Cliffhangers: the most despicable way to end a novel. Just as you thought you had it all figured out, there’s a twist and you are hopeless, left to fend for yourself. “What is going to happen?” “I need to know!!!” Well friends, Teen Board member Omar F. has something to say: Cliffhangers are awesome! In this blog post, he defends what others may consider the worst ending to a story and explains why they are actually the best.
I was looking out my window during the blizzard, admiring the beauty of falling snow, and going through one of my meditative techniques: mentally going over my favorite books. I began to think back to the ending of THE MERCHANT OF DEATH, by D.J. MacHale. I remembered the mixture of emotions that ravaged my mind when I finished the book for the first time.
It was during the peak of the storm, when the snow was coming down hard, that I realized MacHale had thrown his readers a cliffhanger. As I thought of cliffhangers, my mind wandered to wondering how other people view them. I realized that some people might actually detest cliffhangers, seeing them as incomplete and a bad way to end a story.
I am here to voice my opinion: Cliffhangers are awesome. They help get you thinking. They manipulate the reader’s emotions and set a mood that keeps the reader engaged and wanting more. Cliffhangers are often marked by big, important events that are crucial to a story’s plot. The amount of information that one can infer from a cliffhanger is immeasurable: the rationality of characters, the main conflicts of a plot, the fate of the protagonist and the possibility of a sequel.
I do think there are a few negatives to cliffhangers. For example, let's say you spend all your money on the MERCHANT OF DEATH (like I did) and have no money to buy the next book. And let's say you try to go to the library, but the next book has already been checked out. OR the it hasn't even been published yet! That cliffhanger is going to cause you a lot of emotional pain, and to be honest, it's going to suck. Not to mention that cliffhangers can be interpreted in a lot of ways, so it can be upsetting if you start reading the next book in a series with the wrong mindset.
Despite all of that I think cliffhangers are fantastic. They help define an author and gives the reader a scale in which to rate how good an author wrote a book. A good author will be able to craft an intense engaging cliffhanger. Cliffhangers help keep readers on edge. They can sometimes span over a couple of chapters, and my heart is usually racing while I take in the final exciting moments of the book in.
I remember when I encountered MacHale's cliffhanger in THE MERCHANT OF DEATH for the first time. I remember my confusion and my sadness about what happened to the protagonist, Bobby. After I finished the book, I became taken with MacHale and obsessed with his stories. Cliffhangers help a reader bond with the author, and most importantly, with the book.
As I conclude my first blog post, I would like to leave the reader with this message: The next time you encounter a cliffhanger, don’t focus on what the author didn’t include, focus on what he did. Everything a writer puts in his book is something he/she did with a purpose. And remember, a world without cliffhangers is a sucky one.