Cliffhangers Continued…

Followers, I keep trying to make enemies and you guys just love me too much. First I tried with this post about why I won’t buy your book. No takers. Everyone seemed to think I was brilliant and in no way the self-proclaimed jerk I purported to be. Next I spoke about how much I love cliffhanger endings and lot of people weighed in but still no enemies. Dammit guys, I’m trying to go viral over here! What do I have to do? Talk politics? I refuse. I’m old school. Politics isn’t for mixed company. But I digress.

I didn’t make any enemies with my cliffhanger-lovin’, but the post did garner a number of comments. Here are my favorite quotes:

  • From AJ Race: “I guess it depends on the book, part of me with book 3, really wants to end leaving the reader with more questions than answers, but given that it’s the last book that almost seems sort of cruel. I haven’t entirely decided yet.” (Sounds like the series LOST. And yes, that’s kinda cruel. But he also said he can’t wait for my novella, so he’s alright in my book. Teehee.)
  • From Victoria Grefer: “But I always have felt a book should have a beginning, middle, and end. That’s what makes a story. A book should be its own story, even if it’s a series novel. (For instance, every Harry Potter book is its own adventure, and that specific adventure is resolved by book’s end.) If the major threads of a book’s individual story aren’t resolved, then the book isn’t finished yet. And that’s a cliffhanger, in my opinion. And I don’t like them one bit. It violates my sense of entitlement to a story. A book means I’m getting a story.” (I agree with this. Mini-conflict resolved. Major-conflict, not so much.)
  • Victoria also had this to say: “It seems to me like the compromise you describe[d about Blood in the Paint’s ending] is PERFECT. Just what makes sense to me: a resolved story with some remaining bits to attract people to the next book.” (Of course I had to shamelessly include this one, right?)
  • From Tonya Kerrigan: “I like cliffhangers…if they’re done right. If the book suddenly ends right in the middle, then no…I wouldn’t like that. However, there are times when a book has to end in the middle if the middle is the beginning of a new story.” (Do I have to mention that this is how Blood in the Paint ends? I don’t? Well, I’m doing it anyway.)
  • From Peppa Germany: “I think Cliff Hangers work really well in TV and movies and at the end of a chapter in a book, but I do find it really frustrating when a book leaves a blatant cliff hanger. As other commentors have said a book need a beginning, middle and end and if the end is halfway through the story then it really doesn’t work.” (Wow, people are really hell-bent on this whole beginning/middle/ending thing. You would think that’s what they were taught or something.)
  • From G. Norman Lippert: “My last book had a major cliffhanger ending (to be resolved in the next one– sorta) and I did get a lot of comments about it, most along the lines of “loved this book, but hated the ending”. I don’t mind. In fact, that’s the point, isn’t it? The fact that the readers “hate the ending” is evidence that they are deeply involved in the story.” (I really like this take on it. If you weren’t invested in the story, you wouldn’t care how it ended. He also goes on to add that this only really works within a series, not a stand-alone novel.)
  • Also from Mr Lippert: “Writers have a contract with their readers.  The reader invests time, the author pays them with a satisfying read. A cliffhanger can actually be satisfying, if the answer is implied, or the possible conclusions are all worth considering. But the author simply cannot cross over into the intensely unsatisfying realm of the non-resolution. If so, we owe the reader a good bit of their life back.” (I would never want to steal someone’s life away. I know how that feels. I’m talking to YOU, College Calc Classes.)
  • Last minute comment from Dan Harris: “Simples. Cliffhangers that don’t complete the story of that book: bad. Cliffhangers which wrap up that story and set up an equally big juicy story for the next book: good.” (Well said, I think.)

Do these comments make me feel any differently about how I ended Blood in the Paint? No. Do you know why? Here’s what my husband, who is the only to have read my novel in its entirety, had to say (I’m paraphrasing):

To be honest, I was a little disappointed. Everything went really fast and it just seemed like everything was wrapping up. And I was like, “Well, this is her first book so…” But then [the ending happened] and I was like, “What! What about [spoiler alert omitted]? What, huh? No, I need more…”

The genuine excitement and mind-blown-ness on his face was enough for me. I can’t wait to do that to strangers. *Fingers crossed*

The Conundrum Over Cliffhangers

I don’t know what made me decide to talk about this today, since I finished the first draft of my full-length novel, Blood in the Paint, months ago, and I’m now fully focused on its prelude novella, but here goes…

I love cliffhanger endings in a series. I don’t even mind a cliffhanger ending in a stand-alone novel where I’m left guessing after I turn that last page. But it seems as though I might be in the minority on this one. Or maybe not, I didn’t actually take a poll or anything. Nor do I have any interest in doing so.

But I would like to know WHY people don’t like cliffhanger endings, especially in a series. What else would lure you to buy the sequels if there wasn’t something left unresolved? I struggled with how I wanted to end my own novel. I like cliffhangers, so obviously I wanted to end it on one. But I’ve also read the countless Amazon reviews of readers chiding the author for leaving them hanging (and not in the, “How dare s/he do that to me! I love this story so much! I want to have its babies, but first I need to know what happens next!” kind of way). Some people really hate to be roped into the next book? Why? Do they want the option of not having to read the next book? Like a literary commitment-phobe? Do they hate having to wait until the next book comes out because they fear they won’t remember enough of the first book and they’ll be lost? Maybe they have a short-term memory condition like Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates. What the hell is it? Seriously, the suspense is killing me. Oh, wait. That’s their problem too, isn’t it? Dammit.

Anyway, I hope the way I ended Blood in the Paint was a nice compromise. A nicely resolved ending, with a teeny, tiny monkey-wrench thrown in right at the very end to make you question everything you’ve just read. Ok, maybe “compromise” is the wrong word…

How do you YOU feel about cliffhanger endings?