by Elle Cyre
Many thoughts on how writing has influenced my life.
|The most known writing trick is the cliffhanger, a sudden action or declaration that comes at the end of a chapter to entice us to keep reading.
But not all cliffhangers are the same. Some authors use them so subtly that the reader keeps on reading without ever suspecting they are the recipient of such a cliche trick. How do they do this? In several ways. Here are some I've picked up on:
Often times, when approaching a climax, either in a romance or adventure book, there will be multiple 'main characters'. This enables the author to leave one stranded somewhere, or approaching eminent peril, while switching back to their friends viewpoint. This is a rather obvious 'cliffhanger' if the perspective switches abruptly, or right when the hero falls into the enemy hands. The key is to start the journey into the villian's lair and then switch away before the reader knows the result. This will put them in the same anxious frame of mind as to whoever the perspective switches to. They will keep reading because they really want to know what happened to the 'hero'.
This is along the same lines as a flashback, or flash-forward. Jump into the middle of the action and then pause, rewind, and retrace the steps that led up to this point. If done poorly, this can be more annoying to the reader than anything. They don't care what happened yesterday; they want to know what's happening now! Again, the key is in how well it is done. I recently read one of Louis L'Amour's books. The first scene is the main character regaining consciousness after falling out of a second-story window. All he knows is that someone tried to kill him. He can't remember who it was or why; he doesn't even remember his own name. The reader is presented a very interesting puzzle as the book unfolds and the man tries to piece together his memories.
This is probably known better as Chekov's gun. Mention something in earlier chapters that will come into play in the end. Maybe it is something small and harmless. Maybe it is something sinister, like an actual gun. Maybe it is a casual comment that doesn't seem threatening in chapter three, but by the time chapter ten comes around, the reader realizes what it meant. Just don't overdo it. Sometimes the antagonist will spew so many vile threats against the protagonist that whatever they end up doing pales in comparison. Take your reader's imagination into consideration and make sure your climax lives up to the hype.
And lastly: Suspense.
Just good ol' suspense. The reader's anticipation of impending doom is always more powerful than the actual event. It is the trick Alfred Hitchcock used in his films.