Sunday, September 6, 2020

To Cliffhang or Not to Cliffhang. That is the Question.

I'll fess up: my first book, THE DEVIL OF LIGHT, ends with one heck of a cliffhanger. A character's life hangs in the balance, another character's professional future is uncertain, some of the minor baddies scatter, and the big baddies escape unscathed.

Reviewers love it or hate it, regardless of the star-rating they give the book. I still love it, but I know what happens in book two, and I kind of know what's coming down the pike in future books and how the story weaves together.

Reviewers who hate it say I left too much hanging. That the book can't stand on its own. The mystery isn't completely solved. That you have to read the second book to get closure. Er, yep, you do. 'Cause this is a series and that's what I intended.

Is that a bad thing? Since this is a series, I don't think so. (But I would think that way, wouldn't I?)

I love to read books in a series, and I don't mind at all when characters and conflicts hang over from one book to the next. In fact I love it when a portion of a character's history takes several books to unravel, as in the DI Lynley novels by Elizabeth George. I don't remember how many books in the series I read before George told me that the limp afflicting one of the minor characters was caused by a careless moment by Thomas Lynley. Or that the wife of Lynley's best friend was once in love with Lynley. George hints at these aspects of backstory for several books, and her hinting makes me crave the information, keeps me reading.

But we're talking cliffhangers here. Books where the author leaves key elements of the plot unfinished. Think HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE by J.K. Rowling or Harlan Coben's TELL NO ONE. Both have terrific cliffhanger endings, and I love them both.

But I'm curious to hear other voices. What do you think? To cliffhang or not to cliffhang? What is your preference?


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photo credit: byronv2 The Reader via photopin (license)