No, cliffhanging isn’t strapping on a parachute and jumping off a cliff. A cliffhanger is a type of narrative or a plot device in which the ending is curiously abrupt so that the main characters are left in a difficult situation without offering any resolution of conflicts. (Oxford Dictionary).
Every scene and/or chapter should end with a cliffhanger–a technique that makes the reader want to continue reading. The goal is never to give the reader an excuse to put the book down and not want to pick it up again.
Here are a few suggestions to ramp up the ending of a scene or chapter:
1. impending disaster
2. a mysterious line of dialogue
3. a secret that is about to be revealed
4. a major decision or vow
5. announcement of a shattering event
6. reversal or surprise–new information that turns the story around.
7. a question left hanging in the air
Typically, you want to avoid ending with a character going to bed or happily contemplating a piece of good news.
The challenge is to find a good place to stop a scene or a chapter that will leave the reader unwilling to put your book down. Polish your cliffhanger techniques to make your writing compelling. Drive the reader to turn page after page knowing it’s time to cook supper, or even answer the call of nature.
A word of caution: unlike TV series which end in cliffhangers to entice viewers to tune-in for the next episode, it can be frustrating to readers if you to end the last chapter with a cliffhanger (even if you’re writing a series). To do so leaves the readers discontented after all the effort they put in to reading your book. With romance, readers still crave the ‘happily-ever-after’ ending.
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