Cliffhanger definition from Reference.com: A cliffhanger in a story occurs when the author leaves the reader or viewer unsure of what happens to the main characters involved. The story ends suddenly, almost in mid-scene, with no real resolution to the plot.
Cliffhangers are a great plot device for serializations, but most readers would tell you that they don't like to see them in series books. The main plot in a series book should generally be resolved. If it's a romance there should be an HEA (happy ever after) or at the very least an HFN (happy for now). A mystery should always be solved, and in a suspense or thriller the villain should be caught. But that doesn't mean an author can't leave some non-core tidbits of the story open, to be addressed in the next book. Real life rarely allows for the opportunity to tie everything up in a tidy bow. Usually it takes time and work to tie off every thread. So a realistic series should present the same way.
Secondary characters and plot lines are prime content for follow-up books in a series. If you've gotten to know a secondary character through several books, growing attached and feeling empathy for his or her problems, you'll be excited to finally read the book where that character is featured so you can find out how everything's resolved. A character or story line that filters through several books in a series can build up expectations and make the books that eventually feature those threads even more fun for the reader.
So if the author resolves the main plot, gives the main characters closure, and leaves you a taste of something that needs to be resolved in the future, the book didn't end in a “cliffhanger”. If they've done what they're supposed to do with the core story line, they haven't left you hanging…they've simply given you a great reason to read the next book!
USA Today Bestselling Author Sam Cheever writes romantic paranormal/fantasy and mystery/suspense, creating stories that celebrate the joy of love in all its forms. Known for writing great characters, snappy dialogue, and unique and exhilarating stories, Sam is the award-winning author of 50+ books and has been writing for over a decade under several noms de plume.
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