When last we saw our hero (for a given value of the word), he was clinging to sanity by his thoroughly gnawed fingernails. Small, ravening beasts surrounded him on all sides, nobody had his back, and he was staring deep in the Abyss (who said, “Hey, bro, you have pretty eyes. More coffee?”). Would he survive? Would he be reduced to a gibbering wreck, good only for boiling more mac’n’cheese? Stay tuned for next week’s episode!
Before I get to the writing stuff, some life stuff. Wee Dave and Wee-er Dave are both loving preschool, as I expected they would. They make the obligatory complaints about not wanting to go, wanting to stay home with Daddy (NOT happening) or doing something fun, and then it’s “Bye, Daddy!” at the door. I recognizes a dismissal when I hears it.
So I (yesterday, today is different: got things to do) beat feet over to the coffee joint, grumbled at the guy sitting in my preferred spot, and set up to write. And write, I did! Got almost a chapter done before I had to retrieve the younglings. I also have a plan for a friend (yeah, I’ve got a few, so what?) to pick up the littles after school a day or so a week, so I can accomplish other things. Like more writing.
Speaking of writing! I read a piece by someone who doesn’t like cliffhangers. The article is, much like my own missives here, in the vernacular. From what I gather, the author dislikes cliffhangers at the end of a book. Frankly, so do I. I’d much rather have things tied up fairly neatly with a climax and a denouement.
Even more so, I dislike leaving a character dangling in the middle of the book, and then waiting until the sequel to find out what happened to them. If you must go that route, I recommend an epilogue that touches on what nastiness they’re enduring while the rest of the heroes bask in the warm glow of success.
Cliffhangers are – the article notwithstanding – wondrous for serial works. If you’re publishing a chapter a week on your blog, for example, leaving your readers wondering how the hero is going to get out of the current mess is a great way to keep them coming back. Provided you keep putting up chapters week after week.
They’re similarly useful for interior chapter breaks in a work published all at once. Leave your hero in a pickle at the end of a scene, and you’re practically guaranteed to get your book called a page turner (there are questions of pacing, but that’ll be another article). You’re also likely to get called all manner of unkind names as your readers lose sleep over your poor, abused heroes. So be it.
Look, what it comes down to is cliffhangers are a tool, and an important one with a long and (if you’ll pardon the term, and even if you won’t) storied history. I imagine Homer would end the evening’s recitation by not telling people just how the fight between Hector and Achilles ended, or just how wily Odysseus got out of his most recent godswrath-induced fix. Ultimately, don’t piss of your readers, and don’t listen to people who blather on too much. Including me. Now, go write. I shall do likewise.
Oh, and if you’re so inclined, please say a prayer for our nation on this day of memorial.