Fireworks: Jumping Off a Cliff

We’ve talked about many different types of “fireworks” this month as associated with all things books: debut day, romance, etc. But I have to say that, personally, my most favorite of all the literary fireworks in general is the one that just goes BOOM and then leaves you hanging.

The cliffhanger.

But a very specific kind of cliffhanger: the chapter-ending cliffhanger.

I do not like books that end in cliffhangers. In fact, if I get wind at all that a book ends with a “too be continued,” chances are I’ll wait until the next book comes out to pick up the first.

This isn’t exactly what the author or publisher want me to do, but I’d much rather push several books in my to-be-read pile to the top than read a book with an unsatisfying ending and then have to pick the story line up again in a year.

Sure, you have to leave some things unanswered in a series, but if the arc just does an anvil-assisted Wile E. Coyote hop off a cliff for a year, chances are I’ll wait the year rather than torture myself. (And, yes, I read the Game of Thrones books. I do think George R.R. Martin answers enough questions that I can’t get mad at him between books.)

That said, the chapter-ending cliffhangers are perfect. They’re my favorite thing to write and they’re my favorite thing to read, especially in my beloved crime novels. I love how they push the plot forward, keep you on your toes, and skew the story in any possible direction. The just work as a device and add so much tone to the piece as a whole.

What’s your favorite writing device/firework?


8 thoughts on “Fireworks: Jumping Off a Cliff”

  1. I’m okay with cliffhangers at either point – end of chapter or end of book – if they’re well-written. And to me, a “cliffhanger” at the end of a book still leaves me with enough information that I’m satisfied until the next one comes out. I’m thinking of Rick Riordan, who ended MARK OF ATHENA with two characters literally hanging – then falling – off a cliff. I knew the next book was going to be mostly about their journey. I also knew that these are two major characters so they weren’t dead – yet. But the cliffhanger that just sort of thrusts you out there? Yeah, not so much. I’m with you. I’ll wait.

    I like writing mini-cliffhangers. Don’t know if I’m good at it, but I like trying.


  2. I like cliffhangers and fabulous opening lines. I’ll come up with some examples later. I’m still sleepy. 🙂 Favorite cliffhangers? Many True Blood endings. The X-Files season when we thought Mulder was dead.


  3. I’m trying to think of anything I’ve read recently with a cliffhanger, and I don’t have any examples. Ones that occur at the end of a chapter are great. I’m not a fan of ones that occur at the end of the book and have lives in the balance. Too often they seem forced. However, opening a new plot line? Love it.


  4. I love cliffhangers, when they’re done right. Too often they come across as over the top. It’s really important to tie a cliffhanger to an opening. Openings are probably my favorite!


  5. Definitely respond to cliffhangers as a reader! Cliffhanger chapter endings always make me turn the page and begin the next chapter, which is why I so often end up reading way later than I intended to. It also means that I typically stop reading in the middle of a chapter, then when I go back to the book I sometimes have to re-read a page or two (more often, the older I get, yikes).

    As far as book endings, I need enough closure to feel satisfied, even if some things are still hanging in the balance!


  6. Remember Alias? I LOVE that show (still). I discovered it on a New Year’s Day marathon. Every episode ended in a cliffhanger…and I sat in my chair in front of the TV for 8 hours watching them one after the other. I love it as a device too, writing and reading, though late at night, it’s hard to stop when you keep getting propelled forward into the story!


  7. Not that the guy needs any press, but Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” is a great example of a book with fabulous cliffhangers at the end of every chapter. And because the chapters are super short, it’s soooo easy to just keep going, even if you were supposed to go to bed hours ago. That’s why I keep reading his books even though I feel like he always sets everything up the same way. (Note: I haven’t read his latest, though.)


  8. I love cliffhangers when they are seeded throughout a novel. Chapter endings, interrupted conversations, clues left here and there. But when it comes to an overall book ending, I love to breathe a sigh of relief as all the stray threads come together.


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