Post-Cliffie Chapter Update Does Not Tell Us What Happens Next = Major Fic Faux Pas

You may remember an earlier rant, "Long Time Between Updates + Update only gives second POV = Major Fic Faux Pas".  In this second installment of my Fic Faux Pas rant series I bring you yet another.  This rant, of course, was brought on by a recent chapter update I read for a dearly-anticipated fic.  The prior chapter had left the reader with a little cliffie, so you can imagine my chagrin at finding that instead of telling the reader what happens next in the story, the entire update was A FLASHBACK!!

Listen, people.  I write fic.  I know that a well-conceived story requires more than plot.  I know that good character development often necessitates character back story, and flashbacks are one way to show that.  Here's the thing, though:  there is a time and a place for flashbacks, and that time is not right after a cliffie.  And if you have the audacity to place a flashback right after a cliffie, the end of the chapter had better come back to the present and deliver substantial plot progression.

So, here's a PSA for all the little girls who think it's fun to play with cliffies:  playing with cliffies is like playing with fire, and when you play with fire you get burnt.  If you're going to use a cliffhanger to build suspense, show that you know what you're doing:

  1. Relieve the tension in a timely fashion--no one likes a tease
  2. Make the resolution satisfying (i.e., don't use a cliffhanger as an empty device that ultimately fakes the reader out a la 80's show "Dallas").  Only a well-resolved cliffhanger will make the reader feel the update was worth waiting for.
  3. Use cliffhangers sparingly, and alongside other mechanisms that build dramatic tension.  In some ways, cliffhangers limit authors while a slow burn gives more license for authors to tell the story the way they want

That is all.
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