A Good Cliffhanger Vs. An Incomplete Story

Some readers love them. Some readers despise them. But I think we can all agree they make us want to read more. The primary reason some hate these little gems is that they have to wait a year for the next book to come out. That can be easily remedied by waiting for all of the books to be published before buying them, if you can resist the temptation. Personally, I find it necessary to end series’ books with cliffhangers if the author wants me to continue reading. But it has to be done correctly.

I recently finished reading a book—a romance—that frustrated me to no end. Why? Because it did not contain a cliffhanger, nor did it resolve the plot. It was simply an unfinished story. Had I paid money for it I would have been demanding a refund, but having been a free download I couldn’t complain. But I also can’t get back the time I invested. What is really sad about this is that it was actually a pretty good book. And well written by an indie author. There was so much potential but it fell flat.

A cliffhanger is not simply an unfinished story or a “to be continued.” In a book, whether it is a series or not, the ending should resolve the major plot, if not some of the subplots. If there is no resolution, I consider it to be incomplete. A cliffhanger comes into play after the resolution when the author throws in a twist. The Maze Runner is a good example of this. The boys (and girl) escape the maze (the major plot), but find that the world they are escaping to has been infected by a virus that turned the population into insane zombies, and we, the readers, learn that phase two of the trials is about to commence. In Catching Fire, Katniss survives the Quarter Quell, only to learn that Peeta did not get rescued and she is being taken to district 13. In Fall of Venus (shameless plug!), Pollen rescued Evie and escaped, only to arrive at the research center and learn the future mission to colonize a neighboring planet.

Sorry for the rant, but I needed to get this out. With NaNoWriMo only days away, people all over the world will be writing novels. If you are one of them, please be sure to resolve your plot before you throw in a cliffhanger. Your readers will thank you.

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About Daelynn Quinn

I'm an author, artist, and mother to three crazy little boys. I feel at home in nature, especially amongst trees. Writing and painting are two of my intense passions, sometimes accompanied by a box of wine. And I have a Monty Python sense of humor. Albatross!
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