1. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Cliffhangers

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Thomas Kitchen, Jun 10, 2013.

    This is more of a discussion than an outright question to help me, really, as I have already written my novel the way I want it to be written.

    The question is this: do you, in any of your planned or finished novels, end each chapter with a cliffhanger? I know technically it's always a cliffhanger as you always want the reader to keep reading, but is every chapter you finish action-packed and "eventful"?

    Personally I think it relies on genre a little. For example, writing a thriller would be better, in general, if you made the end of every chapter exciting and enticing the reader to continue on. But in my novel, a journey across a post-apocalyptic land (which isn't a wasteland, by the way), every now and then, after the action-packed scenes have occurred, I want the characters to take a breather and in turn let the reader rest as well - I do this by having the two main characters camp for the night, but obviously we only see them camp a few times.

    What do you think? Does it rely on genre? Or is it simply what the writer prefers and how they want the book to be written? As I said, I'm just curious what everyone else thinks.

    Thanks. :)
     
  2. hippocampus
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    hippocampus Active Member

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    What a coincidence! I was just discussing this very topic with another writer last night. Both of us like it when a chapter ends with a bit of a cliffhanger. However - as a reader - when this happens, I find myself stopping my reading for the night (or whatever) in the middle of the next chapter. Or whenever that particular cliffhanger gets resolved....

    I'm also writing like this. I figure it helps to move the reader along in the story.

    When I read books that end neatly every chapter, I find that I'm inclined to finish at a chapter and pick it up later rather than read on if I was getting even a little tired (or whatever) anyway. I don't want to leave the book during a cliffhanger and I don't have the energy to read a "whole new chapter."
     
  3. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why let the reader rest?

    Just as you said, ending a chapter on a cliffhanger is a method used for keeping the reader interested and in making them want to read on, even if because of tiredness/obligations/impending zombie apocalypse they absolutely have to put the book down. If you're not using a cliffhanger, how are you getting that effect?

    The fact they care about your characters is not, I'd argue, enough. I know of at least, oh, 3 people who care about me, but my days are largely spent writing advertising and making coffee. I'm not convinced they'd keep reading a story about me if that's all that was happening. There needs to be some kind of promise of an Event to come.

    It's also worth remembering that cliffhangers don't have to be of the 'and then I felt a gun muzzle press against the back of my head' variety. You can use emotional tension to provide just as good a hook.
     
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  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Exactly. It could be something as simple as "I didn't think it could get any worse. And then it did."

    The thing is, you want your readers to say, "I loved this book -- I could not put it down! I was up until 3 AM because I needed to finish it." If you give them the opportunity to stop, or an excuse to say, "ok, this is a good place to stop," you're allowing them to put down the book. If there are 14 chapters, you've handed them the easiest excuse to take 2 full weeks to read the book. People don't rush out and tell their friends about a book they could put down or read really slowly. They tell their friends about the books they could not wait to pick up again, that they became obsessed with while they were reading them.
     
  5. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Okay, I worded my question badly. What I mean is, as Nige said, do you end each chapter with "And then I felt a gun muzzle press against the back of my head"? When I said that some of my chapters end with them resting for the night, there is still emotional tension and conflict between the two characters, but do you as a writer feel that this type of cliffhanger is enough, or do you feel much more comfortable writing action-packed ends to chapters?
     
  6. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I have almost no physical action in my stories. There's very little violence or gun action or chase scenes, so all of my 'cliffhangers' would be emotionally-based. I need to break up my m/s into chapters, and my plan is to put in some of this 'microtension' at the end of each chapter. I'll see how it works out. I just know, that as a reader, the books I really like are the ones where I say to myself, "Okay, just one more chapter..."
     
  7. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's interesting. Do you mean you've written 100,000 words (or so) and now you have to go back over a break it up into chapters?
     
  8. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yup. I just sat and wrote it. The editing is the real killer.
     
  9. hippocampus
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    hippocampus Active Member

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    For me, this wouldn't be enough to keep me engaged. I too would want to rest for the night! :D
     
  10. Rebel Yellow
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    Rebel Yellow Active Member

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    Tension shouldn't be present only at the end of your chapters, but throughout the novel. As long as you carefully layer conflict in your novel, you won't need to manufacture cliffhangers.
     
  11. maskedhero
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    maskedhero Active Member

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    Not always. Sometimes finishing a section will make you want to know what is next, even when it doesn't have something juicy attached. I use multiple POV's, so each time you change chapter, you flip viewpoints. I don't always leave the character on the edge of a cliff, but I do try to leave them with a problem, unresolved, or a realization that hits them, in some way.
     
  12. Dean Blake
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    Dean Blake Member

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    For fiction stories, I've heard it's always good to end a chapter with a type of cliffhanger, no matter what the genre. Harry Potter does it for instance, and novels that don't really have much action such as Franzen's "Freedom" and Murakami's "1Q84" end their chapters with cliffhangers.
     
  13. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    This is what I was thinking.

    To answer you question yes. There is always something at the beginning to hook the reader and something at the end to leave them wanting more. It doesn't always have to be an intense action scene it can be emotional tension as well. If you write good characters that people like they will be invested and want to know more asap!
     

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