The Value of a Cliffhanger by R.M. Gauthier

Writing Mysteries intrigued me because I love a good cliff-hanger. There I’ve said it, so shoot me, as for anyone who says they don’t like them or don’t do them they’re not being completely honest.

There is mystery and cliffhangers in almost everything people write, if there wasn’t then your story won’t be worth reading. Whether you think so or not, everyone’s writing has cliff-hangers.

If you look at any work, whether it be your own or any other piece of work, read it carefully and you’ll see the mystery in any piece and most certainly cliff-hangers.  Will he love me? Does she care? We’re moving to another place, will it be good or bad? Who killed them? And, why? All of these and any other story plot is a mystery. How a writer chooses to handle these mysteries is the deciding factor on how big or small the cliff-hanger in your story will be.

These cliff-hangers can be mild or hard core depending on the intention and where they are placed in your story. The most evident ones would be at the end of each chapter. We leave cliff-hangers at the end of every chapter in order to get the reader to turn the page. As writers, we leave small morsels that entice the reader to continue reading. If we didn’t leave these breadcrumbs, if we left nothing to entice the reader, the reader would most likely close the book and not continue reading.

Another, most obvious place for a cliff-hanger is the end of a book. These are the ones most people get angry about. There is nothing like coming to the end of a book only to realize we are left hanging on the edge of a cliff. They are maddening. But, if done correctly they can be the best thing about your book.control-longing-new-dark

When deciding to include a hanging on the edge of a cliff-hanger at the end of the book, you better have a great plan. Cliffhangers at the end of books have to be handled delicately so you don’t turn the reader off, or make them so mad they don’t want to read the next installment to your series. Let’s face it, the only reason you would leave a cliff-hanger at the end of a novel is that you have another book planned to continue the story.

Even still, leaving a cliff-hanger on a novel in series has to be handled with kid gloves. First, you must make sure the cliff-hanger is enough to make the reader actually say, out loud…, ‘What the hell just happened,’ but it should also be mild enough for them to say, ‘I have to know what happens.’ If done well you will have your reader wanting to read your next novel. They’ll wait however long they have to wait, anxiously, and will not lose interest or forget about your novel while they are waiting.

One of the ways to accomplish this is what I’ve done in my novel. You can call it the old switch and bait. My story is all about my protagonist, showing her world, showing how she came across the people and places she does in the story, but in the end, I flip the reader on their head because the story isn’t really about our protagonist. None of that shows up until the final pages of the story, but I also wrap up everything else in the story that is questioned along the way. The ending leaves the reader questioning everything they read and wanting to know how this happened, especially without them seeing it coming.

That kind of ending leaves the door wide open for book 2, but it can also leave a reader feeling duped if done poorly. There is a fine line between a satisfying cliff-hanger and a cliff-hanger thrown in at the last minute in order to fool a reader into getting the next book.

As I’ve stated, my cliff-hanger at the end of my novel was planned from the beginning. I already knew that was how my book would end before I started writing, so while writing the novel I weaved the story around that ending. And you must do that when ending on a cliff-hanger. Readers are smart who will definitely know the difference between a planned cliff-hanger and one thrown in to help sell the next book.

I am author R.M. Gauthier and have three novellas and a novel published. I am getting ready to release Bound book three to my series The Mystery of Landon Miller. I am also releasing a new novella Christmas Miracle on Valentine’s Day, which is the second installment to my Christmas Miracle series. I’m a fairly new published author having my first novella published in November of 2016. I have learned so much over the past year and for 2017 I’m hitting the ground running with more novels to come.


Best pieces of advice about publishing I have heard or received, first, push the publish button. The second write, edit, publish, repeat.

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