Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cliff Hangers

We've all heard of cliffs and hangers but what of cliff hangers?

Photo by Magnus Brath, courtesy of Flickr
Cliff hangers are those chapter endings that create in the reader a desire to read on. Without them, they may set aside our book for a day, a week, maybe even longer.

The best writers I know keep their readers engaged, keep them reading. And this isn't just true for the sorts of books that demand cliff hangers such as mystery and suspense novels. We're talking about keeping our readers interested because of the question we've asked at the end of a chapter, that secret not yet revealed, the way we spin our yarn to keep our reader wondering if they've guessed right--Mr. Randolph really is the the 'stranger' who has changed his name and appearance and appears in town as a new member of the community...

With the busyness of people these days, even the best readers don't have time for books that don't somehow spur them on to the next chapter. There are too many other things to do.

What of cliff hangers at the end of the book?

I have even known writers who have had cliff hangers at the end of their books to spur the reader on to the next book. Series books keeps your readers with you all through the journeys--just think of Harry Potter. Do we want to miss anything Harry does? Anything he says? Any person, human or not, that he must face?

Photo by: JSmith Photo, courtesy of Flickr
Of course not, and the best series books keep the reader with them for years to come.

Are you working on a book now? Now sure where to end the chapter? Take your reader up to a cliff and leave them there, at least until the next chapter.


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