Re: Overdoing the Mini Cliffhanger

#1
So, writing for a web serial is different than writing a book. Or at least I think that's true?

You gotta catch people's limited attention, you gotta earn every click to 'next chapter'. I've been feeling lately that one way to do that is to close out with a little hook to keep people coming back.

But I dang well know you can overdo it.

What are your personal guidelines for when and when not to tease your next chapter?

Re: Overdoing the Mini Cliffhanger

#2
You can definitely overdue true cliffhangers. For example, if every chapter ends with your MC getting shot, stabbed, captured, thrown out a window, etc. then those scenes can lose their dramatic effect. If your character is always surviving danger, then he's never really in any danger. Too much excitement gets exhausting, and before long, your readers will be begging you for something different. 

Then, the absolute worst kind of cliffhangers are the ones that hint at something but don't deliver:

For example, let's say Chapter 21 ends with this: 

"He opened the door, and..." 

Then Chapter 22 starts with:

"...it was only the pizza delivery guy."

That's a great way to make readers angry.

Instead, try ending chapters more like this:

"He opened the door and saw a dead body."

The end of the chapter doesn't even need a be a huge suspenseful moment. You just want it to be one of the most high-tension moments in the scene.

Here are high-tension ways to end your chapter without going full-on action mode:

-The character stumbles across something (ie the dead body example from earlier)
-The enemy shows up
-The character learns that the antagonist did something, is doing something, or about to do something.
-The stakes are raised. (The characters thought they had a week to find the bomb, now they only have a day.)
-The characters realize their victory was a false victory
-Two characters kiss
-Two characters are about to make a deal, but one of them hasn't committed yet
-The character commits to learning a new skill or committing to a plan.

If you give your readers variety (without false promises) you can still get away with a good percentage of your chapters ending in suspenseful moments.

Re: Overdoing the Mini Cliffhanger

#3
The old film serials such as Flash Gordon always ended with cliffhangers, but I agree with you that it doesn't necessarily work in writing. I usually try to end a chapter at a point which logically makes the reader expect that there's more to follow in the next chapter. Not a cliff-hanger necessarily, but a some information being held back until the next chapter. For example, someone could receive a message at the end of one chapter and read it in the beginning of the next. Or be preparing to leave on a trip which is detailed in the next chapter. However, sometimes a cliffhanger is just too good to pass up.

Re: Overdoing the Mini Cliffhanger

#9
I always aim for about 1000 words per chapter and because I have a distinct dislike for filler, I made sure that each chapter had its own self-contained purpose. Now, because I had a goal for 1000 words and I didn't always reach it with the original chapter's scope, thus I would add an extra paragraph that hinted to the next chapter and to make up the word count. Since no chapter that felt useless and because the cliffhangers weren't always present I could reduce the reader's fatigue of cliffhangers.

This all being said, if your goal is to write cliffhangers for every chapter, then it's going to become annoying very fast if you aren't careful.

Re: Overdoing the Mini Cliffhanger

#11
True indeed ^^

Ultimately, you got to write what you want and not force yourself to end chapters with cliffhangers just to keep your readers on the edge.

Personally, I didn't feel like I was overdoing the cliffhangers. In fact, I didn't even think I had that many cliffhangers in my story. I just ended my chapters where it felt the most right, without it being to abrupt, and at the same time keeping some tension. But clearly my readers disagree lol. I almost always have that one comment telling me "Cliffhanger!". And then, discussing with them, it seems that they do indeed think I'm evil with cliffhangers x) But, what can I say? It's not even on purpose :p I just feel like ending it anywhere else would disrupt the flow.

Re: Overdoing the Mini Cliffhanger

#13

Quote:The pepperonis were ninja stars all along!

Nooo!!!! Not the pizza ninjas!

But seriously, that idea of revealing something, but withholding details until the next chapter is exactly how you hook someone into a multi-chapter binge without it feeling like you're stringing them along on cliffhangers. A kiss, a letter, a suddenly-revealed plot person, a basic plot event/start... These are all great ways to gently hook your reader.


Onion ninjas will do the job, too. Good feels will bring people back, regardless of cliffhangers. Especially if you stop at a natural pause in an unresolved fight (A certain Fantasian author pulled this one on us recently. And she releases posts on that story every two months... Not fun. Discord was hottt)

Re: Overdoing the Mini Cliffhanger

#14
Stories typically run on a pattern of:

tension -> resolution -> reflection -> resolution

Character A gets into a fistfight with Character B (tension).

The fistfight ends (resolution).

Character A thinks about what happened in the fight (reflection).

Character A decides to go pick a fight with character C/go on a training trip/stop getting into fights (resolution).

The trick for serials is never to end a chapter right after the resolution. That way the reader clicks through to the next chapter, since they want resolution of whatever's going on. They get it, and then the next chapter hooks them again, so they click to the next chapter for more resolution, and so on.

You don't need a literal cliffhanger, you just want the reader to be invested in what happens next.