Cliffhangers are a common trope in many stories. Horror stories use them as well, but they may have a different feel to a thriller or a melodrama.
To end a scary story with a cliffhanger you have to focus on the shock value. First, engage the reader and build their expectation. Then, at the end of the story or scene, reveal something unexpected. The reveal should be shocking and should suggest that there is more to come. A cliffhanger is usually employed between chapters or related stories.
Writing a cliffhanger will keep the reader engaged when you want to write more than one book in a series. It is also a useful device at the end of some chapters when you are writing a longer story. You can also use a cliffhanger at the end of a short story for shocking effect.
What is a Cliffhanger?
A cliffhanger is a type of plot device in which an ending of a movie, book, or game is very abrupt. This is usually done by leaving characters in a difficult situation, without having a resolution to that situation.
But there are also many different types of cliffhangers and how they can be used effectively. Cliffhangers are often used to keep the audience engaged with whatever story is being told, so it keeps them watching, reading, or playing the media that has cliffhangers in them.
There are many different reasons why cliffhangers are used. They are not only used to keep audiences engaged with whatever story they are being told. Cliffhangers can be used to add suspense and tension, which yes, is another way of keeping the audience engaged, but has its purposes for helping with plot progression and the overall pacing of the story, too.
Cliffhangers are also pretty good at showing a shocking moment. A good example of this is the protagonist finding another character dead, or maybe it could be something else entirely. A cliffhanger can also change the narrative that the audience once thought would be concluded. This will leave the audience wanting more, as they want their questions answered – what happened to so and so?
Cliffhangers on television are very common. They can be used very effectively because TV shows operate on an episodic basis, therefore, you could have an episode from a show that has a cliffhanger, then answer that cliffhanger in the next episode, or you can end the season on a cliffhanger, only answering the question the next season. This is done because it often generates buzz and media attention.
In movies, cliffhangers are often employed for the same reasons. Many movies do this to create a sequel and it is usually done in franchises.
With books, it could be a bit different but has the same idea as cliffhangers in movies or shows. You can have a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter instead of the end of the book, or you could do both. Having a cliffhanger at the end though is usually done to make a sequel to the book. Having one at the end of the chapter helps keep the reader engaged in the book and has them keep turning pages.
What Makes a Cliffhanger Different in a Horror Story?
Horror stories are not alone in using cliffhangers, either. They are often employed for a variety of reasons. But the biggest reason why cliffhangers are employed in horror is that it keeps the audience engaged, as we mentioned earlier.
But you may wonder- what makes a cliffhanger in a horror story different?
A cliffhanger that often involves shock is seen in horror a lot. Shock is an effective tool for making your audience horrified. A cliffhanger that often involves shock can include character deaths, finding a gory scene, and many other things that can involve shock.
Cliffhangers in horror often use one tactic of “what is to come”. This tactic usually involves the villain or monster not actually being dead and rising back from the grave. Slasher horror movies like Friday the 13th or Halloween have used this effectively. At the end of many Friday the 13th films, you see Jason Voorhees not being dead as previously thought. Some might include him rising from the grave literally. This includes the franchise Halloween too, as Michael is often seen to be missing at the end of the films, only to come back the next film.
So yes, a cliffhanger in a horror story is different in the ways how it is employed, but the screenwriters use these ideas for the same reasons we mentioned before: to keep the audience engaged and to keep media buzz and attention.
How to Write a Cliffhanger in a Scary Story
Now you may be wondering “how do I write a good cliffhanger in a horror story?”. We will go over a few tips and types of cliffhangers to use for your horror story!
This is a very common cliffhanger and one that is often thought of when someone hears the word cliffhanger. This usually involves a character being in a perilous situation, such as dangling from a cliff. This is where the word “cliffhanger” comes from. But just because it is a common trope does not mean it can’t be used and can be used effectively in horror. Have your character get in some type of accident when they are getting away from the dangerous villain, for example.
This is a type of cliffhanger that hints to the reader about what’s to come next or hints at a significant change in the story. These can be used effectively to add some suspense and keep the reader engaged.
Loss of consciousness
This is another type of cliffhanger that is used pretty often in all types of media. This does include horror, too. This can involve a character losing consciousness or “blacking out”. This is usually done by literally knocking the character out, usually with a weapon, so yes, this makes sense to use in horror.
Demanding a response
This one isn’t commonly seen as a cliffhanger, and many might not know that this is one. Usually, this involves a character being in a situation where they have to respond to it. A good example is someone knocking on the door when no one should be there, so you can see where horror could get involved with this one, too.
This one can involve multiple different things. One example could be where the plot reveals something about a character that is significant, and usually bad. The next one would involve a plot reveal, this reveals a big plot point that could have a very big impact. The last one usually tips the reader off but keeps other characters in the dark about certain characters. An example of this one is knowing who the killer is, but leaving the reader in the dark about other characters who might be involved with the killer.
These are some of the ways to write a cliffhanger and incorporate it into a horror story. Getting it right will probably take some practice, but it’s worth it. Cliffhangers have been a staple in stories for a long time because they work. Use the ideas in this article to spice up your stories and keep the reader on the edge of their seat. Happy writing.