Wednesday, April 3, 2013

C is for Cliffhanger


Last year was my first crack at the A-Z Blogging Challenge, a blogging phenomenon created by the amazing Arlee Bird. The object is to blog every day of the month of April (except Sundays), and to increase the challenge, to blog thematically from A to Z. No sweat, right? Last year, I blogged about music with Jessica Bell. This year, I'm heading back to my roots and blogging about all things thriller. Join me?
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I have a love/hate relationships with cliffhangers.

I understand their function, particularly in the thriller genre, and I'm relatively good at them. But, so often, the desire/need to craft that perfect cliffhanger turns into an overwhelming amount of pressure. The ability to end a sentence, paragraph, a chapter in such a way that will demand the reader turn the page. It's tough!

Some thriller authors - like James Patterson and Steve Martini - have this fictional ploy down to a science. 

In simple terms, a cliffhanger is a climax split in two - the main character gets shot, and the chapter ends. It is the question that hovers in the dark space between pages, or the maddening "to be continued"  at the end of your favorite TV show. 

Love or hate them, they are a necessary evil. For a society that struggles to maintain consumer attention, cliffhangers offer a bridge to your audience, a reason for them to turn the page, to buy your next book, to perch on the edge of their seat and suspend disbelief. For you.

No easy task, my friends.

What are some great examples of cliffhangers that made you come back for more?

- Dawn


14 comments:

  1. You're going to shoot me stone-cold dead, but ... Harry Potter!!!

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    1. * rolls eyes * - I should have known :-P

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  2. Ooh, I love cliffhangers. Here's three that really had me biting my nails for the next book:

    Sins of the Demon by Diana Rowland (book four in an urban fantasy series) ended with Kara going to the demon realm. I couldn't wait for book five (and book five is also awesome).

    The Hour of Dust and Ashes by Kelly Gay (book three in an urban fantasy series) ended with Charlie's partner and love interest Hank getting arrested and taken back to his home realm. The promise of finding out more about his past and seeing more of the world made me very eager for book four.

    Changless by Gail Carriger had a different sort of cliffhanger, with a sudden unexpected rift between Alexia and her werewolf husband.

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    1. GREAT examples, Nicole. You really know your cliffhangers!

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  3. A cliffhanger sounds so trite, so manufactured that the very word makes us feel uncomfortable and if it is handled badly we not do feel as though we are being played with.
    As readers I think we hardly notice the best ones because we are too busy turning the page. As a writer I think we sometimes see chapters as self contained sections (as in a report or an academic essay) and it feels very contrived to have a phone ring at the end and no one answer it (or whatever). It migt be more useful to think of them as scenes with one leading on to the other. You wouldn't want a film scene to fill like a well rounded whole because viewers might think that was a cue to switch channels or leave the cinema....
    Good subject! This is my first year on the A-Z and it's real education!

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    1. Very good points in here! Thank you for stopping by.

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  4. Cliffhangers at the end of a television season of my favorite shows make me look forward to the new season in the coming year. What I hate is when there is a cliffhanger at the end of the season and then they cancel the show.

    Gloria
    A-Z Challenge

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    1. I know what you mean, Gloria. One of my fave shows was 24, and I loved every cliffhanger episode...but the wait between seasons was PAINFUL.

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  5. My first thrillers were Uncle Wiggly books! Remember those? Each chapter left you wanting to hear what happened. The next stage was the Hardy Boys Series. Those books always left you wondering what was going to happen in the next chapter.

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    1. I do remember those, Donna! I went from there to Nancy Drew (figures), which also had some awesome cliffhangers!

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  6. I have a really nasty habit of going to the final chapter if 'they lived happily ever after' so that I can continue reading in peace and not wonder about the outcome.
    Bhavya from the AtoZ Challenge blogging at Just Another Blog

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    1. My best friend does that too, and I'm always tsking her. LOL. I can't do it. I want to flip to the end, but for some reason, I'm afraid if I know the end, I'll stop reading or something.

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  7. I'm like you, I have a love-hate with cliffhangers myself. Although I'm trying to write them, being a thriller writer, I also read quite a few that I find less than thrilling. It's because they are so expected, I guess. But when I hit a really good one - an unexpected one, then that's what makes me love the genre so much.

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    1. Agree Hunter - love and RESPECT the genre so much more. A good cliffhanger is like candy.

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