I’m starting to think we, as readers, actually love cliffhangers. Or at least love to hate them.
Earlier this week, we talked about those gasp-inducing, anxiety-causing cliffhangers on the VBC Facebook page. And while it was easy to name the one that gutted us the most — favorites were Karen Marie Moning’s Dreamfever ending and Chloe Neill’s Hard Bitten — it was always from a beloved series.
We like to complain about cliffhangers. Hell, I like to complain about cliffhangers. I still don’t know how I made it those months between Dreamfever and Shadowfever. I wanted to hate KMM for leaving me hanging. I mean, I actually thought the end of the book might have been cut off because I was reading it digitally. But I couldn’t hate her for it. Brutal, yes, but it made me spend the agonizing months between books thinking about her characters, what might have happened and worrying about who had been killed.
If done right, I think readers — myself included — secretly enjoy cliffhangers. I’m not talking about leaving a book without a conclusion, but those novels that wrap the book’s main plot but leave you with a deep craving for the next book. Getting a taste of how bad things are about to get can help keep the series in the forefront of our minds. Think about the ire the ending of Hard Bitten inspired. Even after the release of the next book, readers wanted to talk about book 4 and its ending. They wanted to hate on the choice at the end of the book or praise the solution in the next. It kept readers engaged. And if there is one thing we like to do as readers, it’s guess about what our favorite characters are going to do. Cliffhangers elevate the stakes of that guessing game.
Now, for this post’s caveat: If the book doesn’t resolve any plot points and leaves us hanging at the end, that’s not a good cliffhanger. It’s just poor plotting. I’m talking about those purposeful endings that leave you gripping your chest and looking up the next title’s release date.
What about you? Can you admit to not really hating cliffhangers? Which one gave you the ultimate heart attack? I have three: Dreamfever, Hard Bitten and Dead, Undead or Somewhere in Between.