Of Cliffhangers and Continuations….

It seems like there are two types of book series, of those books written as part of a series: those ending in cliffhangers, and those that are merely a continuation, i.e. all or most of the same characters but centering on a brand new conflict. I’ve become disturbed to learn that there is a large population of readers who are biased against the former. I just want to put this question out there: why?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand the frustration of getting to the end of the book and discovering a cliffhanger, only to learn that the next book in the series isn’t yet available. But I can’t for the life of me understand readers who become outraged and indignant by cliffhangers. I’ve heard some decry that this is an author’s malicious attempt to get the reader to buy the next book in the series. I’m not really sure how to respond to that other to say other than malicious, of course it is. However, it’s probably not solely for the reason you think. The reader engages with a story because they need to be relieved of the tension, to experience the resolution. Sometimes this can be resolved in one book, and sometimes it needs to be parsed out in different acts that become a more congruent whole because they were compartmentalized.  It’s not so much about garnering more sales, as it is about arranging a work that allows for a proper segmentation of plot to maximize the reader’s enjoyment. Just think what a laborious task it would have been if all the Harry Potter books were rolled into one insanely large volume.

As a reader, I frown more when an author chooses a continuation series. Not to say I haven’t enjoyed some, but there have been others that, when I learn there is a sequel, I scratch my head and ask why. If everything has been wrapped into a tidy bow with the end of the original book, why do we need another? Again, I’ve heard from some that it’s because we like the characters so much, we want to keep going with their story. But… if the original book included a happily ever after (and I realize this conversation is based more off of romance novels, which I tend to read), why do we need to know more? If there’s further contention and conflicts that need resolution for the reader, then I’m led to believe you’re HEA construct was a fallacy.

So, where do you come down? Do you think cliffhangers are an abomination or artful? Do continuations make you giddy, or leave you feeling strung out?


One Comment  to  Of Cliffhangers and Continuations….

  1. Angela says:

    I’m a big fan of series where you get a different couple and different plot each book they and i tended to keep away from books that openly said it was part 1 of 3 or 4 or some cases 5 and one day i had a sample on my kindle and i started reading it and i was hooked sat and read the book straight through forgot about eating sleeping everything till i got to the ending … i hit the ending and it was a cliffhanger i could have screamed it was months till the next book was out and i couldn’t wait for it i was obsessed with the story and over the months till the next book i re read the story over and over again just waiting and when book 2 came out i loved it thankfully you got the ending in book 2 and what a ending!

    The lesson i learnt is you can’t judge a good book by someone else’s cliffhanger and i fell sad when i think about the fact that if i had known before i started reading the sample it was a cliffhanger i wouldn’t have even downloaded the sample which would have totally been my loss! To this day that book remains one if not the best book i’ve ever read and over the last 30 years i’ve read a lot of books!

Your two cents appreciated: