April 3, 2013

Crafting Cliffhangers = C: Blogging from A to Z

CLIFFHANGER
Source
Continuing my literary devices theme, today I wanted to talk about one that creates tension and keeps the reader engaged. I wanted to talk about...

Dunh-Dunh-DUNH

the...

Cliffhanger
(Merriam-Webster)
1: an adventure serial or melodrama; especially: one presented in installments each ending in suspense
2: a contest whose outcome is in doubt up to the very end; broadly: a suspenseful situation 

If you've ever seen a CSI episode, you know how corny cliffhangers can be. David Caruso, for example, pushes his glasses down his nose, tilts his head toward the camera, and makes some bad joke about a dead body, and then the CSI theme music blares before sending you off to a commercial. *rolling my eyes*

Sometimes a cliffhanger is at the end of a movie or book--a device used to bring the audience back for a future installment. They could be waiting months or years to find out what happened. Those kind of cliffhangers need to be spot on. People don't just wait for anything. 

Great example: the sight of Han Solo being put on Boba Fett's plan, sealed in carbonite. I thought I would die until I made sure Hans Solo made it (and it was three years between films). Note: My teenage crush on Harrison Ford probably had a little something to do with how effective this cliffhanger was.

In books, cliffhangers can be at the end of a chapter, not to be resolved until the end of the book or spread across several books. The trick... it has to be big enough to grab the reader, without being so manipulative that the reader feels annoyed. 

Or maybe that's a personal cliffhanger problem I have. If it feels contrived, I am put off. Or... if I can imagine David Caruso's cartoon-like face machinations and awkwardly unfunny word delivery along with theme music, not good.

What is your favorite cliffhanger scene in a book or movie?

And don't forget to visit other C blogs today here.

8 comments:

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I can't think of any examples, but I know I hate cliffhangers at the end of a book. Some feel like the author forgot to add the rest of the book. The cliffhanger is so abrupt.

kmckendry said...

I love the little guy on the cliff, great picture! I also couldn't wait for Return of the Jedi because of my Han Solo crush. :)

Barbara White Daille said...

Hand up for the Hans Solo heartstopping (cliff) hanger. (Throwing in a little alliteration in honor of your A post. LOL)

I'm not a big fan of cliffhangers at the end of a book but love them as chapter endings.

@Stina - just noticed I agreed with you on that.

@kmckendry - me too on the little guy on the cliff.

Barbara
C is for: Chocolate (and other things)
www.barbarawhitedaille.com/blog

nutschell said...

i try to put cliffhangers at the end of every chapter :)
Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

Sharon Himsl said...

Well, of course anything with Harrison Ford! Really liked "Witness." The emotional tension kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. Just popping by in the a-z to say 'hi' (I'm a recent new member).

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Jaleh D said...

I can't think of any other cliffhangers I like right now; Han Solo is so vivid. But I don't generally care for cliffhangers at the end of a book, though chapter ends work well.

Jo Michaels said...

I don't like cliffhangers at the end of books unless it's a speedy series. I love them at the end of chapters. Ooooooh, I gotta turn that page and see what's NEXT! hehe I hate them in movies/series. Too many leave me disenchanted. The book I started writing yesterday is going to end with a cliffhanger but no follow up. Ever. I'd like to leave people thinking about it. Maybe piss them off a little ;) LOL! WRITE ON!