Thursday, August 24, 2006

To Cliffhang or Not to Cliffhang...

I got to thinking the other day about cliffhangers.

I think there's a time and a place for them. For example, at the end of a chapter. That's good.

What's even better is, at the end of a chapter, but then the following chapter picks up in a different scene, with someone else's point of view, leaving you hanging by your little fingertips for at least a bit longer.

Those are good, right?

What about a cliffhanger at the end of a movie? (Can you say Empire Strikes Back? POTC Dead Man's Chest?) Or book?

The famous Janet Evanovich (I can't remember which number), where Stephanie Plum opens the door to...someone...and invites him in and we don't know who it is until the next book. Which came out a year later.

What about that kind of cliffhanger, where it's not so much related to the action (ie, the Big Bad's been foiled, at least temporarily, but in relation to a subplot, like the romantic relationship arc)?

Do you like that? Does it work or annoy you? (I was fortunate in that Evanovich situation, for I came late-ish to the Plum series, and the book that followed that was already in print and ready for me to pick up, so I can't comment with any real authority.)

Rosario mentioned a Kathy Reichs book that left the reader with a similar cliffhanger (Grave Secrets). I haven't read either of the books she talks about, but I wondered if this is becoming a trend.

Another friend of mine read Death Takes a Honeymoon by Deborah Donnelly, and she complained angrily that the book ended with a cliffhanger in the middle of the action!

So, what do you define as a cliffhanger? When does it become annoying, or an obvious marketing ploy to get you to buy the next book, see the next movie? When does it work?

8 Comments:

Blogger Jana DeLeon soliloquized...

I like when a book ends with open-ended items or unanswered questions, but not if it's critical to the main plot. It's okay with trilogy (Star Wars, LoTR, etc) because we know ahead of time what we're in for. But I don't like a book "to be continued" in the middle of the main storyline. You should be eagerly anticipating the next release, not angrily waiting for an answer.

Thursday, August 24, 2006 8:52:00 AM  
Blogger Jaye Wells soliloquized...

With the Evenovich book, I literally squealed at the cliffhanger. Ranger or Joe? Joe or Ranger! I had to know.

Unfortunately, while the cliffhanger was brilliant, the beginning of the next book (in which the mystery of which man it was is revealed) was a total let down. I was glad to found out who it was, but basically she didn't give us any juicy details. You can't build up like that and then not give the reader the goods.

Thursday, August 24, 2006 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Holli Bertram soliloquized...

I agree with Jaye. If you have a cliff-hanger you have to deliver a satisfying resolution.

Also, even in epic fantasy or a connected series where there is a plot arc that spans the entire series, I think people buy an individual book expecting a whole story with a beginning, middle and end - even if it's only a segment of the overarching storyline. So ditto to Jana's comment about giving closure to a book's central story line.

On the other hand, I like a cliff-hanger at the end of the season on a television series...

Thursday, August 24, 2006 2:01:00 PM  
Blogger Mailyn soliloquized...

What's even better is, at the end of a chapter, but then the following chapter picks up in a different scene, with someone else's point of view, leaving you hanging by your little fingertips for at least a bit longer.


Those are the best !I love when authors do that. It frustrates me and, at the same time, I love it. LOL.

However, I hate clifhangers at the end of a book. Series take forever and I hate waiting long to find out what happens.

Thursday, August 24, 2006 8:53:00 PM  
Blogger Janice Lynn soliloquized...

I hate cliffhangers at the end of books. Makes me want to throw them across the room--and I tend to treasure books, so I don't say this lightly.

On movies, I don't like it but in the case of trilogies & stuff, I expect it and it doesn't upset me so much--although I remember screeching at the end of Dead Man's Chest. I mean, I knew it was the middle movie, but hello, how dare they end where they did????

Okay, apparently, I NEVER like cliffhangers at the end of movies or books. I want my resolution & I want it now.

Thursday, August 24, 2006 11:49:00 PM  
Blogger Anne Mallory soliloquized...

Cliffhangers at the end of books, movies and TV shows drive me insane. I sit there thinking about them forever and the little men with the white coats prowl around nervously while I scavenge for everything on the book/movie, storyline, and author or director's output rate.

I still remember watching the end of Empire Strikes Back, and sitting there thinking, "But, but, noooooooooooo!"

And I was like five. George Lucas traumatized me early in life.

Friday, August 25, 2006 12:16:00 AM  
Blogger Colleen Gleason soliloquized...

I don't mind cliffhangers in the middle of books and movies. But I'm not as crazy about them when they are at the end of books or movies and I have to wait another year to find out what happened!

However, leaving some questions unanswered, some strings hanging...I like that. So that's my happy medium.

Friday, August 25, 2006 8:20:00 AM  
Anonymous adrienne soliloquized...

The Evanovich thing wasn't too bad because it was fun and not central to the plot of the book. The main storyline was wrapped up.

I read the first book of a series once which I no longer own because I was so pissed at the ending. I can't remember the book or the author (must've blocked it), but I remember the characters had spent the entire book qualifying for some government sponsored magic school or program or something, then the end just cuts off. The walk into the next trial, and you don't even know what the trial is, it just quits. It made me so angry I refused to read the rest of the series. It felt like a marketing ploy to get me to read the next book. So I rebelled.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006 8:00:00 PM  

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