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Cliffhanger With a View

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Sept. 21, 2019
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I promise, this is not going to be another opportunity for me to take a shot at Game of Thrones.

In fact, this time I'm seeking to use the example to illustrate another way to approach suspense and intensify the engagement of your audience with the story and the characters.

We already know that cliffhangers are a surefire way to do it. Leaving the action at a high stake point, where everything is hanging in the balance and tensions are high. During the cliffhanger, it's impossible to know exactly what will happen but we fear for the characters and the fate they will meet. So we keep on reading, we keep turning the page, we tune in for the next episode.

But, in my opinion, there's another way to get this engagement without needing to leave everything hanging from a thread. It will still be a cliffhanger- but it will be with a view.

That happens when something definite has just been resolved- that is to say, the high stake situation has been resolved and the characters move on to the next stage. And it is in that point of moving on that we pause the story. Excitement is what is running high in this type of cliffhanger, rather than fear for the characters. We keep turning the page not to see if something terrible has befallen our heroes, but instead because we're excited they have just managed to power up, that they have just discovered a big piece of information, that they now know how to go about an insurmountable obstacle, and we just can't wait to see them power through what used to be impossible to overcome.

This cliffhanger isn't keeping us blind. Instead, it is offering us a full view of what is coming, whetting our appetite and inviting us along to watch the good stuff unfold now that we've gone over the hurdle. Hence, the cliffhanger with a view.

When Daenerys sails to Westeros after having amassed a huge fleet, a competent army, and three adult dragons flying overhead, we are excited to see her finally go, we can't wait for her to land at King's Landing and challenge Cersei- or the White Knight. Or both. This is a cliffhanger with a view.

When we watch Matt Murdock go through his gradual transformation only to don the red costume at the end of Season 1 in Daredevil, we're excited to see how he moves from there, now that he has come into his own. That's a cliffhanger with a view.

When in the Force Awakens Ray finally finds Luke Skywalker and offers him his old lightsaber just before the credits roll, that's a cliffhanger with a view. (Never mind what came after)

In the cliffhanger with a view, we pause the action right after the ‘achievement’ is ‘unlocked’ but before it can be used to propel the plot further. This may be positive or negative (e.g. Harry Osborne discovering his father's secret Green Goblin lair just before the credits roll) but it's always when something or someone has just been accomplished, reached, or revealed and fading to black right after.

Have you ever used a cliffhanger with a view?

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comment

anonymous?

Tantz_Aerine at 7:51AM, Sept. 22, 2019

Good point Avart & Usedbooks! Maybe it warrants another article!

usedbooks at 6:18AM, Sept. 22, 2019

Avart made a good observation about webcomic format. It's almost a fractal of story format in that you have to have an increasing progression of parts of a whole. Some webcomics are more like a novel/movie, others are serial (like a miniseries), and others are episodic. The whole story needs form but within that story are chapters (or episodes broken into chapters/scenes) which are broken into pages, which are broken into panels. Each panel should have interest and each page should end in a way that the reader wants to continue, amp that up for each scene, more intense for each chapter, and then each "act" if the story is written that way. A note-worthy cliffhanger can be at the end of an act or it can be the end of a "story" (if multiple volumes or sequels) with little mini-cliffhangers between scenes. Then you have the weird trick that ends a completed work with an "or is it?" which seems more common in horror and speculative fiction.

Avart at 8:17PM, Sept. 21, 2019

Excellent topic as always Tantz Aerine :) I used (and still use) the cliffhangers in a traditional way. I upload an entire chapter in other site with a cliffhanger if necessary, but here in DD I slice that long chapter into different parts (the last one gave me material for 10 weeks) and I try to make every sliced part as if it were a page, but that page must engage the reader to keep reading. Sometimes is funny to do it, but sometimes it can't be done, at least in a seamless way.

usedbooks at 5:21PM, Sept. 21, 2019

I dunno if I've done it before, but I kinda have something like that planned. (Not exactly epic, but it is a task completed in anticipated of bigger task.)

cdmalcolm1 at 2:34PM, Sept. 21, 2019

I don’t know if I ever done that in a comic. If I did it would have been with Heroes Alliance #8, the ninja issue. I don’t know if I could pull a “Cliffhanger with a view” with my comic. A few artist that I can think of is Jim Lee or Todd Mcfarland with some beautiful backgrounds and the intro title as to what’s the issue is going to be about. Yes I know there are hundreds of others that do this but those two are still my favorites.

Banes at 7:47AM, Sept. 21, 2019

I like that term. "Cliffhanger with a View". There is a difference between a cliffhanger that holds on a tense moment and one that has an ending to a storyline or arc but promises a push forward when the story continues. I prefer the "With a View" version, although there have been some phenomenal cliffhangers. In "With a view", the story might pick up right where it left off, or it might jump years forward (or backward) in time. It's much more open.


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