Hello! My name is Lindsay Townsend. I write historical romance and romantic suspense for Kensington Zebra, Siren-Bookstrand and now for Muse It Up. Today I'd like to talk about cliffhangers.
The cliffhanger is a favourite device - a mini-climax, usually involving high stakes, that leaves the reader wondering how it will be resolved. This trick of leaving the reader hanging is one used in films and soaps, too. After all, we are curious and want to know -
1. What happened next?
2. How did the situation resolve itself?
3. How does the hero/heroine get out of that mess?
4. What will so-and-so say now they know that? How will so-and-so react?
Cliff-hangers come in various forms, but the one I'm writing about today is the relationship cliff-hanger.
Does X love me? How do I feel about X? Will my step-child/real child/adopted child/newly-found child love me? These relationship cliffhangers are all about feelings. Characters are strongly drawn and their feelings shown in great detail and depth, to help readers identify with them and feel an investment in their stories. A relationship cliff hanger can be a quarrel, a disappearance, a break of some kind, or a moment of revelation - 'Yes I love so-and-so!' - and then what next? Does the character tell the person of their love? How it will be received? This is the stuff of all romance and relationship stories.
In my forthcoming Muse It Up story, A Christmas Sleeping Beauty, I had to ensure there were high stakes for the hero and heroine. I did this by adding a ticking clock as a cliffhanger. I also made sure that although asleep, the heroine has an active role to play in the story. Her choices add to the romantic tension.
In wider relationship stories it may be more than boy and girl - it may be family issues, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters and so on. But the emotions, the relationships, and that final decision to either go forward with the relationship or give up on it, are what drives the story.