In Defense of Cliffhangers

I know everyone hates it.

The story is almost over, and it's wrapped up, but nope, the author is not a decent human being.

The author is some cruel, scary person that drinks the tears of their readers, and in the last few chapters of their book, they decide not to wrap up the story like every sane individual would say they should. Instead, they choose a far more nefarious path. They decide to include a cliffhanger.

And the reader goes through the book, expecting a slow decrescendo of action, only to get slapped in the face- no, punched in the gut- by the author's cliffhanger.

Authors be like..

Everyone hates cliffhangers. Stories should be self contained. They should end. And, come on, what the hell is up for leaving readers in suspense for a whole year as they wait for the new book to come out? It's one year. Something so sudden can't just be sprung up on a reader.

I see why people don't like cliffhangers, but I've always liked them.

First, I don't understand this book obsession with completing a story. Why do people desire such perfectly self-contained reads? I'm not one to seek out standalones, and this is because I like the longer, complex story that usually has the character going through a larger journey. The more details and plot twists, the better, as long as they're done well.

Thanks Funny or Die!

The second part to cliffhangers is that I review books right after I read them. This evidently means my review is very well measured. In reality, the way I feel about the ending is weighted extremely heavily. So, if the ending is shocking and leaves me craving for more, my review will be gushy and all "Nooooo whyyy is there no morreeee". In fact, wanting more is often viewed as a positive, so if an author can achieve that, I'll often review their stories more favourably.

The last part of it is that I like having some time to imagine what the next story is like. There's a whole year to build up anticipation and wonder what will happen to the characters. What better way to end an essay with a punch line? Well, cliffhangers are the same. They're punches. They're memorable, and show that the author knows where they're going. To me, they say, "Well if you liked this one, you won't believe what happpens in the sequel!" And this excites me. It's what makes me write in my reviews that a story has promise. Because a cliffhanger is a promise that something exciting will be happening.

Cliffhangers often occur in high action or drama stories, and provided I enjoyed the book, I always enjoy the cliffhanger. Rick Riordan is especially famous for this, and his "rickhangers" are horrible, amazing, maddening masterpieces. I love them because they allude to a bigger and better story.

Cliffhangers are not just awesome, they're the shit.



  1. Well I'm one who generally hates a cliffhanger - I mean, if a series has an ending, but kind of an open ending then that's fine, but I hate the feeling of knowing I won't have closure for a long time. But I totally see your point of view because a really good cliffhanger can be so exciting. Like with the BBC Sherlock - I kinda love how crazy they are. So I guess I don't mind certain kinds of cliffhangers - not ones where the book just ends without a resolution to the main problem and only a little bit of mystery but when it ends on a really shocking twist, that opens up all kinds of amazing possibilities. :)

    1. I've always thought that most cliffhangers do have that shocking twist. I don't know if I even need all that much resolution in a story- if it's a series, I know it will continue on and I will get to it eventually. But still, I'm happy I've gotten you to see my POV, at least a little. :P


  2. I only appreciate a cliffhanger if I'm reading a series that's already complete. When I have the next book waiting for me and I can read it whenever I want (maybe right away, maybe in a week, maybe in a month... but it's my decision) then I can appreciate that excitement. Otherwise, if I'm reading each book as it comes out, I'm just going to forget the details and why I'm supposed to care in the time in between releases.

    I'm also far less forgiving of cliffhangers in the first book of a series. The first book - I think - should set things up and get the reader interested. If it does that, and that first book leaves me with the impression that I just read a great story, I'll want to come back for the second book. But when it ends in a nasty cliffhanger, then I feel like I'm being manipulated and it puts me off. Cliffhangers in later books, once I'm already invested, it's more like the feeling you describe. But in that first book, it just feels like a cheap trick.

    There are always exceptions, though, so I understand your excitement about them. A well-done cliffhanger can be great. I guess I've just read too many lazy ones that I'm soured on them.

    1. I guess I'm very forgiving to cliffhangers in general because they make me hope for the better. I also don't mind considering books that aren't self-contained. Episodic stories don't bother me, but if the story isn't developed enough in the first book, I will remark on it.

      Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I do believe that cliffhangers generally bother me less than others, and I generally enjoy them more, but that doesn't mean I can't see arguments against them in certain cases.



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