Cliffhangers — A Love Hate Relationship

By Sherry enjoying unusually nice summer days for August in Northern Virginia

Almost everyone my age will remember the summer of “Who Shot JR” from the TV show Dallas. JR (a nasty, manipulative man) is shot, but the audience doesn’t see the killer and had to wait until the fall to find the answer. I don’t even remember who the killer was, but I do remember all the speculation.

The first cliffhanger I remember in fiction was in a Janet Evanovich novel High Five. At the end of the book Stephanie Plum calls a man and asks him to come over. He shows up, but we don’t know if it’s Joe or Ranger. I remember getting to the end and having mixed emotions about having to wait a year to find out. You can bet I bought the next book in the series as soon as it was published.

Shows from Game of Thrones to The Walking Dead to Friends to Downton Abbey have ended seasons with cliffhangers. And authors such as Susan Collins (Hunger Games series), Stephan King (Dark Tower series — readers had to wait six years for the next book), and J.K. Rowling have all ended books at a suspenseful moment.

There is some disagreement about what a cliffhanger is. Some people think it’s any ending that leaves an unanswered question which means books like Gone with the Wind, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Gone Girl are books with cliffhanger endings. To me those endings seemed more ambiguous than cliffhanger. While researching cliffhangers I came across a Pub Crawl blog by Erin Bowman. You can read the full blog here. She makes a distinction between hooks and cliffhangers. It resonated with me.

One of the reasons cliffhangers are on my mind is because of how my fourth book, A Good Day to Buy, ends. The reaction to the ending has been interesting. People either enjoyed it or hated it – there doesn’t seem to be a lot of middle ground. I wrapped up the crime, but I didn’t wrap up Sarah’s relationship woes. When I started writing the book it wasn’t with the idea of ending it with a hook big or small. It just came about naturally as I wrote the book. Sarah has a big life decision to make. I didn’t have room for another 20,000 words to resolve it. And I’m not sure seeing every little details of her though process/angst would make for interesting reading.

People are passionate about the topic. If you search “cliffhangers” you find lists of books and TV shows. One list on Goodreads is: Ending That Make You Want To Scream.

Novelist Charles Reade said, “Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, make ‘em wait.”

Readers: How do you feel about cliffhangers or hooks at the end of a book? Have you ever used one in your writing? How did readers react?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wicked Wednesday – Favorite Library Memories

It’s Wicked Wednesday, when we all weigh in on a topic. And today, we’re celebrating libraries. In the course of our work, we’ve all been lucky enough to appear in libraries, meet librarians and readers who found our work through their local libraries. It’s a blessing to have those opportunities. But memorable library experiences happened way before we were all published authors. So Wickeds, what’s your favorite library memory?

Edith: I spent so much time in the Temple City Public Library as a child. It’s situatTCLibraryed at the edge of the town park, so lots of playing went on there, too (remember when slides were made of metal and got really hot in the summer?). I used to sign up for the summer reading program, and had to draw a picture and write a short book report for each book I read. I always wanted to get more gold stickers than anybody else, and managed to do so a couple of years in a row.

HKFphoto-300x187Barb: The summer between fourth and fifth grade, my family moved from Montclair, New Jersey to Wallingford, Pennsylvania. I had spent my first five school years at a single elementary school in Montclair, and the move to another state left me feeling disoriented and dislocated. The saving grace was that the Helen Kate Furness Library was in our little sidewalk-less development of Heatherwold and I could go there any time I wanted. The Helen Kate Furness is definitely the library that formed me as a reader. I’ve written more extensively about the library here. My favorite memory is of the time the children’s librarian drew me aside and gently suggested that I get my books upstairs. I climbed the stairs to the adult collection and never looked back.

Liz: When I was little, my mother used to take me to the Stevens Memorial Library in North Andover, MA. My dad owned a business nearby, and during the summer it was a weekly tradition to stop by a couple times each week, which always coincided with visits to the library. It was here that I found the novel Daphne’s Book, my first young adult book aside from the Nancy Drew series. I loved this book, and even though I’d already read it (many times) I used to take it off the shelf and re-read my favorite parts every time I visited the library.

Jessie: I cannot possibly choose just one. Twenty years ago my husband and I bought our first home in part because it was next door to the library. My children’s lives and my own have been entangled and enriched by that space ever since. From story time to garden club meetings to discovering the works of E.F.Benson there has been so much joy. If pressed I would say standing in that building, surrounded by family and friends for the launch of my first book was probably my favorite memory.

library_jmbJ2Sherry: I was lucky to grow up in Davenport, Iowa a small city with a fantastic library system which I just read was the largest Carnegie library west of the Mississippi. I loved trips to the main library downtown with its towering shelves of books but once a week the bookmobile visited a nearby park and there was rarely a week that we didn’t go. In high school we went to the library downtown to “study” aka flirt. I looked up the history of the Davenport Public Library and the new library built in the sixties was designed by Edward Durrell Stone who designed the Kennedy Center here in DC. The history of the Davenport Public Library is interesting (women’s right to vote helped) and you can read about it here.

Julie: I lived in Duxbury, MA 1st through 8th grade. The town library (which is now an arts center) was my favorite place in the world. My mother is a voracious reader, and went to the library at least once a week. I’d go with her, and get lost in the stacks. I vaguely remember what it looked like, but I do remember the feeling I had there. Bliss.

Readers, what’s your favorite library memory?