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Hang on! It's a cliffhanger!

Emma_Clare at 12:00AM, March 19, 2021
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As webcomics are uploaded periodically, be that in pages, chapters or episodes, it’s imperative that we use all the tricks in the book to keep them coming back. One sure fire way to keep your readers coming back for more is by exploiting the cliffhanger device.

A cliffhanger is a situation, event or question that is left uncertain until it happens. The reader will be left with unresolved emotions and will seek to have them answered by coming back. We crave resolution in comics, books and even music. It is our nature to seek answers, so what better way to keep the audience coming back than by exploiting that nature.

The key to creating a satisfying cliffhanger is by posing a question by the end of the episode. When it comes to structuring a chapter/episode/issue, we start by answering the question we posed in the one before it. Therefore, the reader will know that when we leave them hanging, we’ll be sure to drag them up eventually. As the issue progresses however, we complicate the answer by adding more questions. Having an outline will definitely help you in pacing the chapter as you’ll know what information is needed and what emotional story beats you’ll want to hit to make that ending question hit harder. Avoid answering all the questions in one chapter. That’s what the ending is for.

Keep in mind that these questions need to relate to the plot and keep it moving forward. If you continue on pages upon pages without answering a question then the focus is not on the plot and the readers are more likely to let go and float away. Again an outline can help you prioritise which questions to put where.

How do you handle cliffhangers in your comic? Let us know in the comment section below! And join us on Sunday evening for our Quackchat at 5:30PM(EST)!

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anonymous?

Corruption at 9:12PM, March 19, 2021

I have noticed that in some manga and anime that they use cliffhangers that make people think of a question, like what the implications of something are. The time until the next episode comes out helps make people think about things. Another use of cliffhangers is when a character is forced to make a choice and develop their personnality. Sometimes t is not "will they get what they want?" but more along the lines of "Do they consider getting it still worth it?" They might be after fame before hand, but is it worth sacrificing their pride and humanity? For some: Yes. For others: No. So a few: Keep both and go the third path. This makes people, including writters, think about the characters, not just the plot

usedbooks at 7:51PM, March 19, 2021

Can't stand the whole cliffhanger after conclusion BS between episodes/seasons. In the middle of a story, it's okay provided the conclusion is already written and ready to roll out. I do use a little suspense by cutting between an A plot and B plot at opportune moments. But when a story concludes, it should conclude. (As hushicho said, doesn't need to be all tied up with a bow. A conclusion can leave a question to ponder, but it should be one that doesn't require an answer nor one that must be addressed in any following story in the series or franchise.) The season-end cliffhanger is a product if series trying to hold stations hostage to guarantee getting picked up next year. Really lame. It's the reason I stopped watching Castle a couple seasons in. The show bizarrely changed tone at the end of each season to force a dramatic cliffhanger.

hushicho at 4:30PM, March 19, 2021

I really don't like relying on cliffhangers too much. When I read a story, I want to have places that I can step off if needed. I think fiction, especially series, have become too dependent on cliffhangers, to the point where now, every show, story, and comic feels obligated to leave it on a cliffhanger...even if they don't know if they're going to be renewed. I don't like endings where everything is neatly tied up necessarily either, but I really, truly dislike the dependency on cliffhangers that has proliferated.

Hapoppo at 3:43PM, March 19, 2021

I'll tell you this much, there's something absolutely crazy about these cliffhangers that you won't believe.


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