The Best of the Thinking Quill – Cliffhangers

Howdy again,

It is I, your inspirational instructor in the arcane literary arts, Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV. Again it falls to me to remind you of my impeccable credentials as the author of ‘Fatswhistle and Buchtooth’, once described as ‘amazingly….written….incredible….story’. One comes to you this week, bright-eyed and bushy tailed. If a little physically worn. One comes to you in the full flood of joy. One comes to you in the full knowledge that one is becoming a better and more sensitive writer day on day. One comes to you replete, but still hungering. One comes to you with reluctance but determination. A teacher must teach, I tell myself. A teacher must teach. So teach one shall.

Today’s lesson concerns a literary device about which one has mixed feelings, but one it is unwise to ignore as its usefulness cannot be overstated, although it can be overused. Of what does your beloved pedagogue speak?

Lesson 32: The Write Cliffhanger

Ah yes. The cliffhanger. Those little hooks of anticipation one sets in the flesh of one’s besotted readership leaving them like the cocaine addict without his fix, like the lover deprived of an adored one’s skin, like half of a loving pair left suddenly alone. Craving. Craving….

Properly used, the cliffhanger can ensure that one’s readership awaits with baited breath the next instalment. That they turn the page with shaking hands barely able to contain the excitement that one’s literary efforts stir in their innocent breasts.

Improperly used, the cliffhanger becomes as the drumbeat of the music that ends each episode of some trashy soap opera or another. It becomes as the dying fall at the end of a popular melody. As the cawing and rook-like scratching of the comic-book hero who will live to fight another day be it limbless or headless.

Beware the crass and sensational.

Compare and contrast.

  • Artimesius lay bound and gagged across the cruel iron of the railway lines and even as he strained and writhed in his bonds the vibration through the unyielding metal to which he was tethered told him that the seventeen-twenty to Euston was on time.
  • Arty: tied to the railway, screaming inside, hearing the scream of an approaching express train. Will our hero survive?

I rest my case as I rest my head as on a lover’s breast.

I leave you to consider the use of the cliffhanger with an example from my own literal life.

Last time one left you in the knowledge that some great and cataclysmic occurrence had brought a newness and brightness to one’s life. Now read on.

It was nine of the clock and the front door of Myrtle Villa was flung open with such force as to throw it back against the fading floral print of the wallpaper with a reverberating crash.
“Moons, I’m home…” Mumsie’s voice was slurred almost beyond recognition and I readied myself for either maudlin sentiment or vicious physical attack. But it was neither of those things. It was much worse. “I’ve brought the gang along. We’re going to have a welcome home Moons party.”
One quickly gathered together one’s papers and secreted them in the depths of a cretonne cushioned ottoman before assembling a welcoming smile and turning to face the doorway. The usual gang of halfwits, deadbeats, alcoholics, out-of-work whores, and accountants began to dribble into the room. And each found it necessary to greet one either with loose-lipped and unpleasant kisses or by slapping one painfully about the back and shoulders.
And then IT happened. Just as suddenly as that. One minute one was cringing in the corner. The next instant…


You will find out next time. Perhaps…

Until then. Hasta la vista muchachos!

Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV

You can find more of IVy’s profound thoughts in How To Start Writing A Book courtesy of E.M. Swift-Hook and Jane Jago.

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