Subscribe to my Telegram Channel,
and get new articles first!

Cliffhanger in Storytelling - what is it?

About the artistic device in the storyline, which is actively used by TV series and bloggers
Author of the article: Tatiana Zhakova
Journalist, linguist, teacher of storytelling with 10 years of experience
In 2015 she created and promoted her project about Nizhny Novgorod,, after which she created a course called "Storytelling: How to Tell Your Story" based on it. Over 4,000 students have taken the course.

A linguist by education, she quickly masters new areas. Now she is actively studying screenwriting and storytelling in movies/serials, and writes about it in her project's blog.
We encounter it very often, by the way. Because it's a trick in storytelling, when the narrative ends at the most interesting place! Cliffhanger is cliff + hanger, literally translated as "hanging on a cliff," in the unknown.

Many modern (and not-so-modern) TV series "sin" with the use of cliffhangers.

I would even say that almost all episodes in all series end with cliffhangers, except for those where each episode is dedicated to a separate story, which is fully revealed within the episode's running time.
For example, each episode in "Castle" is a separate detective story, while in "Charmed" it is a magical story. Very rarely do their series end with a "suspended" ending, only when the main character's life is in danger, for example.

But "Castle" is a procedural, that's how it should be, that each series is dedicated to one case. But if we are talking about some kind of "continuous" series, where the narrative goes smoothly, moving from one series to another. A character asked an important question that went unanswered. Or that important meeting happened, and that's it, the credits roll.

And this technique was used both in old Russian series - remember "Poor Nastya" with its intrigues - and is now found in girls' series in different countries: a striking example is the Turkish "Knock on My Door". But we also see the use of cliffhanger in mini-series, post-apocalyptic, and our favorite movies, too. "The Walking Dead, Murder in the Building, Back to the Future-not even one episode, but often an entire season ends with a cliffhanger that hints at a sequel.
And if you look at the blogging sphere, this very "I'll tell you about today's meeting tomorrow" is the cliffhanger.

And its use is quite justified, because in times of such strong information noise, it is very important to engage the viewer so that he will remember the next day: "Mmmm, it ended at the most interesting point! We've got to go back and watch the rest of it!"

What do you think?