Watching TV instead of reading books is actually good for your brain! The one weird trick publishers love, and authors hate, for automatically inserting cliffhangers into books.

by worstideas

Background:

Some stories make amazing use of the end-of-chapter “cliffhanger” to keep readers turning pages.

Even a mediocre work can be made compelling if there is a pressing need to resolve each chapter’s mystery before the reader can put the book down.

The trick, of course, is to continually insert mysteries / dramatic cliffhangers throughout the narrative, ensuring that no chapter goes un-cliffhanger’d.

Proposal:

This is easier said than done—many stories do not naturally lend themselves to “dramatic cliffhanger” endings in each chapter.

Plus, some authors believe in artistic merit, and would be hesitant to “sell out” the writing process by adding transparent cliffhangers.

Luckily, the system proposed below can be applied by the publisher without any author involvement!

Here is the method to automatically insert cliffhangers without otherwise disturbing the narrative:

  • The book must be structured so that there are (at minimum) two character perspectives or characters / plots to follow.
  • For simplicity, we will refer to this structure as using the standard terminology of “A” plot and “B” plot.
  • Then:
  • Interleave “A” plot chapters and “B” plot chapters.
  • So the chapters appear as follows:     A, B, A, B, A, B …
  • Now, each “A” chapter has a randomly generated cliffhanger added to the end of it. That cliffhanger is resolved by a (matching) cliffhanger-resolution text in the beginning of the next “A” chapter.
  • The same cliffhanger-and-resolution process is applied to the “B” chapters.

So our final result looks like this, where all the “A” and “B” chapters are as the author intended, and the cliffhangers may be added by the publisher without disturbing the overall plot.

  • A
  • A_cliffhanger_A1
  • B
  • B_cliffhanger_B1
  • A_resolution_to_A1
  • A
  • A_cliffhanger_A2
  • B_resolution_to_B1
  • B
  • B_cliffhanger_B2

Examples:

Examples of this method in action can be seen below.

Example Story #1

(Chapter 4 text goes here)

Florence entered the hallway and froze—from beneath the opposite door, a torrent of blood streamed forth!

End chapter 4: HALLWAY OF HORROR

(Intervening chapter 5 from another character’s point of view)

Chapter 6: WATERFALL OF BLOOOOOOD

“Oh, hi you guys. I was just pouring myself some cranberry juice, when I accidentally knocked the jug off the table and spilled it everywhere. This is going to take FOREVER to clean up.”

(Story continues as before)

cliffhanger-door

Fig 1: Just spilled some cranberry juice, nothing suspicious here.

Example Story #2

A moment after entering the dark alley, the detective heard a chilling voice: “Your money or your life!”

End of Chapter 15: DEPOSIT… OF DEATH

(Intervening chapters 16 and 17 from other characters’ points of view)

Chapter 18: VOICE FROM THE DARK ALLEY

The voice continued: “…are often thought of as being in opposition. Perhaps we must prioritize one of them; is it best to toil away in pursuit of financial well-being, or relax and appreciate life, yet possibly live as a pauper?”

The detective turned around. “Oh, it’s just some crazy wandering philosopher who I will probably not encounter again.”

(Story continues as before)

Example Story #3

The shadow of an enormous man-wolf spread across the side of the barn as the creature stepped in front of the parked car’s headlights.

End of chapter 9: THE BLOOD-CURDLING SHADOW

(Intervening chapters)

Chapter 12: THE TWO-HEADED BEAST OF THE MANOR MARSHES

“Wow, that is really bright,” said the groundskeeper, as he stepped out from the headlights and tucked a small Pomeranian under his arm. “I was out walking Sir Barks-a-lot here, but the lazy mutt got tired, so I was holding him. In front of my head, you see. Funny how his snout just happened to make a nightmarish shadow as I stepped in front of the light!”

“That is indeed a reasonable explanation,” agreed the junior sleuth. “Although would a purebred dog really be a ‘mutt’?”

“The word can also be used generically to refer to any dog.”

“Oh.”

(Story continues as before)

cliffhanger-beast

Fig 2: There is definitely a scientific explanation for this.

Conclusion:

If you are a publisher, you should immediately employ this technique to your entire fiction section.

PROS: Adds new compelling aspects to any book to increase its commercial prospects. Does not require author involvement.

CONS: This system will unfortunately *not* work with a book that is only a single-threaded narrative (for example, an account of a single explorer climbing a mountain).

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