Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Do cliffhangers kill?

When I came up with The Dead, my aim from the off was to write not so much a novel, or a series of novels, but a story which had such a pace, it left the reader breathless. I wanted it to feel like a movie experience where you leave at the end exhausted. Much like I felt after seeing the new-and-improved (apparently) Dawn of The Dead movie a few years back. I came out feeling like I'd just spent two hours in a wind tunnel. Instead of a headache tablet, me and my brother turned back round in to the cinema and watched (oh wonder of wonders) Shaun of the Dead... Genius!

Anyway, that's what I wanted to achieve, still do. And a key part of that for me was to have cliffhangers that pulled your guts out of your throat.

So I did my best to start the story right off in the middle of something a bit weird, have chapters end in such a way you're forced to flip the page, and ultimately to end each book - while concluding the individual story/adventure/horror of each - with a killer cliffhanger. Something that gives the reader barely a breath between the conclusion of what Lazarus (the main character) has faced and survived... and what he's thrown in to next.

Personally I love cliffhangers. And to me they're an essential part of writing horror. I don't want my readers to get to the end of a book and feel all comfy and happy and 'Ooh, look! A puppy!' That would seriously stink.

The aim of horror is to unnerve, challenge, disturb, send shivers, thrill, excite, upset, challenge, move... and cliffhangers help with this. I've read some books that end with such a shock ending that they're not so much a cliffhanger as a knife in the back as you're kicked off the ledge screaming and kicking as you plummet down to the rocks below...

You want a book to end in a hug? Don't buy The Dead. Seriously, I'm warning you. Don't go near it. Don't even pick it up, look at the cover, walk past it in the shop.

But if you want something that (hopefully) makes your breath catch in your throat, widens your eyes to the point of bursting from your skull, your guts squirm like they're trying to get out and fast, and gives you cliffhangers than cause you to run screaming to your local independent bookshop to find out when the next installment is out...

... enjoy...


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