very unsatisfying.

.We did have cliffhangers in the old serials (Linda Stirling as The Black Whip is available on Prime). But it was Dallas’ “Who shot JR?” that started the trend today.

It also did a disservice to both TV and books.  Cliffhangers like that are inherently unfair to their audience.  Those kinds of cliff-hangers are designed to create buzz and ratings…but leave the reader hanging without anywhere to go.

Chapters in books have cliffhangers, too, as do TV shows with acts that break for commercials.  But those are designed to build conflict and suspense.  They can also be quite simple. The goal is to get you to turn the page to find out what happens next instead of going to bed.

Yeah, I had a book like that last night.  Most annoying, but I was enjoying it so much😊

But when it’s at the end of the book, the writer has just told you, “I’m not finishing this story.  You’ll have to buy the next one to find out the ending.”

Except now that trust with the reader is broken.  We aren’t thinking about the next book to find out what happening.  We’re thinking, “Is he going to do the same thing to me?”

Okay, what’s the worst cliffhanger you ran across?

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MORE READING

How to Write Chapter Cliffhanger Endings.  From Cheryl Reif.  This has some really good examples of different kinds, including some I hadn’t thought about!

4 thoughts on “The Ides of Cliffhangers

  1. Pagadan March 3, 2020 / 11:39 am

    I hate cliffhangers! They are annoying–and cheats. (I remember Bomba the Jungle Boy from when I was a kid. Is he ever going to find his parents?!)

    Liked by 1 person

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