Cliffhangers And The Happily Ever After

I’m a big fan of the happily ever after movement. You know, where the handsome prince comes in and saves the princess and carries her back to his castle. Sigh.

Wait a minute, the prince forgot to mention dirty dishes, laundry, ironing(if anyone still does that…Thank goodness for wrinkle-free), trash day and toilet cleaning. Don’t even get me started.

The guy who invented happily ever after is sitting in his castle somewhere laughing his head off. Amazingly enough, I can’t stand anything less at the end of book…Thanks a lot mister!

So where exactly does the happily ever after go? At the end of the novel.

But where do we stick it sometimes? At the end of a scene.

Are you guilty of happily ever after where cliffhangers should be? 

We’ve all been there from time to time, but let’s look at cliffhangers and how to use them to create a reader who can’t put the book down.

Cliffhangers are basically the last line or two at the end of a scene or chapter that leaves a reader hanging. It’s what makes them stay awake at night to read because they can’t put it down. Strategically, your best cliffhangers should come at the end of a chapter. It also pays to put them at the end of a scene.

No scene or chapter should end in a happy moment unless it is the end of the book. If you solve your character’s problems, why would anyone need to keep reading?

Creating a cliffhanger in three easy steps:

1. Identify the problem the POV character has going forward from this scene.

For example:   Sally sprinted toward the bank. The clock struck twelve. Five minutes before the deadline. She entered the bank lobby and approached the teller. Just in time.(Sally’s Problem: She is running of out time.)

2. Stop writing the scene before you resolve this problem, or you must introduce a new one. So, you should stop the scene at the line: Five minutes before the deadline.

3. Add a line to give it punch. Why does it matter?

For example:  Sally sprinted toward the bank. The clock struck twelve. Five minutes before the deadline. If she didn’t make it in time, her husband would die.

Cliffhangers are merely made up of the ending problem of the POV character and a punch line that tells us why it matters. Not all of your scenes will be as dramatic as this one, but you should try to find the strongest cliffhangers to end your chapters.

What is your favorite cliffhanger writer of all time? What book could you absolutely NOT put down?


About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

2 thoughts on “Cliffhangers And The Happily Ever After

  1. Great advice. Using this as we speak…or write. lol I’m saving all you tips. You ought to think about putting them in a book!!

  2. Michelle Lim says:

    Thanks, Pat! Who knows, maybe someday.

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