The Great Cliffhanger:Good or Bad?

Recently I read a book review of a series I enjoyed that slammed the author for writing cliffhanger endings.

I couldn’t have disagreed more with her review. Everything I loved, she hated.

She felt tricked by the author, felt as if she was being forced to go out and buy the next book to find out what happens.

My thought? Duh.

A series is a long story broken into digestible pieces. Each book in a series can either stand alone or lead into the next.

I’ve read blog posts and articles that argue both sides. Some say it is easier to get a stand alone book published, others say “write it the way you feel it.” Some say you can push for a series after you get published, others say presenting the story as a whole makes it more salable.

Which camp is right? I have absolutely no idea.

But…I write from my heart. I write the stories as I see them in my head and though each book in my WIP has a resolution in the end, it’s not always rosey and perfect. The endings of Book One and Book Two make you want to keep reading. They end with big fat OMG‘s. So, I guess I’m in camp #2.

Now, I am aware that everyone has different opinions and that different books appeal to different people, but I guess reading that review made me worry a bit. The self doubt of a writer is a tormentous thing.

I write cliffhanger endings.

When I turned to Google to read customer reviews of the series, I found that there were a lot of people who didn’t like cliffhangers so I did the next logical thing any panicked writer would do: I looked up the definition of cliffhanger.

I will never deny that I am a Dictionary Junkie. Not so I can litter my manuscript with unknown words to torture the reader, but because I like concretes.

Were my endings really cliffhangers?

Here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say:

According to this, if each installment of a series ends in suspense, it is a cliffhanger.
So, my answer was definitely Yes. I do write cliffhanger endings.
Though I provide a form of resolution, the main dramatic conflict that drives the protagonist isn’t truly worked out. She may think it is, she may believe her reaction fixed the problem, but it doesn’t. Instead, a new conflict is set up for the next book in which she realizes she still has a mission. It’s just much more complicated now, and by her own actions nonetheless.
It was pretty easy for me to lay the self doubt to rest on this one because, well…I love cliffhangers. As a reader I love not being able to stop reading. Suspense is what makes me read til I can’t hold my eyes open any longer.
I get excited when I just have to go get the next book and I don’t feel tricked when I put my money on the counter…I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth.
In the words of Oscar Wilde… “The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.”
So…as of now, I’m going to continue on with the plan. It’s how I’ve seen this story from it’s conception and I feel it’s best to stay true to that.
What do you think? Do you love or hate cliffhangers? Do you write them?
Some music for your day…Shake, Shiver and Moan by 22-20’s…

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