Would this be a cliffhanger ending?

F.J. Hansen

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My current WIP follows the journey of one particular group of people--Ken and his crew. In the last quarter of the book, they meet up with another Earth ship 26 years later on the other side of the galaxy. The crew of that ship is the subject of a 5-book series I have planned, so for now I'm keeping my focus on the first ship. The current story ends with the two ships defending a peaceful world from an invasion. The first ship is destroyed, most aboard killed (there's a minor character that I plan to carry over to Book 5 of the fore-mentioned series, but I wanted to keep that character's survival ambiguous), while the other ship goes for help. As it's planned right now, the story ends there. Then, there would be an epilogue set three or four months later, in which Ken's son, Edward, who is among the crew of the second ship, reflects on his father's sacrifice while everyone else celebrates their victory over the invaders.

I'm wondering now if that would be considered a cliffhanger ending. We don't really see a resolution to the crisis, but we do see the end to the MC's journey--in more ways than one.
 

Wayne Mack

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If the attack on the peaceful planet is a major theme throughout the novel, then protecting the planet would be a satisfactory conclusion for the reader. For me, as a reader, I do not expect every issue to be resolved by the end of the book, but I feel cheated if the primary conflict covered is not completed.
 

The Judge

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I wouldn't class it as a cliffhanger, since with the epilogue you've effectively confirmed what's happened to the planet if there is a victory over the invaders -- a cliffhanger is surely where the book ends abruptly with a major point unresolved, and the reader doesn't know what is going to happen in a particular perilous situation.

However... I think I would be rather miffed at having such an ending wrapped up in a reminiscence in an epilogue. If the attack on the peaceful planet is in any way a major part of the novel's plot, most readers are going to want to see what happens to it, whether it's saved or otherwise, not just be told about it in passing. Why aren't you planning to show that resolution?

If the attack on the planet isn't a major part of the novel, but just occurs in the last few pages as a reason for Ken's ship to be destroyed, then it's not quite so important to see what happens to the planet. But to be frank, I'd then be concerned as to whether it actually makes for a good ending and/or structure for the whole book.
 

mosaix

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Hi F.J.

T.J. has a point. If the victory is being celebrated I don't see the 'cliffhanger' element. What is the unresolved crisis?

On a personal note, cliffhanger endings aren't for me. I quite like complete resolutions within a single volume, but with characters and themes sufficiently interesting for me to want to read further books in the series if there are any.

Edit: Is the epilogue, effectively, the first chapter of the next book? That works quite well for me if there's just enough to spike my interest.
 

sknox

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I see a plot halted, but what about the characters? Since you kill off most of them, it's hard to see the edge of the cliff, much less what's hanging from it. For the most part, I care little about plot cliffhangers. It's the characters that interest me. If everything is resolved concerning them, then I would simply regard it as a finished story.
 

F.J. Hansen

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The primary story of the book is the voyage of Earth's first starship, which becomes lost in time and space, visiting four different time periods in an attempt to return to their time and place of origin. Each time period they visit is an additional story. The invasion plotline is one of those additional stories. But the main question is, do they make it home or not?
 

F.J. Hansen

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Hi F.J.

T.J. has a point. If the victory is being celebrated I don't see the 'cliffhanger' element. What is the unresolved crisis?

Edit: Is the epilogue, effectively, the first chapter of the next book? That works quite well for me if there's just enough to spike my interest.

The victory over the invaders occurs two or three chapters (each chapter being a short story/novelette) into Book 5 of the series I mentioned earlier (and I haven't even started Book 1 yet). The epilogue would basically be a scene at the end of said chapter.
 

TheEndIsNigh

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Not a cliffhanger.

IMO it's a big ask to expect people to accept a character back from the dead after four books with no mention in between.

As for epilogue, I have pretty much the same oppinion of them as prologue - do it in the main story.

Goes for help? Oh kind Mr alien, would you mind holding off your invasion while I go and get help. Don't they have speedy communications? Also since they seem to be lost in space where would they seek this help, they seem to be in enough trouble themselves.

If book five is about the second ship that was destroyed in the first book then as a reader I'd give it a miss and as @The Judge mentioned I'd be more than miffed, more like piffed - using the old english S. Why get invested in a story where (as a reader) I know they all die?

Throwing in time travel is always a dodgy move IMO.

It all seems a bit confusing.

Hope I helped.

Tein.
 

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