Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cliffhangers

Why do Nancy Drew books have a cliffhanger at the end of every single chapter? Seriously. Every single chapter. I can understand having a cliffhanger or two near the beginning of the book, in order to make things exciting and grab the interest of potential readers. But why continue with cliffhangers throughout the entire book?

I mean, by the time the reader is on Chapter 8, cliffhangers stop working. A smart reader will recognize the fact that Nancy has been put in fake danger seven times already, and they won't be fooled again by another cliffhanger.

At some point, I think it's unnecessary to introduce a cliffhanger to make sure the audience keeps reading the book. For instance, if someone is on Chapter 11, odds are that they will finish the book. You don't need to cliffhanger them, to make sure they keep reading.

Here's what Anne Greenberg, the Nancy Drew editor of the 1980's and 90's has to say: "We've found that the stories are more interesting if they have at least three suspects. If the writer can provide a juicy red herring, so much the better. One element we knew we had to have was the cliffhanger. That tried-and-true device of literary manipulation grabs you by the throat and takes you to the edge and doesn't let go until you have no choice but to turn the page and get yanked into the next chapter with your flashlight batteries running low."

By the way, I'd recommend reading Chapter 7 of this book, if you're interested in seeing how they edited / wrote the Nancy Drew series, after Simon and Schuster bought the rights to Nancy Drew. That particular chapter is available for free.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

When I was younger, and was first reading them, I noticed the whole cliffhanger thing. I didn't think much about it then, but yeah it is a little annoying now that I remember. I don't think the cliffhangers are the problem, but the way they are used, as in action scenes where Nancy's life is in danger. Cliffhangers can be plot twists or some new exciting development in the case. Like you said, after a few action scene cliffhangers, they aren't that exciting because you know nothing is going to happen to the main characters.

Mike York said...

One of the authors for the Hardy Boys:Casefiles series was told that she had to put a cliffhanger at the end of each chapter. It was cheesy, but it kept people reading.

Sabina Persaud said...

I don't think this magazine thing applies to Nancy Drew, but writers in the 1800's used to put cliffhangers at the end of every chapter because chapters of their novels were split up in sections for newspapers and magazines. The authors would put these cliffhangers so frequently to keep people buying the newspapers or magazines to finish the story ASAP. When the stories were finished,they would be published as a complete novel. They were literally writing to survive. 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' by Sir Conan Doyle and 'The Woman in White'by Wilkie Collins were published like that. Maybe the technique of chucking in cliffhangers came in the Nancy Drew books because the authors were born in the early 1900's and read books with many cliffhangers as the ones I mentioned up there and felt that was the 'right' or more interesting way to write.