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Swoon Author Kate Evangelista: What Vampires Taught Me About Cliffhangers

It's sad that The Vampire Diaries has ended. It was one of my favorite shows. But wait! This is a writing advice post, I promise. Bear with me. All I can say is: Damon, my heart will always be yours! And whichever major artery of your choosing.

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I'm not kidding. 

If there was a vampire you'd want falling hopelessly in love with you, it's Damon. And Lestat, but that's neither here nor there. What I’m writing about are cliffhangers.

I watch TV because it teaches me something about writing. Sounds oxymoronic, I know. But there are specific shows I die to watch on a weekly basis not only for the compelling storylines but also for the lessons in creating scenes they teach. TV allows a writer to envision a scene. How compact it can be. The detail put into it. And the dialogue and body language of the characters. Putting all these together, especially when beginning and ending a scene can make for effective writing.

When I'm reading a good book, what really gets me turning pages is a cliffhanger at the end of each chapter. There are even writers who have several cliffhangers in a single chapter. That's what I call effective storytelling.

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If you can have one for each and every chapter, I believe you'll have a very compelling if not breathless novel. Of course, ending on a cliffhanger can be difficult because you need to know when exactly to end a chapter so that your readers will say "I need to know more!" and then turn that page. This is the beginning of their sleepless night, turning page after page in the quest to know what happens next.

The writers of The Vampire Diaries perfected the cliffhanger. If you're a fan of the series, you'll know what I'm writing about. Each episode is ended in such a way that will keep you wanting more, if not wondering why you have to wait a whole week for your next installment. It's like a drug, I tell you.

If you're not a fan, you can actually take any episode from any of the eight seasons and you'll still see what I mean. Each episode is like a chapter in a book. It's ended either on an action about to take place or a revelation or something utterly shocking. Each of these can be used to force a reader into needing to know what happens next.

Sometimes, when writing a chapter, you know exactly where it ends. It feels right. But ask yourself, will the reader want to continue reading or will she call it a night and put your book down for the next day?

For example, your character is about to make an important decision in a chapter. Instead of ending your chapter with the decision being made, why not end it at the moment where he or she is about to make said decision? Let's say jumping off a cliff. You can end the chapter just as she reaches the edge.

Or what if your character is about to confess something to another character. A great way to end the chapter is by cutting the confession. Maybe something significant happens that pushes the actual confession to a later chapter. Or he's just about to say it and you cut the chapter there. So you have your readers holding their breath, but they can't exhale until they read the next chapter, then you start the whole cliffhanger all over again.

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I can go on and on about what you can do, but in the end, writing your novel is in your hands. I just love sharing what works for me. In this case, cliffhangers. Something to consider when writing a chapter. And a great way to learn is by watching The Vampire Diaries. The writers on that show... I swear, they are wicked awesome!

I hope I was able to help today. Remember, take my advice with a grain of salt. What may work for me might not work for you or the chapter you’re writing. Each writer's process is different. Don't be afraid to find your own.

Author spotlight

Kate Evangelista

When Kate Evangelista was told she had a knack for writing stories, she did the next best thing: entered medical …

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