Narrative Techniques Series: #12 Cliffhanger

Narrative Techniques Series: #12 Cliffhanger

Do you know how when you’re reading a book, the chapter ends with such a suspenseful ending that you can’t stop reading? The same thing happens in cinema, in some movies, and especially in some TV series.

In this article of our Narrative Techniques Series, we’re learning something new about the Cliffhanger technique.

What is the Narrative Technique of Cliffhanger?

The Narrative Technique of Cliffhanger is usually used at the end of a chapter, or of an episode in the case of a TV series.

Its goal is to create a plot twist or to interrupt the action, so the scene can be carried on in the next chapter.

But what is the real objective of interrupting a scene? It is to stop the narration at the highest point of tension and then to end the chapter or the scene. This creates a lot of expectation and forces the reader to keep on reading the story.

The apex of a story is also called in jargon “climax” and it corresponds with the peak of the scene. The Narrative Technique of Cliffhanger leads the reader from a starting point to this particular moment.

This is a crescendo of feelings.

How to use the Cliffhanger

To have the desired effect of this technique, you must know how to use it wisely and carefully.

The intent is not to torture the reader with lots of information and too many twists and turns. If you insert cliffhangers that lead to disconnected climaxes that don’t change the story, it does no good. On the contrary, the consequences of these twists and turns should always be tangible and easily understood.

Some examples of Cliffhanger technique

You can realize the Cliffhanger Technique in different ways.

For example, with jumps in setting or timing. This creates movement in the narrative.

Alternatively, by creating danger or conflict between the protagonists or with other characters. Even a trap, a chase, the death of one of the protagonists, a threat are all good examples of using this narrative technique.

Finally, the cliffhanger can be created by playing with the protagonist’s feelings. You can tell about how his attitude changes, how his ideals change, an inner conflict.

In the cinema, think about “Harry Potter and the deathly hallows-part I“. This already makes the viewer think there will be a part II, which they will look forward to.

In literature, however, we have the example of Cliffhanger in the “Tales of The Thousand and One Nights“. Here, each story told by Sherazade to King Shahryār ends with a narrative suspension to save herself from execution.

Each book will have a lot of cliffhangers, because I like that.

Kevin J. Anderson

Use bibisco and its innovative novel planning software to create your Cliffhanger

With bibisconovel planning software, you can easily understand how to structure your story.

You have the possibility to think about the highest moment of tension in your story, the climax one, and to lead the reader up to this point. You have just to use the Cliffhanger technique seen in this episode of the Narrative Techniques Series.

Narrative Techniques Series #13: Cliffhanger - bibisco's project explorer - bibisco blog | useful resources by your novel writing software
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Creating twists and turns in the story doesn’t seem to be a difficult task. Instead, it must be done with some care to avoid the cliffhanger technique, the one that leads the reader or viewer to the climax, that is, the maximum point of tension, leading to confusion and disorientation.

The cliffhanger must lead to a major change in the story and get the reader so involved that they continues reading in one breath.

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