By Marni Graff
Every writer looks for ways to keep readers flipping pages in their work. An original story line and wonderful prose, coupled with compelling characters and a setting that functions almost as a secondary character will be a goal for writers in any genre.
One other useful device is chapter endings that compel the reader to continue flipping pages, called cliffhangers. I’m a crime writer, where cliffhangers are the norm in my mysteries, but they can be used for any genre. Simply put, a cliffhanger is a suspenseful situation that occurs at the end of a chapter or scene and helps compel the reader to turn to the next page.
There are three main ways to implement a cliffhanger:
- An intriguing question: which comes about through a character or an event. (Who could have killed the bride?)
- Through dialogue: where something is revealed in conversation. (“I’m pregnant.”)
- Using description: make the exposition short but worthy! (She turned the body and screamed when she realized it was someone she knew.)
And there is a multitude of ways to accomplish this.
Someone: takes an action; reacts to something; arrives; leaves. OR
Something: Happens on its own; in response to a characters’ action; or fails to happen; changes; fails to change.
Cliffhangers can also be a reinforcing statement that echoes the scene’s tension, or sums up the situation. It can paint a dire picture of the situation that lies ahead.
So you see there are many ways to utilize cliffhangers. Tune in on Monday to see specific ways you can keep readers interest.
Marni Graff is the Award-winning author of The Nora Tierney English Mysteries, and The Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries. The Nora Tierney English Mysteries feature American Nora living in England. THE BLUE VIRGIN received First Prize in the Mystery and Mayhem Award for Best British Cozy from Chanticleer Review and is set in Oxford. THE GREEN REMAINS takes Nora to the Lake District and murder follows and won the same award for Best British Cozy. THE SCARLET WENCH , shortlisted for the same award, finds Nora involved in finding the murderer from a visiting theatre troupe living amongst her and her son at the lodge where she’s staying. A copy of SW is in the archives of the estate of Noel Coward, as all of the chapter epigrams are lines from his farce, “Blithe Spirit” which figures in the action. The fourth, THE GOLDEN HOUR, debut, July 2017, and finds Nora visiting Brighton, Cornwall, her beloved Oxford, with key action in Bath. The entire series has also been narrated for Audible books by British actress Nano Nagle.The first Trudy Genova Manhattan Mystery, Death Unscripted, is based on Graff’s real-life work as a medical consultant for a New York movie studio. Trudy has that job, too, but in her case, murder follows. This is the book P. D. James insisted Graff write and is dedicated to her. This book was named a finalist for the IAN Awards and is shortlisted as Best Mystery from Chanticleer Media. In progress is Book 2 in that series, DEATH OF AN HEIRESS. Graff is Managing Editor of Bridle Path Press, an author’s cooperative based out of Baltimore, MD, and writes this crime review blog, Auntie M Writes. Also known as Auntie M, MK and Marnette, Marni grew up in Floral Park, NY. She currently resides in rural North Carolina, and lives on the Pungo River, part of the coast’s Intracoastal Waterway. Graff is the author of screenplays, stories, essays and poetry, in addition to the two mystery series. Her creative nonfiction was most recently seen in Southern Women’s Review, Fine Line Anthology and, and Shelf Pleasures. Her poem about Amelia Earhart in an anthology of poems dedicated to the pilot that is on display in Earhart’s hometown museum. Marni Graff @GraffMarni www.auntiemwrites.com