How to Write a Good Cliffhanger

How to Write a Good Cliffhanger

If you really want to hook up the reader, learning the art of cliffhangers is a must. Leave everyone impressed and craving for more by turning the full stop into the three dots (metaphorically speaking). Read our free tips on how to end your chapter on a super thrilling note…

Make It Relevant

Imagine this: the 9/10 of a chapter is a sweet and fluffy romance, but you want to end it with a real bang… literally. Will the readers like a sudden car crash or an alien invasion as the ending? Hmm, probably not. Your cliffhanger must not be too unexpected, unless you’re writing a proper thriller. What’s more, it must make sense from the plot development viewpoint. 

Instead of throwing in something sudden and wild, try to build on what’s already there. Has your female character been offered hand and heart? Why not include an ill-timed call or text from her boyfriend’s real passion? Now, that would be a logical cliffhanger if you want to shock the audience.

Make It Sensory

Adding a good cliffhanger is enough… oh, wait, it isn’t. To really make it work, yours must contain the sensory experience of the character whose point of view you’re using. Cutting down the chapter in the middle of a scene may feel unnatural and forced. Make it all about the character and their ‘feels’ instead. 

Let’s take the same example: the character’s BF receives a text or call in the worst possible moment. Instead of simply stating facts, add in the girl’s reaction to this shocker. Did her heart drop? Did she realize he’d been a cheat? Describe her feelings when she gets ‘the news’, and voila, the readers are left impressed.

Make It Brief

Too much detail throws a cliffhanger off the cliff, so try to keep it brief and to the point. Check your ending for the things that would fit better somewhere else within the chapter. If you don’t, the banger might easily turn into a downer. 

Lengthy descriptions or a train of thought are not what make a quality cliffhanger. Be a Hemingway for once and cut down the excessive wording. A few brief sentences or phrases with a good deal of ‘feels’ are the right way to go. All else can be used before the actual cliffhanger – or in the next part of the story.

One Is Enough

…As soon as the girl learns her boyfriend is unfaithful, her long-estranged father knocks at the door. That’s two cliffhangers for one chapter – and a situation a good writer must avoid. Just like too much salt, it spoils the impression, and the readers will feel overloaded. 

First tip: leave only one cliffhanger at the chapter’s end. Second tip: tie the cliffhanger to a relevant plotline. If the girl’s father has not been even mentioned, that would be too much of a surprise – and come across as forced.

Try a Flashback

Flashbacks can shape a cliffhanger without too many gimmicks on your part. In fact, they are a perfect way to add new information that will affect the story. Writing a solid flashback may be tricky, but trust us, it will pay off splendidly. 

How would you pen one for the girl’s sad story? A simple flashback would be her recalling how the boyfriend didn’t answer calls; or skipped a date; or did something equally despicable. It’s up to you and your creative vision to make the past work for the present. A nice idea would be tying the cliffhanger to something already mentioned in the text, like the said missed calls. 

So there you have it: how to write a hit cliffhanger and make your fans count the days until the follow-up. Just don’t forget to add the chapter soon-ish, and they’ll be happy as a quokka.

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Advice and answers from the AlphaNovel Team

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