I’m going to be very transparent here for a second (aren’t I always?) and admit to you that, apparently, I am not like a lot of other readers.
I’ve wanted to write a post about cliffhangers for a long time, and there’s finally open space in my queue this week to squeeze one in. So naturally I started doing a little research to find out what the experts had to say about them, since I’ve never actually published a book, and can’t technically call myself an expert (yet).
What I found surprised me. And kind of scared me a little, honestly.
Apparently, a lot of people hate cliffhanger endings. With a deep, burning passion.
Which is alarming me only because, as a reader, I absolutely love them.
From what I’ve been reading, it seems like book lovers would much rather have all their questions answered by the end of a story than having to hang from a figurative cliff until the next book comes out.
A lot of reasoning seems to point toward the fact that people don’t want to wait months or years to find out what happens next.
I don’t know if it makes me sound naïve, but I’m really struggling here. I don’t understand this at all. And I’ve been reading, and writing, for a long time, as I’m sure many of you have.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t just read for the sake of reading a good story. I read for the emotional stimuli, too (or the mental, if we’re talking The Da Vinci Code or something). When a book ends on a cliffhanger, of course I have the typical “I need to know what happens next” reaction.
But at the same time, I already know they’ve hooked me. I know that when I do get to read the next book, it’s going to be great. But then … I just move on. I start a new book. Do I think about all my leftover unanswered questions from the last book? Occasionally. But I love that feeling. It’s one metric I use to gauge whether I’ve read what I consider to be a “good book” or not.
At this point in my fiction writing “career,” I still only write for myself. So while I know it will change if/when I start working with an agent, right now, I care a lot less about what my potential readers want than I probably should. Ever since, well, a few months ago, I’ve planned to end my book on a cliffhanger. The cliffhanger portion of the story is already written, actually, even though the book itself isn’t finished yet (but I’m getting closer).
It’s not that I’m worried about what my readers think. What I’m most concerned about as I type this is not being able to, someday, sell a book with a cliffhanger because everyone apparently hates them so much.
I’m not being a hypocrite here. In the writing process you have to focus on one thing at a time, and I know I’ve written on the blog before about worrying about finishing your story before anything else. But I’m at that point where I’m so close to being done, my brain is already moving past it. I’m thinking ahead. Probably too much further ahead than I need to be.
I just don’t know what to think. I know I’m not the only writer who toys with the idea of a cliffhanger every now and then. But am I the only reader that thinks cliffhangers are not only acceptable … but attractive?
Even if I’m over-thinking this, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Yell at me.
Disagree with me.
Tell me I’m not crazy (or even that I am).
Or just type a smiley face. If you want.
Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.
Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.