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Character Micro-Growth in a Series

I visualize my mystery series as on TV season. Recently, I completed the third bookin…

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Hello Booksellers, Authors, and Readers. I am here today to discuss cliffhangers, why I’m a jerk and also give you a secret that has brought me fame and riches.

Now first, a little about me. I’m the author who symbolically enjoys leading you over to the edge of a cliff. Chatting you up. Getting you distracted by characters with flaws and unique beauties. And just when you’re captivated and engrossed in the lives of fictional people then I’ll push you hard in the shoulders. The assault is usually swift and deliberate. And the result is that you stumble back, slipping over the edge, grasping for the dirt or a root or a vine. And there you dangle over the edge of a cliff as I intended. Then you turn the page of one of my books.

The End. 

The other day I received a review on a book of mine. It said, “The author should put a disclaimer on this book telling the reader that it has a cliffhanger.”

Wait… what?! 

Would this reader also like me to include a list of the characters who die during the telling of the story? Maybe we just start with the ending? Work our way backward.

I write books and sometimes they have cliffhangers. I have zero regrets. Follow me, would you, as we discuss the pros and cons of using cliffhangers in books. I promise I’ll keep my hands to myself and not push you…

I’m a series writer. Usually my books can be read in neat trilogy form. To me, it’s the perfect arrangement for most series: a beginning, middle and end. But tell me, dear reader, if I end book one with a tight little bow and no loose strings, then what incentive do you have to pick up book two? Not only that, but I want you to throw the blankets off at 2 am, after finishing the first installment, and rush to buy book two in the series. I want you to have zero question in your mind that you’ll be consuming book two and then three and as quickly as possible.

Yes, maybe you fell in love with the characters and that’s why you’ll continue reading. I know I fall in love with most of my characters. And maybe you are intrigued by the storyline. But without a major unanswered question lurking at the end of the book, how are you going to banish sleep so you can continue reading my books?

And I mentioned we’d explore cons. Sometimes cliffhangers can feel like a manipulation. I’ve shut the door at the end of act one, held out my hand, and said, “pay up to see what happens next.” Does that make me a bad author? Or does it make me one who knows how to keep you interested, like a longtime lover who still flirts and teases in the bedroom? And if it does make me a bad person then I’ll join the other authors prone to cliffhanger endings: Suzanne Collins, Cassandra Clare, JK Rowling, Lauren Oliver. Just to name a few. I could die happy lumped into a group of authors like this. And there’s many more famous authors known for pushing readers to the edge of a cliff. Here’s a great list.

So now that I’ve admitted to enticing readers into second and third books, should you always expect a cliffhanger ending from me? Absolutely not. Just when you think I’ll kill off a loved character, because I’m somewhat known for that, then I’ll keep them around. And you might go into one of my books expecting to be dangling over the cliff at the end, only to find the story over and you on even ground. I’m hardly ever predictable and I tell the story the way I see it, which is never the same formula from book to book. That’s because my books are character driven and I usually don’t even know where they are going. Yes, sometimes the cliffhangers even surprise me.

So now that I’ve said my piece on this subject, I wonder what you think. Do you like cliffhangers? Dislike them? Are they necessary? I never believe in absolutes with writing. It all depends on the story. That’s probably why I like this business so much. There are no real rights or wrongs. Stories can be told in a hundred different ways. It’s a subjective business. And truthfully I’ve learned one thing this year that is absolutely the most important thing I’ve ever learned. It has brought me so much happiness and success and is like a like a miracle drug to my career. And I’ll reveal that secret in my next blog entry.

Bye now.
Sarah Noffke

Sarah Noffke writes YA and NA sci-fi fantasy and is the author of the Lucidites, Reverians, Ren and Vagabond Circus Series.  She’s been everything from a corporate manager to a hippie. Her taste for adventure has taken her all over the world. If you can’t find her at the gym, then she’s probably at the frozen yogurt shop. If you can’t find her there then she probably doesn’t want to be found. She is a self-proclaimed hermit, with spontaneous urges to socialize during full moons and when Mercury is in retrograde. Sarah lives in Southern California with her family.