Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cliffhangers And Cliff Dwellers

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I would have made a horrible Ancestral Puebloan cliff dweller.

It’s the heights thing. I’m afraid of heights. And having to scale down a mountain to get home every night would have freaked me out. And these people didn’t use ropes and such to get down to their house, they just had toe holds (which you could still see in the rock.)

(This is a view looking down at the tour right before ours to Cliff Palace.)

(This is looking at Cliff Palace from the other side of the canyon. Can you imagine climbing up or down to that?)

The Ancestral Puebloans had some amazing architecture, though, and ingenious ways to store food and get rid of waste. (Did you know they recycled water to make their bricks? My kids were a teeny bit grossed out at that one and what “recycled water” really meant.)

(This city is just clinging to the cliff!)

And now that I’ve possibly grossed you out, I will move on to my topic du jour. Cliffhangers. Does anyone love them? Especially when it can take a year or two for the second book to come out?

I recently read the last book in a series in which each book had been left with a serious cliffhanger. Honestly, it had been so long since I’d read the first books in the series I couldn’t remember some of the plot and had to go back and re-read those in order to understand the last one. It was frustrating. So, like the ancestral puebloans, even if the writing/architecture of the story was amazing, I still had a hard time getting into it. My toe hold was tenuous at best.

(This is called Newspaper Rock and has art from Ancestral Puebloans and others. My theory is that Ancestral Puebloans didn't like cliffhangers either and kept adding and adding to the story so no one would have to be left on the edge of their seat so to speak. Or else they loved cliffhangers and this is the ultimate cliffhanger story that went on for hundreds of years. Which, if the latter is true, would cement my opinion that I would have made a horrible Ancestral Puebloan. I would have been the one standing there with my chisel all day trying to finish the story so no one would have to wonder how it's all going to end.)

So why do authors do cliffhangers? Is it merely to sell the next book? Or drive readers like me crazy? Don’t authors feel bad manipulating their readers into being so desperate to find out what happens next? They take us to dizzying heights in the book, make us love the story and the characters and then bam! It’s over with, and a main character is shot and bleeding until the next book comes out which could be a year, or two, or never?


I tend to avoid cliffhangers if I can. My favorite authors are generally those who tie up the story to a satisfying conclusion. I don’t mind if there’s a loose end that can go into the next book, but I really don’t like the out and out cliffhanger where something really awful happens in the last paragraph. (Don’t be offended if you are a cliffhanger author. I probably still like you and love your work, but if I know you are a cliffhanger author I will try to wait until all your books in the series are out before I read them.)

So what are your opinions on cliffhangers? Are you one of those people who love them and go to the midnight release to get the next book to find out what happens? Or do you hate them and avoid them where possible? Who are your favorite cliffhanger authors?


At 6/11/2009 1:23 PM, Blogger Deb said...

Oh, you lucky dog! You got to read Jeff's next Shandra manuscript. I'm so green!!! If I'd known there was such a dramatic cliffhanger at the end of book two, I would have waited until the sequel was published and read them one after the other. I hate these kinds of books. Hate them with a passion. I wished someone would have warned me about it before I got trapped into loving it.

At 6/11/2009 1:26 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Great pics, Julie! Wow! Imagine trying to chase a toddler around a cliff house . . .

I'm with you on cliffhangers. There can be threads that extend into the next story of a series, of course--if everything was wrapped up, the series would end!--but I want a sense of resolution at the end of each volume. Like Harry Potter--the story is still ongoing, Voldemort is still out there, but the immediate conflict is resolved in a manner that gives some emotional satisfaction or sense of closure at the end of the book. I want that satisfaction. I'm excited to find out what happens next, but I'm not frustrated.

At 6/11/2009 1:44 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Deb, I WISH I'd gotten to read Jeff's next Shandra manuscript. I've been waiting for EVER to see what happens to the wounded man. It's been so long I forgot his name. :( I agree with you on being "trapped into loving it." *sigh* Hopefully we're going to get the next book soon.

Stephanie, I hadn't thought of that, and I can't imagine being a mom on those cliffs. I couldn't do it. Just no. I'd have to throw myself off the cliff I think. And, you know, for cliffhangers, I think it does come down to a sense of closure for me, as well. I need that, even if there's a loose end or something, I need that feeling that things are resolved. I want satisfaction, dangit. :)

At 6/11/2009 2:15 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

I think cliffhangers are useful... at the end of a chapter, not so much at the end of the book. I think it was pretty much a universal reaction at the end of Jeff's book to want to throw it!

There was a bit Jeff read in his class, where I thought it was related to SC. It involved a medical helicopter. But seeing as how that was at least 2 summers ago, I can't remember much. (Also, I'm old, see Rob's post)

At 6/11/2009 2:23 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Jon, I agree, at the end of a chapter, cliffhangers are great and keep me up reading until the end. It's the end cliffhangers that are hard for me to take. And, oddly, I've noticed that Rob sure knows a lot of old people. How strange.

At 6/11/2009 3:42 PM, Blogger Sandra said...

I hate waiting for the next installment of a series whether it is a cliffhanger or not.

As for being a mom in the cliff dwellings? The moms carried their children on their backs until the babe was 2ish. As a result, the children walked later than our children do. They also learned to be still and watch, so by the time they were walking and climbing, fires, cliffs, etc were not really a problem.

At 6/11/2009 7:42 PM, Blogger Traci Hunter Abramson said...

I admit it. If I know a book has a cliffhanger ending, I wait until the whole series is done before I will consider reading it.

Chapter endings with cliffhangers have the opposite effect on me. When the story is good enough, they usually entice me to keep reading well into the night. And what author doesn't love being told, "I couldn't put your book down!"


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