cliffhanger

I’m working on reviewing my copy edits for The House Guests–formerly titled Lies and Other Mercies. In addition I’m writing a novella for a collection I hope to publish in early 2021. So let me quickly share a conversation we’re having at Read Along With Emilie Richards.

We’ve been talking about books that end with cliffhangers. I know you’ve read a few. There you are, reading away, and suddenly the book is finished, but you STILL don’t know how it ended. The book is over but the story is not. The characters are figuratively hanging from a cliff, and the author is hoping that you will buy the next book to see if they drop or manage to crawl back up to safer ledge.

Runaway, which I reissued on September 1st, has a cliffhanger. Since the book is romantic suspense, there are two major elements to the story. The first and most important in a romance is the relationship itself. Will it end happily? Will the couple work through whatever has separated them and move forward together? The second is the suspense element. Have one or both of the characters in love solved a mystery, unearthed a bad guy, moved forward from darkness to light?

Runaway was written to showcase the problems of runaway teenagers on our streets. The ending wasn’t meant to promote the sale of a second book or a long series of books to finally get an answer to the story of one teenager who is central to the novel. But when I finished it I knew I had to resolve the cliffhanger. My readers wanted to know: What happens next?

I felt comfortable leaving that question unanswered because the other important question, would the characters find love and long term happiness together, was resolved. But I didn’t leave it unanswered for long. The suspense is resolved in the second book, The Way Back Home, which comes out in two weeks.

We’ve had really interesting responses to the question “How do you feel about cliffhangers?” Some people hate them. Others like them if there’s not a lot of time between books. Waiting a year to find what will happen is unacceptable to them–me, too. Continuing characters are fine with some readers, but not unresolved story lines. Some readers will buy all the books and only read them once they have each one.

Series came up, too. I’ve heard a rumor that publishers are more enthusiastic about publishing single title novels these days than series. I’ve told you before that both the Shenandoah Album series and the Goddess Anonymous series were ended by my publisher before I provided what I considered a satisfactory conclusion to both. I was asked to write single titles from that point on, but I know from your email, that many of you wish both series had continued.

So what are your thoughts? Do you like series or single titles? Are you upset with cliffhangers, but not upset if the next book is available to find out what happens?

We’d love to hear from you. Meantime I watched an episode of Season Two of Endeavour last night. If you love Inspector Morse on PBS, Endeavour is the young Morse, just beginning his career. They story is set in Oxford, one of our favorite places in the world. Last night’s episode almost defined cliffhangers, ending with a very major one. And it was absolutely perfect. I wouldn’t change a moment.

However, I know I can watch the follow-up because I can find it on Netflix. That helped.

We’re open to opinions here. Tell us what you think.

7 Comments

  1. Adelyn on September 16, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    I am not overly fond of cliffhangers but I suppose some of them are needed when the story line needs develeoping. But generally, not so much.
    Why? Because at this time in my life I find I just can’t remember the small details of a novel for all that long. I like to read the book and finish it. I might get really into the author and read more stories from her/him but like to feel it is over. Not to say that the characters can’t turn up in another book by the author, but let them survive on their own merits.
    Yes, it is fun to watch the young inspector Morse but it does take some getting used to to match the younger with the older. But both series can stand alone very well. In fact, it has been so long since I watch the younger and older it might behoove me to watch them all once more. Hmmm, in this long drought of so little to watch that just might work.

  2. Kate on September 16, 2020 at 3:42 pm

    I was binge watching a BBC series, only to discover that the series ended with a cliffhanger and didn’t get renewed. That is totally unfair.
    I am not fond of books that don’t stand on their own. It’s almost like the author is trying to force me to buy the next one.

  3. FORSTROM ROSEMARY on September 16, 2020 at 3:46 pm

    I enjoy both series and stand alone books. I do not like cliff hangers and I will stop reading an author if they end their books with cliff hangers. I am not interested in the fact the next book comes out soon, just finish the story and then write another book. I am currently reading a book by an author I enjoy and I am irritated because she is dragging two characters in and it is obvious they deserve their own book. I checked and they will get their own story but it feels as though she is devoting too much time with them and it is distracting us from the main story line. It is also possible that the pandemic situation is making me cranky. You mentioned your unfinished series. As a reader I hate it when publishers force an author to leave a series unfinished. Frustrating for you and your readers.

  4. Coelle Baskel on September 16, 2020 at 5:29 pm

    I seem to agree with others here that I love Stand Alone books as well as Series, but not a fan of ‘cliffhangers’….it’s hard for a reader to not feel this is just a ploy to sell more books. I now always read reviews of books I’m purchasing and if anyone mentions it’s a ‘cliffhanger’, I pass it up. On the other hand Series really draw me in …and love characters that fill the pages and almost become like friends. I’m sorry that your publisher wouldn’t allow you to continue a series…I had no idea that kind of thing happened.

  5. Sandie on September 16, 2020 at 6:52 pm

    I like them all. I love series if they’re short and I don’t have to wait months or longer for the next book. In fact, I usually wait until I have all the books before reading a series. I often read a series I like twice because I find things I missed the first time. I don’t mind cliffhangers If I don’t have to wait months for the next book. My favorites though are stand alone books with a bit of mystery or romantic suspense.

  6. DELORES on September 16, 2020 at 10:28 pm

    I enjoy both stand alone and series—as long as there isn’t too much time between succeeding books being published in the series. Otherwise, I tend to forget parts of the story and have to go back and review a little. I’m not real fond of cliffhangers but enjoy characters from early books playing a role in later books in a series to continue or complete their story. I am sorry you weren’t able to complete the Shenandoah and Goddess Anonymous series. I enjoyed both. Another author I review for only finished two of a three book series and I often wondered how the story of the third character would have ended. I find most stand alone novels have more depth and, of course, a more complete story.

  7. Nancy on September 17, 2020 at 7:40 pm

    No, I don’t want to be left hanging! And I really do like series, like the Goddesses. Loved those books. But a satisfactory ending is also appreciated. I do want them published on a timely basis so we can remember where we left off. I read a LOT so also enjoy stand alone books (with complete stories.)

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