Tuesday, January 21, 2014

It's A Cliffhanger!

When is the right time to stop?

You’ve gone on and on, trying and trying…you’re tired, and you seem to have exhausted every avenue remaining.

What’s left?

Finding the right place to stop when you’re writing fiction is almost as difficult as finding the correct place to begin.  And, almost as important, is how you stop your story.

If you’re writing a stand-alone piece of fiction, you should have all of the problems solved, or in a state that your fictional hero or heroes can control.  The story should conclude with all issues resolved

Unless you’re writing something that you intentionally leave open for the reader to forever wonder about.

I’ve heard that called a Hitchcockian ending, named after the famed film director.  One of Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous movies, The Birds, comes to mind.  As Tippi Hedren and the others drive away, we see literally millions of birds perched everywhere, as if waiting for something.  What happened after that?

The viewer is left wondering, and is forced to use their own imagination.

Many pieces of fiction end that way, leaving things undone to the point that the reader must draw their own conclusions.

Is this fair?


Often, things that happen in real life have no endings.  Why should our fiction be any different?

This way of “non-ending” things really carries over into a fiction series.  In a series, the very word “series” indicates that things will not be concluded into a neat package at the end of the story.  Many strings may be left untied, so that the hero or heroes of the series will have more actions to perform in later stories.  The open-ended story strings could be a choice still to be made about something in a personal life…or something as strong as the escape of the villain.  Or something leading you to read the next story.

Those choices, however, are not up to the reader.  They remain forever locked in the choices made by the writer and creator of the piece of fiction.  Those choices, if left open, invite a sense of excitement in the reader, with the hope that you will read the next entry in the series, or see the next episode of the show, or see the next installment of the movie series.

It’s called a cliffhanger ending.

Why is that important?

I’ll tell you sometime…{wink}

Keep reading!

Michael  (T. M.)

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