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What is a cliffhanger?

robberhands

I looked into some dictionary definitions of the term 'cliffhanger' but it didn't really help to answer my question.

The first time someone complained to me about the cliffhanger endings of a chapter I submitted, I replied that since I don't write a serial but a story delivered in chapters, he'd never encounter a cliffhanger, only unfortunate chapter breaks.

Surprisingly, my sophisticated reply didn't help much either. Some readers still keep complaining. Even my traitorous editor often claims my chapters end on cliffhangers.

So I hope a discussion in this forum aboout the meaning of the term cliffhanger will make things clear to me ... Yeah, I know, it's most unlikely, but at least I hope it will be entertaining.

Switch Blayde

@robberhands

As the name implies, it's leaving the reader "hanging from a cliff." It's from the old movie serials. One could end with a car literally hanging from a cliff.

It's basically leaving the reader in suspense. But to the extreme.

Replies:   robberhands
REP

@robberhands

One of the better known Cliffhangers was Perils of Pauline. It was filmed in the days of silent movies. Each week a new installment was released to the movie theaters. The installments typically ended with Pauline in some form of danger.

Stories have a main plot and can have multiple subplots. The main plot is obviously spread across all of the story's chapters. The subplots can span two or more chapters. We authors like to end our chapters with some type of plot/subplot drama that will entice the reader to read the next chapter.

robberhands

@Switch Blayde

So you'd agree with me, since no one was ever in dire peril at the end of a chapter I submitted, I never ended a chapter with a cliffhanger?

Switch Blayde

@robberhands

So you'd agree with me, since no one was ever in dire peril at the end of a chapter I submitted, I never ended a chapter with a cliffhanger?


Yes, I agree. It's the conflict that keeps readers reading. There's always a main one outstanding. The reader keeps reading to find out if the protagonist will succeed or fail. That's not a cliffhanger. That's the plot's conflict.

Depending on the length of a story, you also have sub-conflicts. One is resolved and another pops up. Again, it's what makes the story interesting and keeps the reader reading.

IMO, the only time a cliffhanger is annoying to a reader is if the next chapter isn't available and they have to wait. That was the case with the movie serials. You see it sometimes in a TV episode, sometimes the last of the season.

I used to write comic scripts. There are multiple panels (the boxes) on each page. The last one typically is a cliffhanger to get the reader to turn the page.

Replies:   StarFleet Carl
Ross at Play

@robberhands

I don't write a serial but a story delivered in chapters

Any story "delivered in chapters" is a serial.
If you leave major issues unresolved at the end of chapters and make readers wait for the resolution, they are going to feel manipulated.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@REP

We authors like to end our chapters with some type of plot/subplot drama that will entice the reader to read the next chapter.

Of course, as an author I want my readers to be eagerly awaiting the next chapter of my story. So some amount of suspense has to be created, but does succesfully eliciting anticipation already justify to apply the term cliffhanger to a chapter ending?

robberhands

@Ross at Play

Any story "delivered in chapters" is a serial.

Once it's completed it will be just a story. So do you mean, people reading during its progress are reading a serial but people reading it when it's completed are reading a story, although they are reading the same tale?

If you leave major issues unresolved at the end of chapters and make readers wait for the resolution, they are going to feel manipulated.

Since the major conflict of a story usually doesn't get resolved before it's end, 'manipulating' readers seems unavoidable when you publish a story in parts.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@robberhands

but does successfully eliciting anticipation already justify to apply the term cliffhanger to a chapter ending?

I'd agree that 'creating anticipation' is generally a good thing - but it can be overdone.

It appears you are overdoing it when, in your words, 'some readers still keep complaining' and 'my traitorous editor often claims ...'

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Ross at Play

It appears you are overdoing it when, in your words, 'some readers still keep complaining' and 'my traitorous editor often claims ...'

Actually, my editor praises cliffhanger endings. He views them as one of the great writing tools of an author.

Ross at Play

@robberhands

Once it's completed it will be just a story. So do you mean, people reading during its progress are reading a serial but people reading it when it's completed are reading a story, although they are reading the same tale?

I meant precisely that.

Since the major conflict of a story usually doesn't get resolved before it's end, 'manipulating' readers seems unavoidable when you publish a story in parts.

I doubt any readers would comment on the 'major conflict of [your] story' being left unresolved at the end of chapters. I suggest that enough people have made the same comment for you simply should accept their assessment is valid.

Replies:   robberhands
Ross at Play

@robberhands

Actually, my editor praises cliffhanger endings. He views them as one of the great writing tools of an author.

In novels, I'm inclined to agree. In serials, they can annoy readers.

robberhands

@Ross at Play

I doubt any readers would comment on the 'major conflict of [your] story' being left unresolved at the end of chapters.

I concede the point.

I suggest that enough people have made the same comment for you simply should accept their assessment is valid.

That's a rather dubious suggestion. How many complaints are enough to verify a complaint is valid? Compared to, how few complaints are not enough to prove their validity?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@robberhands

Actually, my editor praises cliffhanger endings. He views them as one of the great writing tools of an author.


While many readers regard them as the most used tool of the poor writer because they feel the only way to keep the reader interested it to be leaving an unfinished action at that point.

In modern writing the term cliff hanger is used to refer to where you start an action right at the end of a chapter, then continue the action in the next chapter or a later chapter. Wes Boyd's Snowplow Extra has a lot of cliff hangers in it where the action is left to a later chapter, read it for some classic examples.

Each chapter is supposed to be complete in itself in regards to the minor actions and activities within it, and having it end in the middle of an active scene violates that concept. This doesn't mean the main conflict or sub-plot conflicts have to be finished within the chapter, but the scene has to be completed within the chapter.

The typical type of cliffhanger you see today is chapter 3 will be about something happening at Place A, the action there finishes and the main character leaves Place A to go to Place B so he gets in his car drives down the street, and a car pulls out of another spot to race at his while people shoot at him from the car - end of chapter. The next chapter may pick up the scene or it may switch to another character doing something else, and when you come back to the car chase scene it picks up right from where the other chapter ended and continues on.

In the situation above the way most good authors do that is to have the chapter end with the main character getting into his car to close out the first chapter, the events after the main character starts the car are part of the chapter with the car chase.

If you have the start of a scene in one chapter and the end of the scene in another chapter it simply shows you made a chapter break where you shouldn't have, so you split a single chapter in two.

While cliffhangers split between consecutive chapters in a completed story may not be very annoying while reading the full story, posting the story a bit at a time with them will annoy a lot of readers who will dump the story at the second cliffhanger regardless of how much they like the rest of it. Also, cliff hangers in non-consecutive chapters will often see a story dumped as soon as it's seen.

The other thing to keep in mind is only a very small percentage of readers will actually write to the author to complain about something, most will simply dump the story if they don't like something, or they'll score it low.

Dominions Son

@robberhands

So you'd agree with me, since no one was ever in dire peril at the end of a chapter I submitted, I never ended a chapter with a cliffhanger?


No, a cliffhanger doesn't require a life or death situation, that's just where the term comes from.

If you end a chapter in the middle of a scene with on-going immediate conflict, even if it's not life or death, that is a cliffhanger.

For example, if you have a romance and you end a chapter with the male and female leads in the middle of a major argument that might end the relationship, that counts as a cliffhanger.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
robberhands

@Ernest Bywater

The other thing to keep in mind is only a very small percentage of readers will actually write to the author to complain about something, most will simply dump the story if they don't like something, or they'll score it low.

I keep that in mind. However, according to the rest of your statement, I never ended a chapter on a cliffhanger. So I assume some readers -my editor included- use a much wider interpretation of the term 'cliffhanger'. Personally, it seems to me if they don't fall asleep at the end of a chapter, they call it a cliffhanger.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
awnlee jawking

@robberhands

So you'd agree with me, since no one was ever in dire peril at the end of a chapter I submitted, I never ended a chapter with a cliffhanger?


It's not only dire peril, it's any situation which leaves the reader wanting to know the outcome of an event. For example, ending a chapter with one character asking another to marry them, leaving the reader in suspense as to the answer.

AJ

Replies:   Switch Blayde
awnlee jawking

@robberhands

but does succesfully eliciting anticipation already justify to apply the term cliffhanger to a chapter ending?


If a chapter doesn't elicit any anticipation, the story must be pretty boring. However I think there's a subjective quality to deciding whether the anticipation rates as a cliffhanger.

AJ

Replies:   robberhands
awnlee jawking

@Ernest Bywater

Also, cliff hangers in non-consecutive chapters will often see a story dumped as soon as it's seen.


Unless it's 'Game of Thrones', where the author on occasion keeps the reader on tenterhooks for whole books until a cliffhanger is resolved.

AJ

robberhands

@awnlee jawking

However I think there's a subjective quality to deciding whether the anticipation rates as a cliffhanger

Since even the people who delight in complaining about cliffhangers don't always share an opinion on what constitutes a cliffhanger, I tend to agree with you.

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

Each chapter is supposed to be complete in itself in regards to the minor actions and activities within it, and having it end in the middle of an active scene violates that concept.


Unless the POV changes at that point in a 3rd-limited multiple story. I did that in my first novel.

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

with the male and female leads in the middle of a major argument


And that's not a live and death situation for the guy? LOL

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

It's not only dire peril, it's any situation which leaves the reader wanting to know the outcome of an event.


In the draft of my first novel, I ended a chapter with the cop staking out a church. I thought it would be good suspense. It was too good. My Beta reader skimmed through the next chapter because she wanted to know why he was there. I ended up providing that information earlier in the published version.

REP
Updated:

@robberhands


since no one was ever in dire peril at the end of a chapter


Dire peril wasn't necessary. Some form of risk or hazard was. The villain showing up at the end of the installment to seize the family estate was the danger in some cases.

ETA: I'm referencing the early cliffhangers in the silent films. The definition has evolved as evidenced by the former posts.

Dominions Son

@REP

I'm referencing the early cliffhangers in the silent films. The definition has evolved as evidenced by the former posts.


I thought it started with the radio serials, but then there's a lot of temporal overlap in the early history of silent films and radio.

Replies:   REP
Switch Blayde

I just saw the season finale of the TV show "Designated Survivor."

It ended with a cliffhanger (as they all do).

richardshagrin

A Hangman who only hangs guys named Cliff.

StarFleet Carl

@Switch Blayde

You see it sometimes in a TV episode, sometimes the last of the season.


One of the most (in)famous versions of that was in the TV series 'Dallas'. Who shot J.R. was a huge topic at the time, and what ended up making the practice of cliffhangers at the end of a season popular.

For those too young, this was back in 1980, when we didn't have a lot of channels to watch - and I was still in college but living at home, so I didn't get a lot of choice on my TV selection, either. We could pick up all of five channels on our antenna ...

Replies:   Capt. Zapp
Capt. Zapp

@StarFleet Carl

Who shot J.R. ... ended up making the practice of cliffhangers at the end of a season popular.


Seasons lasted a bit longer back then too

We could pick up all of five channels on our antenna ...


Must have been a metropolitan area. We only got three channels and had to turn the antenna depending on which station we wanted!

The sad thing is, back then there was always something good on and you had to decide which show you REALLY wanted to watch. Now, there are hundreds of channels with not much of anything worth watching.

Ernest Bywater

@robberhands

If you have a scene that starts in the chapter but doesn't end within the chapter it's a cliff hanger - it's that simple. All scenes started in the chapter are to be finished by the end of the chapter.

robberhands

@Ernest Bywater

All scenes started in the chapter are to be finished by the end of the chapter.

Where can I find that rule? In a weighty tome titled 'The Law of Story Writing'?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@robberhands

Where can I find that rule?


It's in all of the How to write books and classes about how to write a good document or story. It's right in there with the stuff on using good grammar.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Ernest Bywater

It's in all of the How to write books and classes about how to write a good document or story.

That's strange. I googled the rule and couldn't find it anywhere.

Replies:   Capt. Zapp
REP

@Dominions Son

I thought it started with the radio serials


I don't know where it started, but I do recall the radio serials. I don't recall them that clearly, but I do recall reruns of the silent movies.

Replies:   StarFleet Carl
Capt. Zapp

@robberhands

@Ernest Bywater
All scenes started in the chapter are to be finished by the end of the chapter.
@robberhands
Where can I find that rule?


@Ernest Bywater
It's in all of the How to write books and classes about how to write a good document or story.

That's strange. I googled the rule and couldn't find it anywhere.


While I could not find any references to not use cliffhangers, I did find references on how to write them, including this one from stratemeyer.org:

In the first part of this exploration of the Stratemeyer Syndicate's "Formula for Outlines," comparisons are made with the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) goals of 50,000 words in 30 days.

The second part described the evolution of Syndicate outlines provided to its ghostwriters.

Here we can consider the details of the outlines, including ways to build suspense with "cliffhanger" chapter endings of various types and how the Syndicate spread them throughout a story.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
StarFleet Carl

@REP

I don't know where it started, but I do recall the radio serials. I don't recall them that clearly, but I do recall reruns of the silent movies.


Comics used to do that, too.

Ending a written chapter in a serial to leave people in suspense apparently started with Dickens. The actual term of cliffhanger was from an author who literally left a character hanging from a cliff in his serial. But (and this is what I thought) it really came into popular use with silent films (which predated radio serials).

Replies:   PotomacBob
awnlee jawking

@Capt. Zapp

While I could not find any references to not use cliffhangers, I did find references on how to write them


A quick google search for advice on how to divide stories/novels into chapters found different sources provided contradictory advice.

From a statistically small sample, I got the impression that more sources advocated finishing chapters on a cliffhanger (so the reader is compelled to start the next chapter) than advocated finishing chapters on a lull (so readers have a convenient point to come back to after going outside and fucking the goat).

By contrast, the dead-tree novels I read end most chapters on a lull, with perhaps only one or two chapters near the end finishing with cliffhangers as the story's main conflict approaches its resolution.

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@REP

Stories have a main plot and can have multiple subplots. The main plot is obviously spread across all of the story's chapters. The subplots can span two or more chapters. We authors like to end our chapters with some type of plot/subplot drama that will entice the reader to read the next chapter.

An important point (this isn't directed at you, REP), is that the typical way to avoid the problem of 'cliffhangers' is to resolve the subplot issues immediately, rather than leaving the reader in suspense.

An example of this, taken from one of my own stories, is I had a character attacked in his own house. The chapter ended with him defeating his opponent (by shattering his knee, thus ending his promising football career), just before a chair (thrown by his attacker) breaks over his head.

That scene is not a cliffhanger, because the scene brought up in that chapter is resolved, though it raises a new issue, because readers don't know whether the chapter survived the attack or not (they're essentially two separate issues, not a continuation of the one threat).

That's a good example of 'defusing' a potential cliffhanger, while still providing a reason to keep your readers reading.

Also, care must be taken on a site like SOL, since a 'continuous story' is often posted once a week/month/every couple of months), thus readers are not able to keep reading as easily as they could in a published book.

Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

That's a rather dubious suggestion. How many complaints are enough to verify a complaint is valid? Compared to, how few complaints are not enough to prove their validity?

This gets a little dicey, as it's not so much 'how many complain', but precisely how to leave the reader hanging. Thus it's less about the specific number of complaints, but about the complaints themselves. If you're getting complaints, it means that readers are feeling manipulated. Given that there's generally a 3% feedback ratio (i.e. only 3% of SOL readers to respond to any story issue), you generally have to multiple each complaint by 97% to get a more realistic estimate to just how many readers are feeling manipulated.

But getting specifically to Switch's point, no one would read a story where the main conflict was resolved within the first chapter, so readers expect the main conflict to continue. They also expect new subplots to develop, so spinning off a new concern based on what happens in a given chapter isn't a problem. What is a problem, is leaving readers expecting a resolution to a specific problem, but then not delivering on it when you've led them to expect it.

Is that a 'fuzzy' enough answer for you?

Crumbly Writer

@REP

I'm referencing the early cliffhangers in the silent films. The definition has evolved as evidenced by the former posts.

Note: the term 'cliffhanger' didn't originate in silent movies, instead it was originally coined in reference to the weekly/monthly magazine where they'd run stories which ended dramatically mid-scene, expected you to wait and THEN pay more money to find out how the scene ended.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

If you have a scene that starts in the chapter but doesn't end within the chapter it's a cliff hanger - it's that simple. All scenes started in the chapter are to be finished by the end of the chapter.

That's the definition of 'episodic chapters', where chapters are defined by specific 'episodes' (rather than the streaming 'day-in-the-life' chapters many newbie authors tend to write). If you create a scene in a chapter, you resolve the scene before you switch to a new chapter, thus each chapter represents a new scene, even if that one episode lasts more than a single day.

The best way to avoid cliffhangers is to refine how you formulate your chapters, focusing on this 'episodic' approach rather than just writing until something 'naturally' resolves itself.

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

From a statistically small sample, I got the impression that more sources advocated finishing chapters on a cliffhanger (so the reader is compelled to start the next chapter) than advocated finishing chapters on a lull (so readers have a convenient point to come back to after going outside and fucking the goat).

Again, it's not so clear cut. As long as you resolve the central 'episode' within the one chapter, you're largely in the clear, however you don't need to end 'on a lull'. Instead, you relate how the action applies to the larger conflict and/or split it off into a new threat with a new subplot (in my previous example, with the character being treated in an ambulance while he's delusional and unsure what's happening, and reader are left wondering what his medical prognosis will be).

In that example, the first episode is the initial fight, which gets resolved, while the second episode is whether he'll survive, which is addressed in a separate chapter. In none of those chapters does the story ever resolve why he was attacked, or how to solve the conflict between the two individuals, as that's a larger story conflict.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

That scene is not a cliffhanger, because the scene brought up in that chapter is resolved, though it raises a new issue, because readers don't know whether the chapter survived the attack or not


Leaving a chapter with unanswered questions is what you must do, but those don't have to be cliffhangers.

But your example is a cliffhanger. Why is that different from a character dangling from a cliff and may die?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play
Updated:

I'm wondering here what is the greater "sin", any needless cause of irritation to readers.

I'd agree that the usual practice is to avoid chapter breaks in the middle of a scene, but I doubt I'd be too fussed if an author does not do that - provided I can turn the page and continue reading.

However, I would feel manipulated if an author had MC hanging over the edge of a metaphorical cliff - and I then learn I'll have to wait a week, or whatever, until the next installment was posted to find out what happens.

I think I'd rather authors avoided that by making a blog post stating, "This week's chapter has been delayed," and then posting two chapters the following week.

Replies:   AmigaClone
Uther_Pendragon

@robberhands

I'm not sure it's a bad thing.
OTOH, you need to have chapters which have some cohesion.
Going from resolving one conflict to establishing another in every chapter is probably cheating.

BlacKnight

@Crumbly Writer

That scene is not a cliffhanger, because the scene brought up in that chapter is resolved, though it raises a new issue, because readers don't know whether the chapter survived the attack or not (they're essentially two separate issues, not a continuation of the one threat).


That is the very definition of a cliffhanger.

Basically, a cliffhanger is the technique of ending an installment with the reader kept in suspense - in an immediate sense, not just over the final resolution of the overarching plot of the story - often about something that was only just presented to them.

Michael Louecks has a habit of doing this in his AWLL series, with small ones often at the end of chapters, and large ones at the end of books. At the end of a chapter, someone will say or do something surprising, and we have to wait until the next day to see how it shakes out. The end-of-book ones are generally the main conflict for the next book being introduced, and we're often left wondering not just how it'll be resolved but what exactly happened and to whom. Want to find out? Read the next book!

(I'm actually not a fan of those, because the gap between books is too long. By the time the next book is actually available to read, the suspense has worn off and I've pretty much forgotten about the cliffhanger. When the next book starts posting, it's not, "Oo, I get to see what happened!", it's, "What was happening again? Oh, right. That.")

Cliffhangers have been used in serials forever, as a technique to keep the audience coming back. (Or, in 1001 Nights, to keep the audience from killing the storyteller.) They're not intrinsically bad, though they can get annoying when handled ham-handedly.

My favorite example of how not to cliffhanger is from a Dan Brown novel. A main character boards a helicopter that's going to take her to meet with the President, and then the chapter ends with an ominous, "... but the helicopter would never arrive at the White House." (Quoted from memory, may not be exact.)

And then the PoV switches to the other main character for a while. When we finally get back to the first character, we discover that the reason that the helicopter doesn't arrive at the White House is that it wasn't going to the White House. The character was meeting the President somewhere else. This was the plan all along, nothing untoward occurred with the helicopter flight, and that line was included solely to set up a completely artificial cliffhanger.

awnlee jawking

@BlacKnight

My favorite example of how not to cliffhanger is from a Dan Brown novel. A main character boards a helicopter that's going to take her to meet with the President, and then the chapter ends with an ominous, "... but the helicopter would never arrive at the White House."


James Patterson uses the same 'technique'. It sucks majorly. :(

AJ

AmigaClone

@Ross at Play


I think I'd rather authors avoided that by making a blog post stating, "This week's chapter has been delayed," and then posting two chapters the following week


Or you could wait until the story is completely posted to start reading it.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

In my novel LAST KISS, the protagonist crawls to his girlfriend after she's thrown from the car after an accident, holds her bloodied body, gives her a kiss, and blacks out.

There are a lot of unanswered questions, but I don't consider that a cliffhanger.

The next chapter starts with him waking up in the hospital.

ETA: Now if the chapter had ended with the car about to crash into the stalled car and his girlfriend screaming, that's a cliffhanger.

Ross at Play

@AmigaClone

Or you could wait until the story is completely posted to start reading it.

I already do that. That's why my comment had the hypothetical wording 'I think I'd rather ...', instead of 'I prefer ...'

I was just running an idea up a flagpole. The author appears to be resistant to changing their writing style. I thought this might reduce the irritation some readers feel without any need to change their writing style.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

But your example is a cliffhanger. Why is that different from a character dangling from a cliff and may die?

Let's put it this way, there are ways to minimize the effects of potential cliffhangers, but the key is to always resolve the central conflict. If you introduce a separate conflict, which is only explored in a separate episodic chapter, it's a separate component which is addressed after the main chapter conflict has been resolved.

That approach offers the benefits of a cliffhanger, without violating requirement that you resolve conflicts dealt with in a given episode/chapter.

By the way, this is not an approach I've used often, as the example referenced was from early in my writing career, but I still typically end on crisis, but highlighting how it introduces a new unresolved and unaddressed conflict.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@BlacKnight

My favorite example of how not to cliffhanger is from a Dan Brown novel. A main character boards a helicopter that's going to take her to meet with the President, and then the chapter ends with an ominous, "... but the helicopter would never arrive at the White House." (Quoted from memory, may not be exact.)

That's the same technique used for a full season on Dallas, where they ended with an 'it was ALL a dream' episode, that essentially said, 'never mind, we were only kidding about the entire last season.

An author either believes in his story, or he's willing to do anything at all to promote his story. If they're unwilling to stand up for what was said in a story, I'd never read another word. (By the way, I'd quit watching Dallas a long time before the 'Who shot JR episode' ever took place.)

Crumbly Writer

@AmigaClone

Or you could wait until the story is completely posted to start reading it.

A cliffhanger of a couple years is worse than one of a single year, is worse than one of a month, is worse than one of a couple days, but in each case, the readers feel manipulated.

If I stayed up long after my normal bedtime, reading chapter after chapter trying to find out what happened, only to discover that 'nothing happened', I'd burn the book!

In my example of an alternative, I was introducing a new conflict, not keeping the existing one going. It's the same thing I typically do when a MC is attacked, they defend themselves, but are then left wondering WHY they were attacked. That's not leaving the initial conflict unresolved (i.e. continuing the action into another chapter), it's instead creating a new subplot, which then needs to be investigated to determine what happened.

@Switch

In my novel LAST KISS, the protagonist crawls to his girlfriend after she's thrown from the car after an accident, holds her bloodied body, gives her a kiss, and blacks out.

There are a lot of unanswered questions, but I don't consider that a cliffhanger.

That's the exact same thing I did in my example, the one you objected to. In the chapter in question, the character gets knocked unconscious, and in the next chapter, we find he's being rushed to the hospital in a delirious state, unable to figure out what the various bits of information he's picking up mean.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I was just running an idea up a flagpole. The author appears to be resistant to changing their writing style. I thought this might reduce the irritation some readers feel without any need to change their writing style.

If he's getting repeated complaints from readers, assuming the 3% rule, it's probably a good idea to advise his readers that the story does contain cliffhangers and, if that bothers them, to not read the story until it's complete. That's akin to tagging a story with a 'cliffhanger' tag, so readers are warned before they start reading.

PotomacBob

@StarFleet Carl

apparently started with Dickens.


Which work of Dickens?

Replies:   StarFleet Carl
robberhands

@Crumbly Writer

If he's getting repeated complaints from readers, assuming the 3% rule, it's probably a good idea to advise his readers that the story does contain cliffhangers and, if that bothers them, to not read the story until it's complete. That's akin to tagging a story with a 'cliffhanger' tag, so readers are warned before they start reading.

How much would you value the critique of someone who didn't read your story and still feels inclined to give advice to your readers?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

How much would you value the critique of someone who didn't read your story and still feels inclined to give advice to your readers?

I don't understand your criticism of my statement. Did you misunderstand my 3% (only 3% of readers will comment on a story), the cautioning of readers over objectionable material, or targeting readers who'll never read the story in the first place (i.e. people who don't like cliffhangers)? In either case, I never said anything about targeting someone who wouldn't read a story, just giving readers a 'heads up' that the story unfolding weekly contains cliffhangers (which would be easier to handle once the story is completed).

Geez, you can twist ANY statement way out of context!

Replies:   robberhands
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

it's a separate component which is addressed after the main chapter conflict has been resolved.


Except when the main conflict is resolved the story is over. Unless the conflict in Chapter 1 isn't the main conflict, as with my STEELE JUSTICE novel.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

That's the exact same thing I did in my example, the one you objected to. In the chapter in question, the character gets knocked unconscious, and in the next chapter, we find he's being rushed to the hospital in a delirious state


You said it was a life and death blow to the head. My guy just blacked out.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
robberhands

@Crumbly Writer

I opened this thread with the question 'what is a cliffhanger'? I stated some people complain about cliffhangers in my story, whereas I don't think I ever wrote a chapter ending with a cliffhanger. So how do you come to the conclusion I use cliffhangers without to know the story?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
StarFleet Carl

@PotomacBob

Which work of Dickens?


The Old Curiosity Shop.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/03/serial-thriller/309235/

Before the arrival of the 40th and final installment of The Old Curiosity Shop, in 1841, American readers of the series were forced to wait. And wait. And wait—not just for Charles Dickens to finish his story, but for his completed work to cross the Atlantic. When the ship bearing the resolution of the series finally docked in New York, a mob desperate to learn the fate of the tale's protagonist, Little Nell, stormed the wharf. The ensuing scene would make a modern-day publisher swoon: a band of readers passionately demanding to learn how the story ends.

The Old Curiosity Shop owed its narrative power not just to the genius of Dickens but also to a certain type of ending: the cliffhanger.

Replies:   PotomacBob
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Except when the main conflict is resolved the story is over. Unless the conflict in Chapter 1 isn't the main conflict, as with my STEELE JUSTICE novel.

Sorry, I meant the main chapter conflict, once again assuming we're dealing with episodic chapters.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

You said it was a life and death blow to the head. My guy just blacked out.

If it was a 'life or death blow', the story would be over, however the next chapter unfolds. I meant that the readers don't know what will happen to the MC, though he doesn't land in the ambulance until the next chapter.

The chapter doesn't continue the current conflict, it merely introduces a new conflict in a last few lines, without outlining exactly what it is. In that case, it's more of a 'teaser' line.

Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

I opened this thread with the question 'what is a cliffhanger'? I stated some people complain about cliffhangers in my story, whereas I don't think I ever wrote a chapter ending with a cliffhanger. So how do you come to the conclusion I use cliffhangers without to know the story?

You said that, even after denying your write cliffhangers to your readers, several continue to complain. Using my 3% figure (for those who communicate vs. the readers who don't) I'm saying those 'few people' might represent a LOT of people. Your assuming that it's simply a couple who don't know the difference is a risky assumption. If you have dissatisfied readers, it may represent a bigger problem than you're ready to admit.

Replies:   robberhands
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

tagging a story with a 'cliffhanger' tag

Are there really that many stories about people having sex in dangerous locations to justify the site adding yet another tag?

Replies:   awnlee jawking
robberhands

@Crumbly Writer

Your assuming that it's simply a couple who don't know the difference is a risky assumption. If you have dissatisfied readers, it may represent a bigger problem than you're ready to admit.

I'm assuming no such thing. I'm not even assuming that the people complaining about cliffhangers are dissatisfied readers.

Here are some comments regarding the infamous cliffhangers in my story:

"Ugh I love and hate his cliffhangers, I am so looking forward to the upcoming chapters!"

"Robberhands, with a cliff hanger like that your tardiness will be forgiven."

"Right as everyone is to meet in the room... Aiyeee right over the chapter break. Cheerio wait 4 days... Unfortunate chapter break indeed. :)"

"The story? Excellent. ... the suspense? Could do without ;-) I just have to make it to Saturday. ...goals are good, right?"

"More than cliffhangers I like suspense & humor in tales. If it is well-written enough a tale becomes so addictive that any chapter ending becomes a cliffhanger – until the next posting ;-) "

"Another cliff-hanger, and then you tell us that we don't get to find out what happens until January 2. I think Mr. Kringle is going to leave a lump of coal in your stocking for that."

"I have to sit here with bated breath (how do you bate your breath?) for a few days now waiting for the next installment. Great work Robberhands! grrrr"

I've also readers complaining about too short chapters and readers complaining about too infrequent new chapters. I'll start worrying when they stop complaining because it all means the same; they want to read more.

Replies:   Michael Loucks
Michael Loucks

@BlacKnight

(I'm actually not a fan of those, because the gap between books is too long. By the time the next book is actually available to read, the suspense has worn off and I've pretty much forgotten about the cliffhanger. When the next book starts posting, it's not, "Oo, I get to see what happened!", it's, "What was happening again? Oh, right. That.")


If I could write faster, I would, but I also like to have a book done before I post. :-) I totally get your point, and you aren't the first one to make it.

I'll offer one counterpoint - that the entire corpus is nearly 7,000,000 words. Anyone who starts reading now gets resolution to seventeen book-ending cliffhangers by simply clicking the next story. :-)

And, TBH, there are several books that don't end with cliffhangers, including Book 10 of AWLL1. So the overall series doesn't have a cliffhanger (though it has many unresolved plot arcs).

Michael Loucks

@robberhands

I've also readers complaining about too short chapters and readers complaining about too infrequent new chapters. I'll start worrying when they stop complaining because it all means the same; they want to read more.


When NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt was asked about fans booing him, he replied that he didn't mind if they cheered or booed, but when they were silent, THEN it would be time to hang it up and go home.

Replies:   JohnBobMead
awnlee jawking
Updated:

@Ross at Play

Why stop at cliffhangers? Let's have tags for wallpaperhangers, clotheshangers and aircrafthangers too. They could all be gamechangers ;)

AJ

JohnBobMead

@Michael Loucks

Yep, doesn't matter if you are a face or a heel, so long as people react to your presence.

And people definitely reacted to Dale's presence!

PotomacBob

@StarFleet Carl

Thanks for the answer!

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