Lola’s Ramblings: Cliffhangers

July 16, 2015 Lola's Ramblings 24

LolaRamblings

Lola’s Rambings is a feature on Lola’s Review where I talk about me. Usually these posts are everything that doesn’t fall under any standard header, like blog tours, book blitzes, cover reveals or reviews. Lola’s Ramblings posts are are personal discussions of a certain topic. Sometimes about book related topics and sometimes about non-book related topics. This feature was previously known as About Me. The banner for this feature is designed by Michelle from Limabean Design.

So while I am talking about series and standalones and how books ends these week, I thought it would be interesting to addres cliffhanger today. Nowadays a lot of books in series seem to end in cliffhangers. This mostly applies to book in a series, except for the last book. I know lots of people hate cliffhangers, but I have to admit I like them when done well. So today I am going to show what I like and dislike about cliffhanger endings and why.

Why I like cliffhanger endings

True Calling

  • Can build excitement for next book. I think an cliffhanger can build excitement for the next book. As you want to know what’s going to happen next and sometimes with a cliffhanger ending I feel more excited for the next book and thus more likely to read or buy that book. Which is exactly what an author wants, so I think cliffhanger ending can work that way.
  • Encourage to read the next book. I think that the almost natural reaction to a cliffhanger is wanting to know what happens next and starting the next book. I see this often with chapters that end in a small cliffhanger, I don’t even think of stopping and just turn the page to the next chapter and continue reading. So I think that cliffhanger endings can serve to encourage readers to read the next book as they want to know what happens next, that while if things are wrapped up nicely it’s easier to put down the series. I have to say that this doens’t always work. For example the Delirium trilogy by Lauren Oliver I still haven’t read the next book and I didn’t like that cliffhanger ending.
  • Easy to remember. This might sound like a weird argument for cliffhanger endings, but I think it can be an important one. Sometimes when I start a new book I have a hard time remembering what happened in the last book and with a cliffhanger ending I usually remember the ending pretty well. While with other endings that might be less soo, depending on the book ofcourse. So I think cliffhanger endings are often easier to remember than other endings and make starting the next book easier. If you ask me which endings of books I remember those are mostly series endings or cliffhangers. Even though I might not remember a lot of details about a book that cliffhanger ending is still there in my memory, I find them very memorable and I think that might be a good thing. If you think back to a book and you remember nothing it’s hard to get excited for the next book, while if you do remember something it’s easier to get excited for the next book and wonder what’s happening next. I remember very little about most book endings that aren’t cliffhangers or it’s more vague, while with a cliffhanger ending the end scene is pretty clear in my head.
  • Nice alternative and different to ending that wrap things up. I feel that endings usually fall into two categories: wrapping (sub)plot up while leaving room for the next book or a cliffhanger ending. I think for some books wrapping things up and finding a nice place to end that book doesn’t work, but the author still has to end the book, somewhere. Then I prefer a cliffhanger ending over an ending where the book just stops. I also think it’s nice to have books end in a different way, if every book ended in the same way it would be boring, so I think cliffhanger endings add some variation to book endings.
  • Makes the series feel more like one big story. With a cliffhanger ending I feel that the whole series feels more continous, with wrapping up I often feel like each book is a seperate entity while also being part of ta larger story and while I like series like that, I also like cliffhangers for giving a different feel to series. And how it more feels like the story continues in the next book instead of starting a new subplot.

So I like cliffhanger endings, but I also have to say they have to be done well. I don’t like cliffhanger endings for the sake of having a cliffhanger or cliffhanger endings that don’t really matter. I think the cliffhanger ending has to fit the book, the cliffhanger ending has to feel natural for that book. I don’t like it when the book gets dragged out, just so it can end in a cliffhanger. The cliffhanger needs to be interesting and make me excited for the next book. I also like it when the wait for the next book isn’t too long or the next book is already out. It’s easier dealing with a cliffhanger ending when the wait isn’t too long or you can just start the next book.

Why I dislike cliffhanger endings

  • Frustrating. Cliffhanger endings are frustrating, I want to know what happens next, not having to wait on the next book to find out. They frustrate me as I feel like we’re left hanging. We got part of the story, but have to buy the next book if we want to know what happens next. And sometimes that frustrates me so much that I don’t read the next book at all.
  • Feels abrupt. I often feel that cliffhanger ending feel a bit like an abrupt ending to a book, I like it when the reader is more eased into the ending and you can feel the ending coming instead of just knowing the book has to end soon because you see you’re almost at the end of the amount of pages. Often cliffhangers make for a sudden ending, sometimes seemingly in the middle of a story.
  • Negative emotions. I think because of the frustrating you can come to associate those negative emotions with that book or series and that isn’t good.
  • Can make me less likely to read the next book. Sometimes cliffhanger endings bother me so much I am less likely to read the next book compared to when things would’ve wrapped up more nicely.
  • Hard to wait for the next book. Cliffhanger ending make me impatient for the next book and that makes it hard to wait for the next book in the series and the wait can feel very long.
  • Feels like a way of authors to ensure readers buy the next book. Sometimes it feels like authors use cliffhangers just so reader will buy or read the next book and I dislike that. I want to pick up the next book because I like the series, not because I feel forced to because I have to know what happens after the cliffhanger.
  • Sometimes they feel fake or unrealistic/ unnatural. I often feel like a cliffhanger ending isn’t the most natural way to end a book. it’s like stopping a story in the middle of a scene or dragging the plot on so it can end in a cliffhanger. And I dislike it when an ending feels fake or unnatural. This certainly isn’t the case with all cliffhanger endings, but quite often it does. I often feel like ending the book before the cliffhanger scene or a bit later would make for a more natural ending.

ADAMANT final front coverSo I also think cliffhangers endings can be frustrating and while I might not dislike them as much as some other readers out there, I certainly think that there are better ways to end a book in some cases. A cliffhanger ending can work well, but it can also ruin the ending.

Which do I prefer cliffhanger or no cliffhanger?

So while I like and dislike cliffhanger endings at the same time, I general I prefer non-ciffhanger endings to cliffhanger endings. I don’t like it when the story ends abrubtly and being left hanging waiting for the next book. An ending that wraps thing up and still leaves things openmakes the wait for the next book easier. Having said that I think cliffhanger endings really work for some books, for example I really liked the cliffhanger endings in the True Calling series by Siobhan Davis and those cliffhanger endings made me more excited for the next book and luckily the wait wasn’t too long to have that excitement diminished again. Then again I also like it when each book in a series wraps up the subplot and leaves still enough room for the next book in the series, like Jennifer Estep her Mythos Academy series or Emmma L. Adams her Adamant series for example. Each of the books in those series wraps up the sub plot for that book, while there is also an overarching plot line for the whole series. So I generally prefer non cliffhanger ending, but I also think a cliffhanger ending can be done well.

Do you like or dislike cliffhanger endings and why?

24 Responses to “Lola’s Ramblings: Cliffhangers”

  1. Mary Kirkland

    No, just no. I want my books to have a beginning, a middle and a real ending where things are wrapped up. If a book I’m reading and liking ends in a cliffhanger…it ruins the book for me and frankly is pisses me off. There have been several books that I liked and was going to give them 5 stars but then they ended with a clifhanger and I ended up giving them 3 stars because I just don’t like cliffhangers at all. It ruins the story for me. It’s a sure way to get me not to read another of your books.
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    • Lola

      Wow that’s extreme if you actually rate it two stars lower when a book has a cliffhanger. Cliffhanger endings can frustrate me sometimes, but hardly ever enough to actually have me lower the rating. I even kinda like them sometimes. Some of my favourite books have had cliffhanger endings and I don’t mind.

    • Lola

      Sometimes series feel so episodic if they have endings that nicely wrap things uyp, while cliffhangers give the series a more continous feel. If that makes sense. Sure they can be frustrating, but I don’t mind them too much. Although it’s certainly nice to have the next book already when the first book ends in a cliffhanger.

  2. anna (herding cats & burning soup)

    I’m seriously anti-cliffhanger in romance books. I don’t like how authors handle them in romances where there’s really no conclusion to the book and they couldn’t work on their own. Vs in Urban Fantasy where I really don’t mind them. They seem to tackle them differently and while there may be a cliffhanger the book still usually has it’s own storyarc that gives that satisfied ending feel.

    In romances I always just feel like they’re trying to bilk the reader out of more money. I’ve read a few who handled it well and were more like the UF coutnerparts in handling it but very few in the romance genre do it well.
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    • Lola

      I think cliffhangers certainly work better in other genres. I have read a few romance serials with cliffhangers and not really a fan of how they handle them there and indeed it feels more like a way to make sure the reader buys the next book. Usually the cliffhanger is a break-up then and you know they will get together in the next book again. If the cliffhanger feels like a right and normal I don’t midn them, if they feel forced or unnatural I don’t like them. I have read a romantic suspense with a well doen cliffhanger, but in general i like cliffhanger smroe in other genres than romance.

    • Lola

      Indeed! They can be frustrating, but I still want to read the next book. Waiting till the whole series is complete is certainly a good idea, but then the first book sounds good and I just have to read it now, lol.

  3. Danni Mae

    If the book was good enough, I’ll always like a cliffhanger more. Like I just read The Selection and was going to go out and buy the next one anyway! Cliffhanger or no makes absolutely no difference to me.
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  4. Michelle@Because Reading

    I am so into a good cliffhanger but it also depends on how it is done. I love the feeling it stirs up and for sure you remember the end. I have a few books that I still get goosebumps thinking about the cliffhanger end even after I read the next book. I hate cliffhanger that end suddenly like almost bailing on the end. I feel it should end but not like right in the middle of a moment. I have read a book that the guy may or may not be dead and those ending are ok but not when so much of the story is still hanging in the wind or when the story is drawn out only to have it end. Those drive me nuts.

    Awesome post Lola, as always 🙂
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    • Lola

      I agree cliffhangers ending certainly can be doen well and they are memorable! I have had a few cliffhangers where it feels like the ending is dragged out so it can end in a cliffhanger or where the endign is too abrupt, then I don’t like the cliffhanger endings. It really depends on how they are written.

  5. Sophia Rose

    LOL! This is an interesting discussion subject in that I am a liker and a hater of cliffies depending on the story. Some of them are exciting and keep my mind on the story and leave me breathless while others leave me with negative feelings of being tricked or forced to continue. It really depends on the author’s writing and how they led me along the plot path to how I will react. For example, I love Jennifer Armentrout’s Lux series and every one of those ended on a cliff hanger.
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    • Lola

      Same here, sometiems I love them and sometiems I hate them, it just depends on the book, the cliffhanger and how it’s written. It’s great when a cliffhanger makes you excited for the enxt book, but I hate that feeling of getting trciked to buy the enxt book. I had a few serials like that where each book ends on a cliffhanger and the authors are hopign you buy the whole series then.
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  6. Asti

    Yeah, I definitely prefer non-cliffhangers. None of the pros really appeal to me, except for one you mentioned that I’ve never thought about: it’s easier to remember. I struggle with book amnesia so sometimes really struggle when it comes to series, but it’s true that at least with a cliffhanger it leaves me hanging so bad that I remember more! Still, preferably, no cliffhangers. 😛
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    • Lola

      I usually prefer no cliffhangers, but I have read quite some books with good cliffhangers as well, like the True Calling or Nogiku series. It just fits and they are easy to remember. It does really matter how they are written as I also have read some very annoying and frustrating cliffhanger endings. While my memory is pretty good, I do forget a lot of details about books, especially when I read them long ago and cliffhangers endings are really easy to remember.

    • Lola

      I usually do’t mind them either and I agree they build anticipation for the next book. I also agree that if the enxt book is already released cliffhanger sare less frustarting as you know you can continue the series whenever you want.

  7. Karen Blue

    I prefer no cliffhanger, but I can see why some authors do it. I would love for them to write the whole thing and then release it all on the same day, that way I can read the next book immediately. I know that is never going to happen, but it would be nice.
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    • Lola

      But then you probably would have to wait very long for new series. Although I have heard of some authors who release books very soon after each other.

  8. Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight

    I like them, honestly! For all the reasons you mentioned in your “likes” section pretty much! I mean, sure, they ARE frustrating sometimes, and I may yell at the book for awhile, but ultimately, like you said, it makes me NEED the next one. Plus, I forget stuff easier and so (also like you said) it does make it easier to remember with all the strong emotions and such.

    My favorite kind is when the author wraps up one part of the plotline, but then introduces something shocking that will play into the next book heavily. That to me is the perfect way to do it! Great topic!
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    • Lola

      I agree I might be frustrated, but overal I just want the next book, which is usually a good thing :). And cliffhangers are much easier to remember along with the emotions with it. I usually am more excited for books that coem after a cliffhanger. I always feel that too many bloggers think so negatively about cliffhangers, while I usually like them.
      I agree that’s the best way to do a cliffhanger, wrap things up and then introduce something shocking to end the book with. Or like a change into the next plot.

  9. Siobhan Davis

    This is a really interesting topic and though I’m late to the party, I thought you might like to hear an author’s perspective. Firstly, thank you for your kind comments re my True Calling series, Lola, and I’m glad that my CH endings didn’t dent your enjoyment of the books. I write the type of books I love to read and I love cliffhanger endings even though I often yell at the book, curse the author, and almost tear my hair out waiting for the next installment. Though it can be hugely frustrating, for me, books with CH endings are way more memorable than books without. But it goes even further than that – I spend hours, over weeks and months, speculating on what is going to happen next and wondering where the author is going to take the plot. I don’t feel the same connect with books that are wrapped up neatly at the end. Sophia mentioned Jennifer L. Armentrout and I love her work, and feel she uses CH endings very effectively. I’m still thinking about Wicked months later, and though I am so frustrated that there still isn’t a release date for the second book, it hasn’t eroded my enjoyment of this series at all. I also usually start a countdown until the next book in a series is released and it really helps build excitement and suspense. That is the type of reading enjoyment and sentiment that I hope to cultivate with my own series – I want readers to remember my books long after they turn the last page. I actually didn’t set out to make the first book in my True Calling series a cliffhanger ending but that is the way the story developed organically and it felt right to leave the book at that point. In each of the books I’ve tried to resolve certain subplots while adding new elements to the plot and building suspense on the overarching series plot, so that readers gain an overall reading experience across the three main books. The second book in the series ends on a screaming cliffhanger and yes, I did plot that! Yes, it’s cruel, but I also took pity on the reader and wrote Light of a Thousand Stars as a novella in between Book 2 & 3 to help ease some of the reader frustration. While the novella does not reveal the big secret, it gives very strong hints which will enable the reader to get a strong sense of what is coming in the final book. I agree with a lot of the viewpoints expressed in this thread, and I’ve had some angry emails and a few reviews/ratings that were reduced because of the CH ending. I totally understand that people will react differently because readers have different views on CH endings (as we’ve seen above). So, every author knows that using CH endings is risky (In fact, ‘experts’ will advise not to use them). In order to tell my story the way I wanted to, I had to accept this risk, so I went into it with my eyes wide open. I don’t think CH endings have any impact (either positive or negative) on whether a reader will read the next book or not. If you like the first book you will read the second book irrespective of how it ends, in my opinion. So, I only use them where I feel they add value to the series and make sense. I would never use them purely as a marketing or tactical ploy – it has to fit the story. I always endeavour to release the next book as quickly as I can so that I don’t leave the reader hanging for too long. (All books in the True Calling series were released within a year).I’m writing the first book in my new series at the moment and I don’t have any plans to use a CH ending, though it will all depend on how the story progresses. Hope this sheds some lght from an author’s point of view 🙂
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    • Lola

      I think for cliffhanger endings a timely release date of the next book can help. Like you did with your True Calling series, the release days are close enough for the cliffhanger endings not to get too frustrating. Although even with a non-cliffhanger ending I think timely releases of the next book are important.

      I also find it interesting how I heard a few other authors menton that they write what they like to read. I guess it makes sense.

      Cliffhanger endings are a great way for me to keep the ending fresh in my mind and it really can help build excitement, but there are also readers who avoid them. I’ve also seen peoeple detracts ratings just because of a CH. I usually do mention a CH ending, but it probably won’t affect my ratign either way, unless I feel very strongly about it or felt like it didn’t fit the book. I have had a few abrupt cliffhangers ow ehre the story got dragged out just so it could end in a cliffhanger. I also have read some really well doen cliffhangers that made me even more exicted for the next book.

      And like you mentioned how with True Calling it ended in a cliffhanger while you didn’t plan it. I think that’s most important to have a natural ending for the book. It has to fit the story and as long as a CH fits the story I am okay with it. I also think having the novella in between book 2 and 3, sure did help with the wait.

      Thanks for providing your point of view! It was very interesting to hear why you used cliffhanger endings in your series and I especially like your opinion of how it fits the story and shouldn’t be used purely as a marketing ploy.

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