No Wire…err…Cliffhangers!!!

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Next up…so the last two books I finished reading ended with a *dun dun dun* dreaded cliffhanger.  Obviously cliffhangers are nothing new in books…my personal favorite is the “Nancy Drew cliffhanger.”  You know what I’m talking about (the original series was especially notorious for these)…the chapter ends with something along the lines of “Nancy was just reaching for the attic door handle when suddenly an icy hand gripped her shoulder and the room plunged into darkness!”

Of course the very first sentence of the next chapter reassured you with a “Nancy whirled around, only to see Ned Nickerson standing there with a concerned look on his face.”  Every.  Single.  Chapter.  Some manufactured drama to end with a “thrilling” note, only to immediately resolve it and move on with the sleuthing.  At times I thought that Carolyn Keane just didn’t know how to end a chapter.  As I grew older, I discovered that Michael Crichton was bad about this too.

Now I know that there’s nothing new under the sun, but I’m sure most of you will agree with me that ending a book on a manufactured cliffhanger has gotten out of control recently.  You know what I’m referring to.  The book ends in a way that is a blatant ploy to get you to buy the next one.

I’m not referring to books that can and do stand alone, yet end in a way that leaves you satisfied and eagerly anticipating the next one.  I read Marcus Sakey’s A Better World specifically because of how Brilliance ended.  That is doing a cliffhanger right.  The story was told in its entirety…but the next book provided another story in the same world, with the same characters.  Each book can stand on its own.

Doing a book cliffhanger wrong is, at its heart, a blatant money-grab.  There are some books that literally end mid-scene, sometimes even mid-dialogue (and in romance/erotica, often just as the manly lover smirks and approaches the heroine with wicked intent).  They are designed to make you thank the Amazon Gods for One Click Purchase, but unfortunately for the authors who employ this dubious tactic, it seems to be backfiring.  If I finish a book convinced that either a) my Kindle didn’t download the entire thing or b) the “series” is actually just one book arbitrarily chopped into parts to maximize earning potential, they will not get another purchase from me.  They will get an “Oh look, a cliffhanger” tag on Goodreads and definitely a warning to potential readers in the review.  Judging by what I’m seeing in other reviews, I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Lest I sound like a complete and utter bitch about books whose titles INCLUDE something like “The McHotty Billionaire Bad Boy Series, Book #1,” I think it’s tragic that some extremely talented authors (and some who aren’t) are shooting themselves in the foot by alienating readers in such a way.  I’m to the point now that when I’m on the fence about purchasing a book, if any of the reviews mention “Yes, it ends on a cliffhanger,” I will almost always skip it.  If the cliffhanger is SO cliffhanger-y that it merits mention in the reviews, I’m going to choose not to be manipulated by the author into spending more money to read a complete story arc.

And that, to me, is The Thing.  You should want to read another book by the same author that includes or expands on the same world and the same characters.  They should have done such a good job telling a solid complete story that you pounce on the opportunity to see them do it again.  You should not be gritting your teeth and buying the sequel because you’ve already invested time, money, and your heart in the first part, and you’re going to see it through to the end dammit!

What are your thoughts?  Do you think this trend is out of control?  What are some of your favorite examples of a cliffhanger done right?

And because I used it shamelessly…