Cliffhangers! What are they exactly? And why are they so popular? The cliffhanger seems to be a popular choice amongst the many contributors we have here in the Reading Room as a technique to end their chapters. A well-constructed cliffhanger usually keeps the reader in suspense, so that they will want to turn the page (or at least click the mouse) and find out what happens next. How do the writers of the Reading Room keep their readers waiting with baited breath for the next episode?
I have spent a bit of time lately, reading through past chapters of various stories posted here, to see what sort of endings have been employed. There are a few that I have identified below.
The battle of Helm's deep was over, "victory! We have victory!" Théoden shouted. Eleniel looked out at the dark wood, wondering if she really saw it or was it some fantasy caused by the poison. Suddenly all the pain she had obtained that night came crashing over her like a tidal wave; and once again Eleniel fell into darkness
Elven Ranger, May 30 2003
The partial victory chapter ending is pretty much self-explanatory. A victory of some sort is obtained, which helps to relieve some of the tension and provide a stopgap for the story to regroup and develop along other lines.
"This is as far as you can go."
She turned alarmed eyes to her adar and her amme. It was her adar that spoke up for her, "Why is she not allowed to go further? I thought that we waited here for her to join us before we would be allow to continue on our journey to the other place."
"She is not ready to leave the Halls yet, she has more yet to live." When that did not seem to satisfy either of the two protective elven parents, the voice decided to add to the explanation already given, "You waited to see whether your Melde was all right, now that you two have seen you can move on knowing she is going to be fine. If all goes well, you will be able to see her from your place above Valinor."
"She cannot go on?" her amme queried, tears beginning show in her light silver eyes.
"No, she will stay in the Halls of Mandos and wait to be reborn."
In Times Like These -- Chapter 18- Lost Beloved
May 29, 2003 - Thursday Author Yih
This is a really nifty ending that allows the reader some information that they have been waiting on in order for the story to progress. The `explanation' ending is an especially useful technique, if the reader has been waiting for a number of chapters for this `revelation'.
She cast a glance at Legolas, sorting armor as calmly as possible. Bile rose in her throat, and for one brief moment she hated him as much as she hated Sauron himself. She choked the feeling down and returned to sorting weapons.
I never gave my word to not fight, she thought mutinously.
I can't be beaten as easily as that, Legolas. She had to bit back a grin in case he saw it and suspected mischief, but her eyes unmisted, and she was able to sort weapons again.
Mirkwood's Blade -- Chapter Twenty-seven - The Duel
May 29, 2003 - Thursday Nawyn
This ending is particularly useful if the reader is very familiar with the characters, and has developed a pretty good handle on what they are most likely to do next. The `Oh Sure!' ending induces the reader to continue with the story in order for them to see if they have predicted the correct outcome.
The Prince took Elenya's arm and pulled her away. Dario took the sword in his hand. He raised it to strike. Elenya watched and was suddenly awestruck at Legolas's eyes. They were cold and dark. They were no longer alive. It was as if he had been struck lifeless before Dario had even touched him. The sword came down piercing Legolas's heart. Elenya's heart burned and melted within her. Legolas was dead.
The_Elf_From_America_THE_QUEST -- Legolas's Death
May 26, 2003 - Monday The Eavenstar
What a great way to keep your audience engrossed. An `Oh No!' ending is a sure fire way of doing just that. It is usually emotionally gut wrenching, and leaves the reader gasping. The result? We have to keep reading to ensure our beloved characters are safe!
Now I'm still looking for a couple of other examples of endings. The two I'm particularly interested in; are the `Mistake' and the `Don't'.
The `Mistake' ending usually occurs when a well-known character, has made an awful mistake. This chapter ending is very useful for writers wanting to develop their characters more. By making them more prone to mistakes, the reader can identify with them and understand their motives and responses within the story, thus making them more believable.
The `Don't' ending is another chapter ending that can leave us gasping. It can usually be found in horror stories, where the hero or heroine is about to do something incredibly foolish, such as opening the coffin of the vampire, or going down to the basement where the villain is hiding, and we all shout "DON'T!" Or perhaps the hero or heroine is about to make a terrible decision that will affect the outcome of all those around them, including themselves for ill and not good? We find ourselves wishing with all our might that we could shout through the pages, or the computer screen loud enough so they could hear us and take heed. However, unless you are Bastion, and have found your own Never Ending Story, this is unlikely to occur, and thus, we find that we MUST read the next chapter to find out what has become of our favourite character.
If you can find any examples of these last two chapter endings from amongst the contributions in the Reading Room, I would love to see them. Hey! We are open for discussion, and there is plenty of room in the comments section.
Note: Just a short note to update you all on the events that took place in the Reading Room and the questions that were raised regarding how I administer it. Turns out it was a software glitch after all, and Jonathon has rectified the situation. Here is an email I received from him below.
Date: Tue, 03 Jun 2003 00:18:33 -0700
From: "Jonathan A. Watson" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "coraliescorner" <email@example.com>
Subject: Article Posting Apology
It's my fault! For those of you wondering why in the world some stories seemed to be getting undue prominence in the "Our Newest Stories" and "Our Newest Poetry" sections of The Reading Room, allow me to remove all blame from LadyCoralie. She was actually trying to give all the authors some prominence in those sections, but due to the way the story/article approval software works, the most recently _submitted_ articles were getting prominence, not the most recently _approved_ articles. My apologies!
That whole situation is now fixed, and authors will be getting their appropriate featured time on The Reading Room front page! Thanks for all your understanding