What’s with the rash of cliffhangers lately? Discuss.

Posted 21 June, 2013 | Mary @ TheBookSwarm | | 18 Comments

Just finished ANOTHER book that ends in a cliffhanger and, I swear, it was all I could do not to throw it across the room. Seriously. But I restrained myself, set it on my side table and reached for my computer instead so I could vent a bit in a post and maybe gain a little insight from my brilliant bloggy friends. 

Y’all, is it just me or has there been a rash of cliffhangers in books lately? And I’m not talking just YA, though that genre seems to be a main culprit (at least in the books I’ve read). 

Quick! Get to the doctor because we need a serious course of antibiotics to get rid of this icky, spreading, and highly contagious rash.

While cliffhangers do have their place (it’s one particularly hot place with plenty of stabby implements, in case you were wondering), a well-written, tightly plotted book shouldn’t *need* a cliffhanger to get or a reader interested enough to pick up the next book. Let me just tell you, if I care enough about the characters that I want to find out what happens to them in the next story, a cliffhanger is only going to piss me off. (Granted, this doesn’t mean I’m not going to pick the book up but I am going to pick it up with prejudice. I mean, you’d damned well better blow my freakin’ socks off with the follow-up or I really *am* going to throw your book across the room.)

This is not to say that there shouldn’t be loose threads that need resolution and/or incomplete storylines. No. Those are necessary to a strong series, to keep it moving forward. I’m talking about a real, honest-to-god cliffhanger where you’re nearing the end of the book…just a few pages left…and you know there’s absolutely no way for this conflict to end and, when you do finally turn to that last page, it’s there. Staring at you. Laughing an evil laugh as you rant and rave and scream out, “NOOOOOOOO!! Damnit!!”

Why is this Cliffhanger Rash so prevalent and pervasive lately? Is this because the authors are inexperienced and that’s the only way they can think to end a book in a series? Is it because the publisher said, “Hey, you have enough words in this book. Let’s torture our readers and make it into a duology, a three-part book or a series!” *insert evil laugh* Is it because people actually *like* cliffhangers and having to wait a year or more to find out what happens next? I realize that television has groomed us for this, what with their Who Shot JR? crap and Who’s going to replace Matt Smith as the next Doctor? questioning. But that’s TV. Books are a totally different creature, in my opinion. And I. Don’t. Like. Cliffhangers. Seriously, I’m asking: why write a cliffhanger?

Let’s be safe out there, people. Take your antibiotics, kill off the dreaded Cliffhanger Rash, and write great stories that make me want to read on without feeling like I’m being blackmailed into reading the next book. I’d really appreciate it.

About Mary @ TheBookSwarm

18 Responses to “What’s with the rash of cliffhangers lately? Discuss.”

  1. I just finished a book with three cliffhangers. Seriously, three. Three focal characters, three life-threatening situations. And I was like, really?! That SO makes me not want to buy the next book.
    At this point, cliffhangers are pretty much counterproductive for me. I don’t like them, and if I know in advance a book ends with one, I’m not likely to read it at all. I just fail to understand why authors choose to do that.

  2. God, I know! More often than I’d like, I suspect that YA lit publishers mainly see the profitability of this genre and so are allowing quality to slide for the sake of money. I think it’s a cheap way to get attention, like wearing a cut-off T-shirt to the park: the attention you’re gaining is superficial and people, will momentarily piqued, will be hard-pressed to maintain that attention. YA lit is whoring itself out, nooooo!

  3. ABSOLUTELY!!!! I’ve said it more than once even in review… CLIFFIES ARE NOT NEEDED IN A GOOD BOOK! Yes, I’m shouting that. A good complete book is all it takes. I don’t mind open threads, but no cliffies. I think the only time I don’t scream as much is when it is a series which usually doesn’t employ that device but might have one in the whole series. I can deal, but I still hate it. That is why I started automatically taking off 1/2 a star for a cliffie. Bad practice IMO.

    Okay, thanks for letting me vent and joining your choir! 😉

    • I’m shouting right along with you (of course!). If it’s part of a series, there are definitely going to be open threads but cliffhangers are just cheap ploys for attention!! Come sing with me anytime. 🙂

    • LOL!! I LOVE THESE GIFs. SO RIGHT!! I can just picture the author/publisher/editor/whatever thinking, “OMG. I’m totally going to BLOW THEIR MINDS with this awesome cliffhanger of an ending!!” Um, no. NONONONONONONO. It just makes me want to curse and throw things.

  4. UGH YES. The thing that bugs me the most about cliffhangers is that it’s like the author is trying to force you into reading the sequel through a cheap writing tactic. Well done cliffhangers definitely have their place, but when they’re terrible they’re just terrible. I definitely respect an author and their series much more if each book in a series or trilogy has a clear cut ending. It gives me time to process the story, and I don’t know about you but it’s much better when I start reading the sequel and I don’t have to worry about being thrust into the middle of a situation I only partly remember, depending on when I read the first book. Anyway great post. NO MORE UNNECESSARY CLIFFHANGERS!!!!

    • I don’t mind mini-cliffies or ones that are very (veryveryvery) well done and serve a purpose other than to tick the reader off…ahem…get them excited for the next book. But just because you’re not sure how to write a solid ending (with or without threads), don’t force your cliffies on me!

  5. I think it all depends. Every book, even the ones in the middle of the series, need to have a satisfying ending of some sort, they don’t need to wrap up everything neatly, but there needs to be a sense of resolution. You can resolve the book’s arc will moving the over-arcing plot forward and leaving a little of a cliffy there, but to just leave everything unresolved, or the fate of the protagonists hanging on the balance? that’s a cheap trick in my opinion.

    I also think it has to do with the series fever, authors are forgetting how to write worth-while standalones.

    • Definitely. I don’t want a complete ending for first or middle books…just an ending to the main arc of that particular book. The overreaching arc that travels throughout the series does not need to end and there can/should be tension there but too much just ticks me off.

  6. I agree Mary, there definitely seem to be more books with cliffhangers lately. Just like there seem to be more books with love triangles. I don’t remember there being this many when I first started the blog a couple years ago, but now it’s easier to count the number of books that DON’T have cliffhangers/love triangles than the ones that do. This is why I love Jennifer Estep’s books. She always gives a complete, finished story no matter what number book it is in the series, but yet there’s always enough happening in the series plot arc to ensure there’s more to go on in the next book. The smaller mystery is always wrapped up though, and yet I always find myself wanting more. No cliffhanger needed:)

  7. YES YES YES! This is why I have such a hard time picking up sequels! If you smash my heart with a cliffhanger in previous books, I’m a little gun-shy about going back in for round two!

    Why can’t we just wrap things up with an air of mystery and intrigue? Why must you shove me off a cliffhanger so my heart and mind get smash on the literary rocks below?!

  8. I’ve been reading more standalone novels lately, so I’ve been lucky not to come across too many cliffhangers in the past couple months. But cliffhangers have become more popular in YA lit, unfortunately. I don’t know why authors feel the need to write in a big cliffhanger – if you write a good story, readers will always come back for more. I’ve given up quite a few series just because the first or second novels ended in cliffhangers, and I hate being cheated like that!

    “Is it because people actually *like* cliffhangers and having to wait a year or more to find out what happens next?” – Ooh, the wait for the next novel is always torturous enough, without adding a cliffhanger ending on top of the wait. A small, tiny cliffhanger is fine, but a big one? That’s just evil.

  9. There are a couple of times where a cliffhanger is done very well but it does seem to be overused nowadays. Maybe it’s a cycle? Later on, we’ll just have standalones and become tired of that, clamoring for books that tie together in thrilling cliffhangery ways…