How do you like each book in a series to end?

Hello SErs. Harmony here. At the moment, I’m writing a trilogy, and I have a question about how you like for each book in a series to end. Cliffhanger or all tied off and settled? Or something in between?

By cliffhanger, I don’t mean that the main story arc and thread of the first book will be left unfinished. What I envision by a cliffhanger is that the main issue has been resolved (colonists have landed safely on a planet, say), but that another, new, issue then pops up at the last minute (the colonists discover they’re not actually alone on said planet, for example).

Do you, as both reader and writer, prefer to leave the new development for the start of the next book in the series, or do you think it’s okay to drop it into the final chapter of the previous book instead? I think it makes a good hook for the reader, but that’s just my personal opinion. What I don’t like is when I’ve invested hours of reading only to have the story stop without a proper close or any real resolution to the main threads. Those kinds of cliffhangers, I can do without.

I believe that any book, be it a standalone novel or part of a series, needs to contain three basic elements: Beginning, Middle, and End. These three elements hold the character and plot arcs and threads. The same for the series as a whole.

Good fiction needs the individual rain drops as well as the umbrella.

So, how do you like each component of a series to end? Let me know in the comments below.


40 thoughts on “How do you like each book in a series to end?

  1. I guess I’m in the minority. I LOVE cliffhangers! Lol! When I know a book is part of a series, I expect to be left wanting more. I expect to be left missing a piece of the puzzle until I read the very last book. And if I like the first book enough, I’m willing to invest my time and money in seeing the story until the very end. I love readings books in a series. I have read many series where each book has it’s own ending with the bigger problem not yet being solved (i.e. Harry Potter, Vampire Diaries). I’ve read cliffhangers (VC Andrews’ books, Twilight series). And I’ve read series where each book has its own ending but you know another book is coming with another related story (Anita Blake, Midnight Breed, Black Dagger Brotherhood, Robert Langdon series). And I loved ALL of them. I’d rather read a series over a stand alone book any day, so for me, I’m completely okay with a story leaving me in a cliff hanger. It allows my imagination to take flight while I wait for the next book to come out. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Yvi. I’m like you … I like a cliff-hanger, so long as the main thread in the current story is tied off. I don’t mind being left waiting to hear what happens next on the overarching events or a new event that happens near the end. I’ve read and loved the Harry Potter and Twilight series, but I haven’t yet read books by Andrews or Blake … I’ll have to take a look at those 🙂

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      • VC Andrews was my all time favorite as a child. She died in 1988, I believe, and her sister and editor took over her unfinished projects. So, if you are going to take a look at her, you will want to read her first group of series, starting with Flowers in the Attic, or her stand-alone novel, My Sweet Audrina.

        Anita Blake series is very sexual and quite graphic. I just wanted to forewarn you. That being said, I love the series. It has at least 22 books, and the author (Laurell K Hamilton) is not done writing the series yet. 🙂

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  3. I like your raindrops and umbrella analogy. I’ve read a lot of novels that are parts of a broader series, but the ones that came to mind when reading your post are the ones from Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines trilogy. I liked how he constructed a broader three-book mystery that was unveiled and finally solved over the course of three books. Each book had a novel-wide theme that could have stood alone (although I don’t know how compelling it would have been). Within each chapter, there was a supporting mystery that unfolded… initially unveiling parts of the overarching mystery of the series, and in the end (in book 3) providing rationale and evidence to slowly bring all the mysteries to an end.

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  4. I like for each book to come to its own satisfying end. I do not like to feel as though I have to pick up the next book to see the story continue. Instead, I like to view the next book as a “let’s see what happens next in this world” that will have its satisfying ending as well.

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  5. I’ve written both ways: ending each book in a series as though it was the last and opening the next with a new conflict; and ending with the overall arc hinted at for the next book. Readers weren’t happy with the cliffhanger, so I consider it a lesson learned, lol

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  6. Your question made me think of the FEVER series by Karen Marie Moning. I bought them on my Kindle and my daughter snitched it every time to read them. She loved them. I did, too, but quit reading them after the second book ended with ANOTHER obvious cliffhanger for the next book. I hated that. True, the author wrapped up the story for the present book, but the hook to buy the next one was so blatant, it irritated me. She’s a best seller, though, and my daughter couldn’t wait for the next book, so I was in the minority. On the other hand, I loved Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniel series because even though a book ended, I knew there were plenty of problems left to resolve in the next book. So I guess I’d go with Craig’s answer of “subtle.”

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  7. Hard for me to answer. I haven’t yet completed a series. I try to end my books with an idea that life goes on. There may, or may not, be further adventures. I suppose that would be a decent recipe to follow in a series. I’m not a fan of cliffhangers that try to force me into the next book. If there are subtle plants that will pay off in a subsequent book I’m fine with that. The key word is subtle. I’m attempting a classic trilogy style right now. Book one was all about a personal mission that resolved, but exposed a bigger problem. Book two will be a point of loss. The last one will be victory by the skin of their teeth. It seems to work, so I’m going with it.

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  8. Harmony, I love the raindrops and umbrella quote 🙂

    When I read a series, I want the main thread in the book I’m reading to be resolved, but I have no issue with a new thread being introduced in the closing chapter to set up the next book’s story. Like you, I have problems with books that just end with no resolution for any of the plot threads. When that happens, I rarely, if ever, read that author again. It feels like being cheated. Give me some closure, and I’ll happily tag along for the succeeding stories.

    Excellent discussion topic, today!

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  9. For me, a cliffhanger is when the author leaves the main issue of the individual book unresolved. I don’t like that at all. But I do like it when the ending gives readers a hint of what will be coming up in the next book of the series. I just think of the first as a traditional cliffhanger, and the second as setting up the next book. Cliffhangers make me angry. Sometimes I feel cheated enough that I won’t read any farther in the series. It’s one of those things that can make me not “trust” the author. However, a good set-up for the next book just makes me eager to get my hands on it. That’s what I aim for in both of my series, though how well it works is up to the readers, of course.

    Another tricky thing about endings is wrapping up the last planned book of a series in a way that ties up all loose ends, without closing the door on there ever, ever being another one. That’s what I’ve been faced with in my current WIP, which, btw, I hope to have out as an eBook in the next week or so. I’m not planning on writing another book in this series, but I’d hate to realize I ended this one in a way that means I can never change my mind.

    Good topic, Harmony! Endings are tricky, aren’t they? Like beginnings, it’s tough to get them juuuuuust right. 🙂

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  10. I agree. Finish the loose ends, but leave something dangling for the next book. For example, in Unseen Motives, I had a satisfying conclusion to the mystery, but near the end, I opened the door for the next book, Unknown Reasons by hinting there was an arsonist on the prowl. (One reviewer gave me three stars because I didn’t let “solve” the mystery of who started the fire, but you can’t please everyone.) The only hint toward the third book was that Vince and Christine would be involved and most of that was in my author’s note at the end.

    I’m not fond of serial fiction where it takes three or four books to solve a mystery.

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  11. For a series, I try to go with a closure/opening balance. You clear up the main issue of that book and leave it clear that more will come. It’s author choice if it’s a last minute problem for a tense cliffhanger or the characters calmly moving on for a soft one.

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