Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Short Thought on Cliffhangers in Literature

A conversation with a friend of mine has lead to me questioning the use, overuse and style of use of this well used literary device.

I personally think a cliffhanger has to be something that isn't obviously added on. It has to be a part of the flowing story. Otherwise you end up with Dan Brown pop writing that feels cheapened. I don't think it is essential to have direct cliffhangers, just a point of interest left unspoken, an idea that intrigues.

Subtlety is definitely required. I think if you are purposefully adding on cliffhangers then it is going to feel manipulative. Something that grabs can be dropped mid chapter even and left unexplained. If done well, a hook at the start of a chapter/section can be extended out to act as a cliffhanger-type perpetuation of interest that isn’t explored fully for a couple of chapters or more; being subtly reinforced and/or alluded to through suggestion and waypoint reminders. I suppose all good writing has multiple threads like this, and to think a blatant cliffhanger is required for the end of every chapter is something that the awakened reader is going to soon latch onto negatively, and the whole reading experience is going to be plunged into an “Oh, I am reading a book” and the immersion will be lost.

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