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The Vampire Diaries and the Art of Cliffhangers

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Did you catch the latest episode of The Vampire Diaries this week? All I can say is: Daemon, my heart is yours! And whatever major artery you so choose.

I’m not kidding.

If there was a vampire you’d want falling hopelessly in love with you, it’s Daemon. Happy New Year to you, Elena! The ending of the episode? I won’t spoil it unless you haven’t seen what I’m writing about. But, seriously, if you haven’t watched the episode yet, stop reading this post and go watch.

Meanwhile, I want to segue into writing techniques. I need to work off some of the buzz the ending of this week’s episode gave me.

I’ve mentioned before that 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 story lines, but also for the lessons in creating scenes they teach me. 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.

I’ve sighted the Sons of Anarchy when it comes to creating multidimensional characters. Ones you love to hate and hate to love. Today, I want to focus on The Vampire Diaries and the art of writing cliffhangers.

When I read 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 story telling. 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 have writing cliffhangers just right. 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 three 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, you’re 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 the 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.

I may 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!

So, let’s talk about the ending to this week’s episode…

11 comments:

  1. I know what you mean about watching visual media for writing lessons! I do the same thing, except I watch movies (my first love is screenwriting). I also read shooting scripts. Really nice tips, Kate.

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  2. @Charmaine = Thank you for stopping by. And yes, I love watching movies too. :-)

    @Shelly = Thank you, Shelly! *hugs*

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  3. The more I hear about Vampire Diaries, the more I'm inclined to watch. Great blog Kate...I'm a new follower (wink)

    Hildie

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  4. @Hildie = I'm a fan so my first instinct is to say, "Go for it!" :-) You have two full seasons to get through.

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  5. Thank you for the lovely comment! Im still adding to it a little at a time ..perhaps one day mine will be as nice as yours :) So about Vampire Diaries..Ive only watched the first season..at first i was really into it but after awhile I honestly got bored..should I keep watching? is season two any better?

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  6. I'm in total agreement about Daemon. OMW. Love him! I can't believe I wasn't following your blog already. Well, I am now. Love it here.

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  7. Yep, yep, I love a good cliffhanger. And the end of the VD episode, whew. I can't wait until Thursday.

    You know who else is a master of the cliffhanger, you...my friend. It's especially maddening when I have to wait a week for the next installment, heehee:) Can't wait for you to come out of the cave, rubs hands eagerly.

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  8. @Brianne = The second season gets a little more intense. Give it a try. :-) No harm in watching a few episode to see how you like it.

    @Ciara = Can you just imagine him standing at your front door and professing his love? Gosh! I would so melt.

    @Angie = Working hard at it, sis! And you're forgetting that you're awesome with cliffhangers as well. Can't wait to read the next set of chapters you send my way. :-)

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  9. Actually, this has absolutely nothing to do with the Vampire Diaries but I was just wondering - how did you get so many people from around the world to view your blog?

    I didn't know where to ask this since I didn't see a place to message you or anything.

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  10. @Pahloolah = You're always welcome here, no matter where you post the comment. As for the followers, get your blog out there and post as much as you can. :-)

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