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?