How to Write Magnificent Cliffhangers for Chapter Endings in Your Books

How to Write Magnificent Cliffhangers for Chapter Endings in Your Books

By on Mar 4, 2016 in Fiction, Writing & Editing


Chapter endings are important in a book. The ending of a chapter can make the reader put down your book, which isn’t something you want to happen. On the other hand, a well-crafted cliffhanger can make your readers turn the page to the next one and read your whole book in one sitting – which is something you want as a writer. Cliffhangers engage the readers, especially when they happen at the end of a chapter instead of at the end of the book. End of the book cliffhangers can cost you readers, as not everyone enjoys waiting for the next book. But cliffhangers at the end of a chapter can provide the readers a joyful ride, which is why we’ve shown several ways to craft them below.

1. A discovery

A discovery cliffhanger means that at the end of the chapter, your protagonist discovers a new piece of information, which will affect what happens next in the story. The protagonist can think it over, can doubt the truth of the new information, or discovery, but, all of that should happen in the next chapter. Ending the chapter at the point where the protagonist received the information, without showing his or her reaction to it will create a pull towards the next chapter. It will make the readers want to know what the protagonist will do next.

2. Decision

When your protagonist makes a decision or a plan to act at the end of the chapter, the readers will want to know how it all plays out. Will the protagonist be successful in his plan? Will he face obstacles? The readers don’t know, because you’ve ended the chapter there. For example, if you have ended a chapter with your protagonist going to sleep, you can rewrite the ending with the protagonist making a decision to act the next day. This way, your readers will be compelled to know what will happen, and whether everything will be alright.

3. Dire straits

These kinds of cliffhangers, where the protagonist is in danger, or will be facing danger in the next chapter for sure, can be very skillfully placed near the climax of the book. They can be expressed through the thoughts of the character, where he contemplates who or what he is facing, and the odds of his survival (which should always be against him in order to infuse more tension). However, do not cheat your readers with situations that will turn out to not be so dangerous to the protagonist, especially if the protagonist knows it. On the other hand, even if the protagonist escapes the dire situation easily, as long as he was convinced at the end of the previous chapter that his life was in danger, the cliffhanger is totally justified.

4. Emotion cliffhanger

Emotional reactions are also a good way of compelling the readers to read on. For example, something that happened early or in the middle of the chapter has an effect on the protagonist, who is promptly avoiding any kind of emotional reaction until the end of the chapter. In these situations, hopelessness, sadness, and desperation win over happiness and joy, because the readers will sympathize with the character. The readers will want the protagonist to feel good again, so they will read on until that happens.

5. A surprise happens

Every cliffhanger involves a surprise. It can be the arrival of a new character; it can be the protagonist making a demand or reaching a conclusion that is not familiar to the readers. It can be a strange sound that the protagonist hears. These surprise cliffhangers can be written in such a way that introduces the character, sound, or the demand at the end of the chapter. In the next chapter, you can provide the readers with the necessary information and explanation for them to understand what exactly happened. While these surprise endings are a good way to make the readers want to read on, don’t overuse them because the readers will get used to them after a while and the effect the surprise endings have had will be diluted.

Image credit: Pixabay

Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic. As an art student, she’s moonlighting as a writer and is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her laptop, trying to create her own.



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