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lynnmosher

Keep the pages turning with mini cliffhangers

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Keep the Pages Turning with Mini Cliffhangers
 

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What do you think of when you hear the word cliffhanger? Bombs dropping? Car chases? A character literally dangling from a cliff while hungry sharks circle the water below? Not all cliffhangers are so dramatic. They can be big or small, external or internal, over-the-top or subtle. They can apply to thrillers, literary fiction, and everything in between. And no matter what your genre or style, you can use them to your advantage.

If you think about it, most good novels are a series of miniature cliffhangers—conflicts that open in one scene and don’t get resolved until a later scene. They make readers curious, anxious, or hopeful about what will happen next. They create a feeling of tension or suspense. In other words, they keep readers turning pages.

 

How do you implement this? End every scene and chapter on a mini cliffhanger. Leave readers in suspense. Make them want—no, need—to know what happens next. There are several ways to do this:

 

Action. The hero finds himself in a sticky situation with a daunting obstacle or antagonist. Readers don’t know if he’ll find a way out, or how he’ll pull it off. Keep in mind that this conflict can take many forms. The character may be locked in a cage, or locked into taking care of his bratty teenage nephew. Either way, the conflict isn’t resolved until (at least) the next scene.

 

Revelation. A new piece of information is learned or a secret is revealed. The reader wonders how the characters will react or how the plot will be affected…in the next chapter.

 

Decision. The protagonist makes a tough choice, commits to a dangerous task, or decides to make a sacrifice of some kind. Will she succeed, and if so, what price will she pay? The reader must turn the page to find out.

 

Twist. Something happens that changes the way we see the story—a trusted ally turns out to be an impostor, the protagonist has been searching in the wrong place the whole time, etc. Both readers and characters are taken aback by this development; they must regroup, review the situation, and decide how to move forward.

 

Narrative insight. This is perhaps the most obvious type of cliffhanger, but the hardest to pull off because it can easily feel cliched. Ominous clues like “Little did he know…” and “It was to be the last time” hint at conflict to come.

 

End every scene on a cliffhanger, and readers will follow your story anywhere.

 

 

 

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Thanks Lynn

A very clear and concise summary of how to keep a reader reading.

Not as easy as it sounds thought☺️

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For me as a reader, I don't want a cliffhanger at the end of every scene or chapter. It drives me nuts. Sometimes is okay. Sometimes is good. But if an author puts a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter, I get really annoyed and feel like the author is relying too much on cliffhangers and not the general interest and complexity of the plot to keep me reading. I have been known to stop reading in the middle of a chapter (gasp!) just to avoid the predictable and inevitable cliffhanger at the end of the chapter.

 

 

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I realized I was instinctively doing the opposite of this--instead of a mini cliffhanger, I was ending each chapter with a mini resolution, or at least slowing everything down, instead of speeding up. But I think I've got it figured out now.

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