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To Be Continued…

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.

4 Comments
  1. 23 skidoo.

    September 11, 2018
  2. I once swore off a writer because every chapter ended on a cliffhanger, there were 3 or 4 irregularly-interspersed plotlines, and enough Stuff passed between visits to each plotline that I kept having to go back and hunt for the end of the previous segment in that plotline to remind myself where the hell we are now and why we’re in trouble.

    I already didn’t like cliffhanger chapter endings (they’re why I’ve trained myself to just stop reading wherever I need to stop, in mid-sentence if need be, rather than waiting for a logical break). Now I actively hate them. You don’t have to rescue everyone; just finish the current thought and don’t leave us dangling in mid-air.

    Why don’t I like cliffhanger chapter breaks? Because they interrupt

    the action. That’s not page-turning; it’s just annoying.

    September 11, 2018
  3. Draven #

    Cliffhangers can be ok.

    e.g. John Ringo’s book that got split in two by 9/11.

    September 12, 2018
  4. Luke #

    I love cliffhangers.

    In moderation.

    The second book in a trilogy often ends in a cliffhanger, and it is right and just that this be so.
    Some scenebreaks or chapterbreaks demand cliffhangers, and this is all to the good.
    Punching up a slack time in the story with lingering suspense from another plotline? A thousand times yes!

    George R. R. Martin ending every single plotline of a goatgagger on a cliffhanger, in some cases abandoning plotlines halfway through the book to do so…
    That’s more along the line of hate.
    It’s only one of the reasons I’m done with the series, but it’s a big one.

    On the flipside, I will be devouring Corriea’s next Son of the Black Sword within moment’s of release (if I can make my Will save to avoid the eARC.) Because I NEED to know what happens next.

    Moderation is key.
    Encourage the reader. Do not taunt them or drive them with whips.

    September 12, 2018

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