Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cliffhangers: Love 'em or Hate 'em

When I realize that the book I'm reading has a cliffhanger ending I immediately think of that moment in Lord of the Rings where Frodo goes over the edge in Mordor after Gollum dies.... you know the one, this one.

Just like that, usually I'm screaming too, okay and sometimes I'm crying. How could the author leave me hanging like that? How could they get my emotions all wound up and leave them that way? How could they leave me on the edge of a cliff with the unknown staring me in the face? WHY? (usually the why part is cried out like a banshee) How dare they, I want more!!! I have to know what happens!

Yes these are all questions and statements that fly, both, through my head and out of my mouth at the realization that the book I'm reading is a cliffhanger. At this point I immediately message the author and let them know what a terrible state they left me in, they in turn laugh wickedly and say good. Okay, so not all of them do, but most of them. They do find a certain level of enjoyment in my torture. And of course I just come back for more. I am right there waiting, begging, and pleading for the next book to come out.

I think I am more on edge as I wait for the next book in the installment than from the actual cliffhanger ending. The wait is agony, absolute pure torture of the worst kind, but I wait for the author to drop me another bread crumb in the story like it's my life blood. Like it is the only thing that will keep me going.

There is just something about the cliffhanger that makes you want more, yearn for more, NEED more. That's their job, that's what a cliffhanger is supposed to do... make you want more.

And that's why I love them.

I love it when an author masterfully builds up the ending like a volcano ready to rupture and just as the volcano ruptures and everyone's life hangs in the balance they end it. Leaving me on the cusp of the unknown. Of course this doesn't mean I like them to just end it. No I like them to give me a little closure with that cliffhanger ending, I need something to make me feel that the journey was all worth it.

The other day I was cruising, okay stalking Facebook when an author I follow asked the question whether or not we liked cliffhanger endings. I loved the thread and of course commented, sharing my love of them with everyone. Naturally that got me thinking about my own friends, do they love them or hate them? So I asked. I put it out there for the Facebook world to debate... my Facebook world anyways. And you know what I found?

I found that most people have a love hate relationship with them with the reason being....

"I love them because it makes me look really forward for the next one but hate them because I have to wait for the next one." -Megan
This was the most common answer and at first it was pretty much the only answer, but then I got this...

"Love/hate because above. I would add though some use cliff hangers badly and don't really make me want to read the next book. It's like using a semicolon, used right it can be transcendent but used wrong it can be not just superfluous but mundane and amateur." -Debi
Perfect! I think this is the perfect way to look at a cliffhanger ending. If done right it is a beautiful thing, when done wrong it's just stupid. What do you think? Is there a right and wrong way to do a cliffhanger?

Not every book needs a cliffhanger to make you want to read the next one, but they do need to give you something that makes you want to continue the journey. As author Jacob Gowans pointed out in our discussion, Harry Potter 1 and 2 did this nicely. It didn't leave us completely on the edge of our seat, it resolved the issue facing Harry in that immediate moment, but it didn't solve the major story. And that's why you kept reading. Harry Potter had a bigger picture to keep you coming back for more. 

But I remember a time when not everything ending so happily ever after. I remember when season finale's of TV shows used to end in an actual cliffhanger, often times with a characters life in the balance and you would have to wait until the next season to find out what happens! *gasp* Imagine if shows actually did this still... now imagine you having to wait to see if Derek survives the shooting in Seattle Grey's Hospital at the end of the season 6 of Grey's Anatomy, instead of it being mostly wrapped up in an hour? 

Well folks that's how it used to be. But now almost everything wraps up in an hour long show... well not the major plot points, but the immediate danger the characters find themselves in does. We get our happy ending in under an hour, so why should we wait? Well I actually miss the waiting. The guessing, the plotting. I miss sitting around with my friends trying to figure out what is going to happen next. Maybe this is why I like some reality shows.... there is no happy ending in an hour. It takes a whole season... and even then I may be left completely unhappy with the results, but I had to wait.

Enough of my opinions, let's here yours.... Do you love or hate a cliffhanger ending and why?


  1. I have a love/hate relationship with them.I love knowing there's more to the story and it keeps ma anticipating the next book but THE WAITING I hate!

    1. That waiting can be complete and absolute torture and I definitely think it is the hardest part! :)

      Thanks for chiming in!

  2. Like others, I also have a love/hate relationship with them. I love cliffhangers because they just get me SO excited for the next book and I can't help but rant and rant about them. But I hate it when the cliffhanger ends and then we have to wait a whole year or even more for the sequel. That sucks. I'm suffering after my rant and happiness ends. Haha. Great post!

    Cindy @ In This World of Books..

  3. I'm like most people and have a love/hate relationship with them. If done right it can leave me excited and ready for the next book. If done poorly then it can leave me with a sour taste in my mouth and no desire to move on to the next one whatsoever. Great post Danielle!

    1. Cliffhangers can definitely make you excited for the next book, but yes if done wrong all they do is leave you disappointed.

      My question now is: What makes a bad cliffhanger??? I have been thinking on this and I am still up in the air as to what makes one bad.

      Thanks Michelle! :)