1. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Are cliffhanger endings okay?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Thomas Kitchen, Dec 19, 2012.

    The title to this thread seems to explain it all, really - how many of you like cliffhangers? I personally like them, but I wanted to check with other writers if this way of writing is a no go. I have written my first book of a trilogy, and I am already thinking about the ending of my second. So what do you all think? Does it depend on the theme of your book, or the genre? Please give a yay or nay and some reasons for your answer. Thanks. :)
     
  2. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Cliffhanging endings are a bit cliche. As for trilogies, the first one needs to sell before anyone would consider publishing a second or third from a new writer. I'd worry more about making a strong first story then whether it's a cliffhanger.

    One can write a novel, tie the loose ends, and leave yourself room for the second one without having to resort to the cliffhanger.
     
  3. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    I personally like them, but then I like writing for a longer form than just a single book. But even then, I try to make sure there is a coherent single episode story happening in any single book, and that the cliffhanger ending is a natural and not tacked on consequence of the ending of the single episode story.

    I gather publishers don't much like them though, at least not with new authors. I think they like the idea that each book is a single entity to be sold and doesn't need anything more to understand it.
     
  4. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Thanks for the comments so far, but just to clarify, my first book doesn't have a cliffhanger. I'm only thinking about doing a cliffhanger for my second novel.
     
  5. Show
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    Should I save the others time and discourage the OP from writing a trilogy if he's unpublished? ;) Somebody's bound to say it sooner or later so I might as well, right? haha

    Cliffhangers work better for TV shows. I would hardly call them "cliche" any more than tying up loose ends is "cliche." I wouldn't advise to make book endings too cliffhangery until you are established. (And even then, I'd try to avoid cliffhangers if possible. Not that I haven't violated this rule myself but most novels should be as self-contained as possible, even parts of larger series) I don't really like a cliffhanger at the end of a book cause I prefer books that I read to be self-contained. I just am not really sure what purpose a cliffhanger at the end of a book would really have. Again, exceptions abound, I know. I've used a cliffhanger at the end of a book 1 time. (And even that I might end up taking out on day.)
     
  6. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    I've used cliffhangers to lead the reader towards the continuation of a character's ongoing story. Everyone (which isn't many people) who managed to get to them hasn't complained, except that I've been such a slow writer that it's taken ages to get to the next story and they want to know what happens to the character!
     
  7. Venus//
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    Venus// Member

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    I will just give you my opinion.
    I dislike cliffhangers most of the time.
     
  8. EyezForYou
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    Many of Stephen King's work ends with a ciffhanger. If it's organic and flows right, it can be done.
     
  9. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Well, it's said for a reason. If publishers aren't going to take on a unknown writer for a trilogy off the bat, then when encourage someone to do that? It's hard enough to write one novel and sell it, but three? If a person wants to have a pile of rejection letters that reaches the moon, then by all means go ahead.
     
  10. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's nothing inherently wrong with a cliffhanger ending, but you've got to resolve enough of the plot threads to still give the reader some satisfaction. As a story, it should still work on its own, otherwise it's not the 2nd of a trilogy so much as half the book it should have been.
     
  11. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Thanks for the feedback, everyone - some comments have been nice, some not so much. While I appreciate honest feedback, Show was a tiny bit blunt, and a bit wrong, if I'm honest. If I tie up all my loose ends at the end of my first book, who's to say that it's not a self contained novel? Only I would know that I have a trilogy planned. Anyway, thanks again, guys. :)
     
  12. Show
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    Well, you'll be getting that latter anyway. And if the first book is standalone, the fact that more books are written needn't hurt it if it's self-contained. I hardly think anyone is encouraging him to write a trilogy. There's a difference between encouraging someone to write a trilogy and volunteering discouragement of a trilogy they are already planning when that isn't exactly what they asked. But, I only mentioned that since I know that was bound to happen sooner or later, right? And look, he still called me blunt. :p And that was a diluted message. haha

    Me blunt? ;) There are people here who are much blunter than I. They might still show up. I was just preparing you for them since they are ore than "a tiny bit blunt." Look, I see your point, and agree to a point. If the first book is self-contained, nobody else has to know you want it to be a trilogy. And if you sold the first book but couldn't sell the others, you could still have a complete story. So yes, I agree. My comments about not writing a trilogy were really to reference the messages you will likely get sooner or later from some of the members here. (Likely in a much blunter fashion, I might add. ;) ) Your question was specifically in regards to cliffhanger endings. That changes things up a bit. In theory, a well-written cliffhanger ending can work and can succeed in tying up loose ends. The problem is that since you seem to be thinking of this as a trilogy, I think it would be very easy to turn this cliffhanger into "loose ends" for Book 2, thus making Book 2 and Book 3 a bit incomplete. Again, without an example, I can't say for sure. But this is the feeling I get. Cliffhangers can be incredibly effective sometimes, especially between chapters or somewhere guaranteed a follow-up like the next episode of a TV show. Entire novels are really not as fitting to end on cliffhangers because you rarely can guarantee a follow-up until you are established, and it's also a bigger commitment for readers to find out what happened. I just am not sure a cliffhanger for a novel would work, and certainly for me, I am not sure I'd want a novel to end on a cliffhanger. I think even books in a series should be at least mostly self-contained, and that means that cliffhangers at the end of a novel are problematic, at best. Chapter cliffhangers = good. But as a reader, I want resolution at the end. If your first novel is like this, I just wonder why your second cannot be like this as well. You are already challenging the common view of the forum (even if it's one I don't agree with 100%) by attempting a trilogy before you are Stephen King-level famous. Adding a cliffhanger ending to Book 2 just seems to make the entire thing more challenging as you make Books 2 and 3 more dependent on each other. The stories can be connected, but I think it's essential that they be as self-contained as possible. Maybe that's a bit blunt, but it's not as blunt as what others are bound to say once they show up. ;)
     
  13. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Wow, I don't know why I reacted so harshly to your comment - when I read it again it didn't seem horrible at all! :confused: But now that you've explained yourself more fully, I do agree with you. Thanks for telling me that I'm going against the grain, though, that's nice to know. :p I've just always preferred reading a series, so I just think "why not write one?" Haha.

    Thanks for your input and thoughts on this subject. I will continue to do my trilogy (yes, I'm stubborn) but I will now self-contain it even more than my previous draft. Thanks. :)
     
  14. Thomas Kitchen
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    Wow, I don't know why I reacted so harshly to your comment - when I read it again it didn't seem horrible at all! :confused: But now that you've explained yourself more fully, I do agree with you. Thanks for telling me that I'm going against the grain, though, that's nice to know. :p I've just always preferred reading a series, so I just think "why not write one?" Haha.

    Thanks for your input and thoughts on this subject. I will continue to do my trilogy (yes, I'm stubborn) but I will now self-contain it even more than my previous draft. Thanks. :)
     
  15. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Unfortunately, it's 'not violating the common view of the forum.' It's a publishing deal. If no one believes me, then ask maia, she'll tell you the same thing, and she's experienced, knowledgeable, and dealt with the business many times. She's said, numerous times, about how it's a very bad idea for beginning writers to try to sell a trilogy. In fact, in some ways, it's not even a great idea to write sequels, but we all do it anyway, unless the first sells.

    That just applies to traditional publishing. If you're looking to self-publish, or e-book, then that's your prerogative.

    I'm only being blunt and honest on the subject, and from what I've learned about the business also.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's not just a matter of that 'they like the idea'... it's a matter of good business practice... if a book doesn't fly off the bookshelves and become a bestseller, they're not going to be stupid enough to publish a sequel, are they?... so, what good will a cliffhanger ending do then?

    and unless you're a tom clancy or one of his solid-gold-bestselling-author stature, readers are not going to forgive you for leaving something hanging... they'll want a clear resolution of the plot... so, till you get to be a clancy, be sure to wrap up all elements of the plot in your books, if you want them to have the best chance of being sold... don't ignore the fact that writing is a business, as well as an art form!

    love and hugs, maia
     
  17. Show
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    Well, I don't think publishing deals alone should dictate what one writes. If one wants to write a trilogy, go ahead and write a trilogy. Who knows, upon revision, you might find that it's not three books after all, or even 2. Or you might find that you'll be able to publish it later after you publish a single novel you've yet to write. If you can commit to completing anything, it's never really going to be time wasted. Sure, I wouldn't advise somebody to go think of a trilogy to write but hey, who am I to just tell them to stop one they've already began and are set on finishing? (Especially if it has a first novel that is self-contained and can stand completely on it's own, thus it need not be sold as a trilogy but just a standalone novel.) I understand the arguments against it and they are perfectly valid. But if somebody's set on writing it, let them get the experience of writing it. I think there's a difference between giving a reality check about chances of publication and giving legalistic advise to stop writing something. The OP is writing a trilogy. Period. He's claiming the first novel is standalone. Good. Best we can (should) do is help him make it better. (Like by avoiding unnecessary loose threads.) I say more power to the OP for attempting a trilogy. You'll learn a lot if you can finish it. And at the very least, if what you said is true, you should at least have 1 standalone novel out of it. (maybe more) If you are itching to write something, might as well get it out of you.
     
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  18. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't understand why you'd leave it on a cliffhanger - why would you finish a book when the story is not done? The book must have a self-contained main plot - I'd say some minor loose ends is probably fine but whatever reason and goals the heroes had for the story, that must be resolved.

    Take Catching Fire (2nd book of Hunger Games), which finished on a cliffhanger - the main story was about Katniss being in the game again and about the brewing tension that's fast building into a revolution, and both of these were completed by the book's end. Katniss had finished the game, and the revolution has started - the 2 points of tension that keeps the reader reading have both been resolved, their questions answered. That's the important part.

    My advice is - don't plan a cliffhanger, because then you might be tempted to finish the book before it should be finished, just so you could have your cliffhanger. Simply write until the book comes naturally to a close - and if at that point there still needs to be a 3rd book to make up your trilogy, fine, write the 3rd book. Or if you decide then to split book 2 in half, fine, do it. But for now, don't plan a series - just write the damn thing ;)

    The truth is, when you finish, you might be bored of it and you might no longer want to write a series - and then what will you do, if your 2nd book finishes on a cliffhanger? But if a story is meant to be a series, I believe the books will grow out of the soil that you've ploughed - you would not have "planned" it to be that way, it will naturally grow and become that way.
     
  19. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    I hear you. But that's kind of what I meant by 'like the idea' - I meant 'like' from a business perspective, not a personal preference. If it became the case that series of books with ongoing stories became the best sellers, the publishers would be falling over themselves to publish more of the same, as that would make good business sense.

    However, I have my own story idea to do which is so far outside 'the norms' in so many ways, the only way to make it available to potential readers is to self-publish - no publisher in even half of their right might would consider it. Oh, and cliffhangers, carefully done, are an integral part of it. :D
     
  20. markdienekes
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    markdienekes New Member

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    Oh dear, that's thrown a spanner in the works. I had planned two books and am in the process of editing the first (which is currently sitting at 95,000 words). Nothing is tied up in the first book, though it will be in the second and I am not planning on making it a trilogy. I thought I'd write two as it would prevent me sending off a stupidly long manuscript by an unpublished author to a literary agent/publisher.

    It really can't be done in one, hence the choice to split it into two. I was planning on sending it off in Jan/Feb... perhaps I ought to reconsider then. Damn.
     
  21. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah just send it off as one book - if the publisher deems it appropriate, they will split the book up then. That's what the publishers did to Lord of the Rings - it was originally one big book. It being too long is less of a deterrent than taking the risk of selling an unfinished book that may or may not become a hit.
     
  22. markdienekes
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    markdienekes New Member

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    No worries - being utterly ruthless, I think I could squeeze the essentials of book 2 into about 50k words, and leave some other threads open if needed for a sequel. :)

    Hopefully not too many publishers/agents will be scared off by a 150k manuscript (writing aside, hehe).
     
  23. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    you'd be surprised how squeamish they are to take something over 80-100k from a new author. You might get away with 110k, but 150k will definitely not be good.
     
  24. markdienekes
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    markdienekes New Member

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    I'll just have to hope they like it then, or I might have to set it aside until I'm not a new author (or the last resort of self publish).

    Thanks for this thread, it has been quite informative.
     

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