October 28, 2015 at 12:56 pm #6886
I thought I’d squeeze one last topic in before the NaNo hibernation kicks into gear.
Specifically, cliffhanger endings. For chapters and for books. What makes ’em good? What makes ’em bad? What are some of your favorites in literature or movies?
One that I found VERY well done was the ending of the second movie in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy— The Desolation of Smaug. Those last lines completely blew me away…
‘I am fire… I am DEATH!’
‘What have we done?’
*Sigh* It’s great.
And yeah, anyway. I also wanted to ask about a rule I’ve heard that I’m not so sure of. As with all stylistic rules, it’s conditional, but I don’t even like it either way.
I’ve heard that with the last sentence of your novel, you should echo the title of your book. And I read a book once that did that. Frankly, it was disgusting. It sounded so… dreadfully cliched! It did really! It sounded childish and uncertain, like the author couldn’t even think up a decent last line.
So tell me about endings of novels in general. What do you look for? What do you like?
And feel free to list all the other reasons the above mentioned rule is wrong. Unless of course you agree with it… and then tell me why. I might just feel inclined to listen. 😛October 28, 2015 at 1:03 pm #6887
- Rank: Eccentric Mentor
- Total Posts: 1092
I think one way to write a good cliffhanger is to reveal a sudden twist and then break off as everyone is staring at the character who’s revealed himself (or whatever). If it’s a chapter end, you could go to someone else in the next chapter (if you have more than one pov). Or you could end a book that way. That’s what I’m doing in the second book of a trilogy I’m writing. It basically ends with one character telling his true name and revealing a surprising connection. Catching Fire ends similarly…with a sudden piece of startling news and then just ends, leaving the reader to work over what they just read.
INTJ - Inhumane. No-feelings. Terrible. Judgment and doom on everyone.October 28, 2015 at 1:59 pm #6893
Whatever you do don’t end with a cliff hanger like they had in Atlas Shrugged part 2! (Um, yeah, I only watched part 2, not 1 or 3, just 2. Yeah. Totally not worth it.) It finished with such a ginormous cliff hanger that I was just sickened. The surprise was so big, I got angry. I started to hear that type of music and saw the characters enter a sort of slow mo stage and I went, “No, no, you are not going to end it like this. You are … nnnnnnnnoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Yeah, don’t do that.
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Having said that, yeah, you absolutely don’t need to end your book with a tie in to your title. *Cough cough Monte Cristo cough Tale cough cough cough Cities cough* (The answer to all writing questions). Also, trying to force such an ending is a bad idea.
If you can get it to work well, it can be especially powerful. If so, your title will have to have strong connections to the theme and characters throughout the whole book so when you pull it out in the end it will actually have meaning (meaning is important). At least I hope what I’m saying is true since I’m going to end my book with the exact title. Here goes.
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Good thoughts, @hope!
@daeus, it sounds like you might be talking about ending on a cliffhanger right in the middle of an action scene. That’s probably not a good idea, because everything has been going at such a fast pace that an end will fall on you like a thunderclap and leave you screaming without any motivation to go on. Because, if anyone was dumb enough to end something that way…
Yeah, I’ll be nice and I won’t say it.
In regards to titles echoed in the last sentence, the book I had in mind was a more modern book called ‘The Boy Colonel’. The last sentence of the book was roughly this: ‘And so they sailed off into the sunset— a red sunset, that no one doubted would bring many more hours of sailor’s delight to The Boy Colonel’
It sounds so off and falsely conclusive to me.
But if you can do it well, go for it. Like I said, the rule is conditional, and I may never have encountered it well done before.
In regards to cliffhangers on the end of a chapter, the first thing I would caution against is ending it too many times with the character in a life or death situation. Because you may do that, to ramp up suspense, and then you may wake up and find you’ve got a character getting knocked out or wounded every chapter. That’s not good. Need I explain my reasons?
Also there are mini-cliffhangers. Not even properly cliffhangers. For instance, the last book in my series (which will probably get written sometime when I’m thirty at the rate I’m going now) as of today ends with the words “Well, catch me if you can!”
And we never find out if whoever was talking got caught. But it’s sweet, and it leaves us with a sense that the story is going to go on and on forever. Because the best stories do. Their ends are only beginnings. Their stories are only introductions, and the ends of those stories carry on into a story much greater, much wider, much richer, written by the reader alone.
*Sniff sniff* I make myself so emotional sometimes…October 28, 2015 at 8:42 pm #6902
The boy colonel, is that Douglas Bond?
Anyway, I should probably explain that cliff hanger I mentioned. I’ll spoil the whole movie, but that doesn’t matter since it’s not worth watching anyways. Basically, in the story America has become ridiculously fascist and there is also this generator some lady found that could create free limitless electricity. Her hope is that this thing could pull America out of its crisis. The only problem is that the generator has been left with a piece missing or something like that so that it won’t work. The thing was obviously the work of some super genius and it is going to take intelligence that is hard to find to finish it off. The reason intelligence is so rare is that all the most brilliant people in the world keep disappearing. Whenever they do, people always say (and I think the people who disappear often say it themselves) “Who is John Gault?” That is what the whole story is about. Answering that question.
If you thought things were bad enough, the government keeps doing its thing and the whole world looks about ready to collapse beyond collapse. Eventually the main character finds out that that the generator was made by John Gault and that when everything went corrupt, he vowed to destroy the evil power. It turns out that his method was starvation. That is why he ruined the generator. So the gov couldn’t use it. He was also the one behind the disappearances of all the great leaders in the world. He didn’t want the gov to have access to their skills to use them for harm. Now the MC had got this one scientist who still remained to work on the generator and he finally figures out how to fix it but then he lets the MC know that he’s leaving (with John Gault she knows.) She won’t let this happen so she takes one of the few remaining jets and chases after him. He disappears behind this 3d screen and then she breaks through it too. After passing the screen, her plane stops working and crashes. Somehow she survives though and these people start running towards her. This one guy kneels down and goes, “Here, let me help you.” She say’s “Who are you?” He answers, “I am John Gault.” And that’s how it ends. Right there. The point of the whole was to find out who he was and then all we get is to barely see his face and the story ends. Ends! It was terrible.
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- Rank: Loyal Sidekick
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I think that the way to really get cliff hangers to work properly (and actually, this ties in perfectly with bringing the book title into your last sentence), is to really make them, so thatOctober 29, 2015 at 7:46 am #6905
@ezra-wilkinson, was that your finished thought?
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I try not to have finished thoughts. When I do, they become boring.October 29, 2015 at 9:16 am #6908
@Daeus— no, it’s actually by an author who has a lot of similarities with Douglas Bond— John J. Horn. Have you heard of him?
Okay, thanks for explaining your cliffhanger. That makes sense too. I see what you’re saying.
Thanks for joining us, @ezra-wilkinson! Ahem… I trust you have something to contribute…?
😉October 29, 2015 at 12:56 pm #6909
- Rank: Charismatic Rebel
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I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE EZRAOctober 29, 2015 at 1:54 pm #6910
Perhaps you would condescend to enlighten me, Daniel.October 29, 2015 at 2:26 pm #6912
OOOOOOOOOOhhhhhhhhhhhhhh… wait. I get it now.
It was a cliff hanger. 😛
XD. Niiiiiiiiiiiiiice, Ezra.October 29, 2015 at 2:35 pm #6913
- Rank: Wise Jester
- Total Posts: 79
Nice, Ezra. Nice.
…Actually NOT NICE because now we’ll all be left wondering what it was you were going to say (or if there even was such a thing!).October 29, 2015 at 3:22 pm #6914
Wow, I didn’t catch that at all. Nice one Ezra. Oh, that’s fun.
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