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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm starting to make some progress with my epic fantasy story. I think I have dropped the serial idea for now in favor of a novel-sized trilogy. I do have a minor concern, though.

Whatever conflicts happen in book one will be resolved in a way that leads into the second book. That's not a problem. My problem is that I feel as though I NEED to end this first book on a cliffhanger. I don't see a way around it.

The story goes as follows:

- People have noticed that the moon is getting larger in the sky. The moon supplies the world with magic, so naturally things get wonky.
- Crazy things begin to happen as they would if the moon started inching closer to the world. People get crazy, natural disasters occur, magic starts acting up.

Anyway, without giving away the entire plot, I need the moon to crash into the world at the very end of the book. This is a cataclysmic style event that takes the story into the second book. This is a pretty major cliffhanger, but I always see people talking about how ending books with a massive cliffhanger can be a bad thing.

This is one of those situations where I feel like the reader would be left thinking "Oh my god! Did the world just end? I need book two NOW to find out what happens!" I could be wrong, though. Thoughts?
 

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I don't know.

I end the first book of my trilogy with a cliffhanger, mainly because the trilogy is a large story cut in three pieces, and it was the best place to cut it. People who look at it can see the "Book 1" on the cover and in the description.

I haven't had any complaints about it.
 

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This may sound strange coming from me, as I've been pretty clear that I hate cliffhangers; but if the story requires it, that's what you should do.  Some people (like me) hate cliffhangers, others don't mind them.  But if you're doing it because the story requires it, do it.

Betsy
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for chiming in everyone! I really appreciate it. I guess I'm going to go with the cliffhanger. It seems necessary for this series. I'm starting to realize that the first book in the series is going to be more of a "prequel" that sets the world and characters up for the story that follows. In that respect, it seems as though the cliffhanger I have in mind may be required. I'll just have to get book two out very soon after the first.
 

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David Scroggins said:
The story goes as follows:

- People have noticed that the moon is getting larger in the sky. The moon supplies the world with magic, so naturally things get wonky.
- Crazy things begin to happen as they would if the moon started inching closer to the world. People get crazy, natural disasters occur, magic starts acting up.

Anyway, without giving away the entire plot, I need the moon to crash into the world at the very end of the book. This is a cataclysmic style event that takes the story into the second book. This is a pretty major cliffhanger, but I always see people talking about how ending books with a massive cliffhanger can be a bad thing.
Yesssss.


(Sorry, just had to. :p)

Personally, cliffhangers don't bother me. If I know it's the first book in a series, I go in under the assumption I'll read them all (unless the first one is just THAT BAD.) A cliffhanger is just more likely to get me to immediately pick up the second book. That said, I've seen lots of reader comments here and elsewhere saying they will throw a book across the room that ends on a cliffhanger no matter what. But I think that's mostly for contrived cliffhangers that come off as cheap marketing ploys. As Betsy said, if you feel like it really fits your story and vision for it, then
.
 

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A long time ago on a VHS far far away, I watched an interview with George Lucas regarding the original Star Wars trilogy.  He obviously had planned out a lot of story and it took some brass to start on episode four.  But something he said did stick with me and I followed his advice when I outlined my own trilogy.  The first book/movie has to stand on it's own.  Primarily because there's a good chance that no more will get made.  If it's not a success, then nothing that comes after it will be.

So when I penned the outline of book one in my series, I leave some threads open, but I don't end it on any type of cliffhanger.  The good guys win and sail off into the sunset.  Book two of my series starts five years after the ending of book one and it does end on a cliff hanger.  It's also the only book that has received hate mail for the ending.  Book three ties everything together and I am proud of series and satisfied with the story I managed to tell.

Attitudes tend to change though and my sales numbers confirm.  A complete series sells better than one in progress.  I can understand why people do not like cliffhangers when the next installment is not available.  It's like Firefly, years later we finally get a movie and still don't know who the preacher is.
 

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I think you should do what you feel is appropriate to your story.

I write a series, but each book stands on its own, and at the end of each book the major conflict is resolved. I trust the readers want to read more books with the same characters, so the next book will feature the protagonists, but with new antagonists and new conflicts. In my genre, suspense, that's pretty much boilerplate, so I'm not going to mess with ending novels at cliffhangers.

I'd be hesitant to buy a book in a series that ends in a cliffhanger if the next book is not yet available, so what might happen is that readers might not buy your book until the series is completed. For instance, knowing that Lord of the Rings is really one HUGE book that's been divided into three books by the publisher, makes buying only The Two Towers nonsensical. But I happily buy The Bone Collector, because I know the book can stand on its own, despite being part of a series that features the same characters.
 

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I read one sci-fi trilogy where a moon literally crashed into the planet at the end of the first book. Many, many things were left unresolved by that book that were resolved later, but it came to a real ending just by following a few of the major characters to their refuge.

Consider getting some of your characters into a position of temporary safety or have them accomplish some small goal. Say for instance your main characters are all scattered by the moon crash. A good finish for the book then is to follow a handful of them that were together--or came together by chance--and have them go through many hazards to reach a shelter or a deserted outpost or something. Just let there be any place where the reader feels like a few characters can stay and catch their breath for a short time, even while the fates of all the others are unresolved. This kind of ending feels appropriate to a book while still screaming "Yes, there will be a sequel" to everyone hoping to continue the loose ends.
 

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I think you've fulfilled your contract with the reader, if the story is as described.

The hook might be "will the moon crash into the Earth?"

And then it does.

Story question resolved. You're good.

If it ended with the countdown to the moon hitting the earth, cutting away at 3-2-1- that would be cheap.
 

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All of my books apparently end in cliffhangers.  You're welcome to browse my reviews and see the reader reactions.  :)
 
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