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By Johannes Helmold

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“Make ’em cry, make ’em laugh, make ’em wait—exactly in that order.”
– Wilkie Collins

Previously, I was writing about the technique of the curiosity gap; its main function is to attract readers’ attention through intriguing headlines, hints, and innuendo. However, this technique is mostly applicable in blog writing and articles. As for creative writing, there is another technique that helps maintain readers’ interest from chapter to chapter, and make them read on: cliffhangers.

A cliffhanger is a technique that implies leading your reader to a decisive, plot-defining, intense, or in some other way intriguing moment, and then ending the storyline at this place and switching to another one. Usually cliffhangers appear at the end of book chapters, or TV shows episodes. If you have watched such TV shows as Game of Thrones, Elementary, Breaking Bad, House M.D., and many other series, you have definitely faced cliffhangers. It is like a sudden punch in the face: here you are watching the plot develop, events intensify, you lean towards the monitor looking forward to see what will come next—and the episode ends, leaving you in bewilderment, and making you wait for the next episode.

(This is, by the way, particularly caused by our brains’ passion for prediction.)

So far, you’ve been a person only suffering from cliffhangers. Well, you’ve suffered enough! What I’m offering you is to start using them in your writing from now on. They work best when you have at least two parallel storylines, as in this case you can switch between them, forcing significant pauses that increases reader’s curiosity (this is why I wrote about how this technique is similar to the curiosity gap).

To create a cliffhanger, you don’t need to do anything special. When there is a turnaround in your story, a decisive moment, a key phrase in a dialogue, or something unexpected happens, finish the chapter. In my opinion, you should not end every chapter with a cliffhanger though, because it will look unnatural. But by using this technique here and there, you gain an additional tool for maintaining the interest of your audience to your writing.

Have fun using it!

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