Posted by: nancyisanders | June 4, 2015

Chapter Book: Cliffhanger


A few months ago my husband Jeff and I drove up to our local mountains for a fun day. On our drive back, we pulled over to take photos of the spectacular view.

What feelings do you get as you look at the photograph, standing on this side of the cliff, looking out over the vista.

Nice view, don’t you agree?

Now imagine what feelings you’d have if you were on the OTHER SIDE of that rock, hanging on for dear life so you wouldn’t fall down the cliff to the sheer drop thousands of feet below.

That’s the feeling we want our young readers to have at the end of each chapter we’ll be writing in our early chapter book. That’s why we want to be sure to include a cliffhanger at each chapter’s end.

When I wrote adventure stories for the early chapter book series, The Imagination Station, as I was working on my chapter-by-chapter summary to turn into editorial for approval, I brainstormed cliffhangers for each of my chapters. Since this was an adventure the cliffhangers were as dangerous and exciting as possible!

Here in our early chapter book, and in our mentor text Stink #1, our cliffhangers can be less “adventuresome” but still have that same feeling of, “I gotta turn the page to find out what happens!”

Technically, we can plug in a cliffhanger at any point when we’re working on our manuscripts, but I’ve found it helps to brainstorm ideas now as we’re preparing our chapter-by-chapter summary of where we want our book to go.

So if you’d like to give this a try, go ahead and add cliffhangers to the end of your chapters that you’re brainstorming right now!


  1. Nancy, I especially like this post and your chapter-by-chapter summary post. I had started a chapter-by-chapter summary of Stink just to help me understand/remember what was “chapter worthy” and when those things were happening. You pinpointing the page, based on the total number of pages, made me think of “Saving the Cat.” (Do you attribute that page numbering ID to Blake Snyder’s “system?” )

    All this information has been helping me validate pieces of a ms I’ve been working on (a hero’s journey). And now I like the idea of trying to write chapter summaries for the new story I want to write. Determining and adding in cliffhangers would certainly make the writing easier. Now if i can get my brain cells working………om.

    • Yay, Mary, I’m so glad this is helping in so many ways! And I’ve used this system for a number of years based on the Three Act Structure…to be honest I had never heard of Blake Edwards until recently (where have I been?!) so as soon as I heard about ‘Save the Cat’ I had to buy the book!!! I’ve read it at least twice now. It’s awesome, especially for writing screenplays and adult novels.

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