Cliffhanger: dramatic and exciting ending to an episode of a serial, leaving the audience in suspense and anxious not to miss the next episode...a story or event with a strong element of suspense.
Game changer: an event, idea, or procedure that effects a significant shift in the current way of doing or thinking about something.
I read this blog post by Ally Carter a while back, about game changers and cliffhangers in novels, and I really wanted the opportunity to share it with you today. There isn't really a lot more I can say that Ally Carter hasn't said already, but I thought I'd share my thoughts with you all anyway.
Quite often in YA literature, books seem to end on either a cliff hanger or a game changer - especially the first book in a series. And this is fine - otherwise, why would the reader want to keep reading? They are necessary plot devices to keep the reader eager to know more.
Personally, I prefer game changers to cliffhangers. With a cliffhanger, the action stops in mid-flight, which often makes me wonder if the author meant to leave it there, or if I'm missing the last few pages of a book. It jars - the ending often feels inadequate and somewhat rushed, as though the author couldn't think of a satisfactory ending. When done right, however, cliffhangers can indeed leave me wanting to read the next book right now.
But with game changers, the author has much more scope and time to develop the ending of a novel. The reader has some form of closure, but they're still willing to read the rest of the series, because they want to know how the story will eventually end.
With Synthetica, I could've quite easily have ended the book a few chapters earlier, when Anais gets caught up in 'certain events' (sorry - trying not to reveal any spoilers!) - it would leave the reader wondering if she's alive, if Xander and her parents are alive and what the Hacker is up to next.
But I decided against it. To me, the ending is so much stronger because we get to see the aftermath of these events, and the consequences of both the Hacker's and Anais' actions. And because of these consequences, the reader will hopefully want to read on with the rest of the series to see how the story pans out.
In the end, it's up to you whether you choose to use a cliffhanger or a game changer in your novel - both have their own advantages and disadvantages. It's down to your judgement as whether your novel will benefit from having one or the other...or maybe even both! How's that for a game changer?!