Wednesday, June 24, 2009

To Cliffhang or Not to Cliffhang

I finished reading Katie MacAlister's Playing with Fire in record time. The novel was everything I wanted and expected: funny, well written, and filled with great characters and imagination. I enjoyed having some of the familiar characters from the Aisling Grey novels back from a removed perspective. And, oddly, I was okay with the book ending on a cliffhanger.

Normally I would hate that. Normally I would be moaning and whining to you. Part of my zen might be the fact that I have book two already and don't have to wait another year for it. Part of it might be the fact that I've already started Up in Smoke, the sequel. But a major part of it is this:

Despite the fact that Playing with Fire ended on a cliffhanger for the character, it still was a complete story. The entire character arc was there, the complete hero's journey. Only, the consequences of that journey led to the cliffhanger.

It made me curious about this approach from a more professional angle. Would a publisher buy a debut novel that did something similar or is this something to attempt only once you're established? Fortunately my first novel ends with a solid ending, but it is part of a series, and I want to keep people coming back, eager for the next one. Nothing does that quite like a cliffhanger or impending doom. On the other hand, there's definitely something to be said for an all-wrapped-up ending and the feeling of contentment that comes with it.

Hence the question: to cliffhang or not to cliffhang?

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