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Quick Guide to Writing the Best Cliffhangers

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Klaus might get killed. Caroline’s ex boyfriend shows up. The killer is revealed. Someone catches Klaroline getting it on in an alley. We all read this and we all let out a loud groan when we notice that this happens to be the end of the update and we have to wait a while for the next chapter. It is a horror having to deal with this considering we are desperate for more every time we finish reading any update.

In a perfect world writers would release the story with all the chapters posted, a nice epilogue and tons of other stories following it. But instead we have to deal with long periods of time between updates, crazy plots that leave us happy but frustrated and of course the classic cliffhanger. We love reading them but even better we love writing them. Because there really isn’t anything better than posting a chapter with a freaky cliffhanger and getting a vivid response that shows us just how much people appreciate our story. Seeing all the reviewers begging to know what will happen next is only the icing on the glorious cake, wouldn’t you agree? All you Fanfic Writers out there, you know you like it. And all you Fanfic Readers, you know you love it as well. #RobinThicke style

But there do come some guidelines that can best help you post a successful cliffhanger.

1.Element of Surprise

Dropping little unknown hints here and there are a good idea but if too many get mentioned, you are in danger of making it too predictable and not as appealing or shocking as you wish to. The best advice I could give you would be to make sure the hints you drop aren’t obvious, while also making sure that the cliffhanger is sudden. Just like a villain in a scary film that pops up when you least expect it, make cliffhangers that unexpected villain in your story.

2. Clear Information

Obviously you can’t explain everything after the cliffhanger because that ruins that whole point of it right? But if you strip the end of the update bare and leave only a few short lines that can also be a bad idea. If the cliffhanger is under detailed then it won’t make enough sense for anyone to get it either. You will leave everyone confused and will have to update way sooner in order to make it understandable to your readers. In short, don’t over include but also don’t under include any details in the set up for the cliffhanger and the cliffhanger itself.

3.Timing

The element of surprise only works if the timing is right. When you choose to throw this cliffhanger out there make sure that there isn’t a lot going on currently with other characters or with another plot because it could conflict too much. Also make sure it is brought in at the right time. Serious cliffhangers right in the beginning might distract from the build up of the characters and the set up of the main plot. But if it is brought in too late then it will be rushed and would further confuse or simply not be essential for the story. Making sure that the cliffhangers come in time is a big issue but honestly it is different for every writer and they personally should know if and when it would fit to bring in something drastic to their story.

4.Purpose

Everything in a story has a purpose therefore adding a detail that isn’t helpful just has no point. A cliffhanger is usually used to push a character and a plot along in a different direction. That means that this cliffhanger isn’t brief or small, it should be vital and drawn out. Which means my biggest suggestion is to think over exactly how this new surprise will push your story further and how exactly you want it to happen. Once you figure everything out it is easier later to work on the story once have created the new path in the plot. Essentially you want the addition of a cliffhanger to complicate things but in a way that makes everything still flow nicely with interesting and shocking twists.

All I can add is that cliffhangers are great tools in fanfiction that I highly recommend. Don’t be afraid to include them in your stories no matter how confusing you think it will be at first, as long as it makes sense to you and you are aware of where everything is going it will be great. Another tip I would give you is to update quickly after posting a cliffhanger chapter because as an avid fanfiction reader I know it gets frustrating and worrisome when waiting for the next chapter following an out of nowhere event. A good idea would be to have the next chapter written before you post the prior one containing the cliffhanger, that way you can post it as usual without disappointing your readers and you will feel less stressful yourself.

Happy writing!

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Written by Yana. Find her on Tumblr and Twitter