Now to the subject of writing from a reader’s standpoint. I don’t like books with a cliffhanger stop. I won’t call it an ending because it’s not. It’s a stop. And that book will end up as a doorstop. Seriously, am I the only one who prefers a book with a full resolution to the problems in the storyline? Am I the only one who feels ripped off when the book doesn’t have a real ending? Not according to K. M. Wieland at Life As A Human who video blogged about this lazy habit. She didn’t call it lazy, but I think some cliffhanger endings stem from lazy writing. At the very least, from misguided advice.
Far too many books end like a chapter with a cliffhanger tempting me to turn pages. This only works in chapters because the pages are there to turn right now, not next year. Ask yourself, how long can a person hang from a cliff without falling? And what happens when they fall? Usually, death.
I have to assume that writers who hang their audiences from a cliff with no hope of rescue for any time longer than a few hours must be trying to kill their audiences, period. I hear at every writer’s conference I attend that cliffhangers make good chapter stops, not book ends. Yet cliffhanger stops have become as trendy as series books. Talk about mass murder of readers. There’s a better way.
Marietta Zacker of the Nancy Galtt Literary Agency confirmed the need for a real ending at last week’s Southern Breeze chapter SCBWI workshop in Birmingham. She called this a “standalone” book, as in it can stand on its own. How do you know if your first book will become popular enough to support a second? You don’t. She also said your query should be for one book. Sure you can have ideas and outlines for future books, but your first one better not make cliffhanger enemies if you want those people to buy your next book.
What? You thought your loose ends would make me so curious about your next book that I would wait on pins and needles a year or more to read the next installment? Dream on. I’ll read another book next week and another and another and so on. When a year is up, I’ll only remember how much I didn’t like feeling cheated by your stop, and I’ll have a kindle full of other books whose endings I liked better, and those are the series I’ll continue reading.
Yes, there may be a rare exception to my rule. I gave Of Poseidon by Anna Banks 4 stars because it was witty, funny, and had a very believable mythos. Except for a few flaws and that cliffhanger, I would have rated it 5 stars.
On the other end of the spectrum is The Hunt by Andrew Fukada, not good enough to post the cover. The lack of an ending wasn’t the only problem, but it was a big part of the reason I gave the book 2 stars. That non-ending is what made me want to write this post, otherwise I would have relegated the book to the try to forget corner of my mind by now.
Just because a book is part of a series doesn’t mean readers don’t deserve to know how most of the loose ends tie up. Note that I say most. It’s okay to leave a few things open IF the book is part of a series. For a good example of the right balance, read The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa. Except for too many ideas resembling a previous movie and an unsympathetic heroin in the first part of the book, I would have given it 5 stars. But the most important point is that I WANT to read the sequel(s) because I liked the ending, a real resolution to the major problems in the book.
Then please, write a real ending! If you want to create anticipation for your next book, include a sample chapter at the end of the first. How easy is that? This way you won’t make cliffhanger enemies because reader’s don’t expect a sample chapter to resolve all the problems in the book.
Writers and readers, please weigh in. I’d love to hear whether you want books to be complete, or at least mostly complete. And give me some examples of endings that aggravated or fulfilled all the book’s promises!
Please come back soon for the Dystopian Hop featuring Susan Kaye Quinn’s bestselling Mindjacker series which all have real endings. And guess what else? A Kindle Fire Giveaway by author Crystal Marcos starting on November 1st. Read on, and thanks until next time!