Thursday, January 3, 2013

Hanging over the cliff

We've been bombarded with talks of cliffs lately, have we not?

At 12:01 on New Year's Day, I glanced at my father-in-law, raised my glass of sparkling red grape juice and said, "Well, guess we fell off the cliff!"

Little did I know that 2 hours later we'd kinda, sorta in a sloppy, ouchy way, jump back up the cliff.

Anywho, this isn't a political blog.

But the fiscal cliff crud got the wheels of my brain turning.

It's kinda like the climax of a book, ey?

Our books should all have a literary cliff. We should bring our characters, and thus our readers, so close to a cliff that they actually feel like they are falling, then at the last minute (or maybe even two hours late) drag them back up.

Some of the best books do this.

The Bible even does it. Abraham is raising his weapon and is seconds from sacrificing his only son when God intervenes. Wow. I'm sure He was sweating, and I suck in a breath ever time I read it.

I had all these fabulous examples of "cliffs" authors dangle us over in their books, but then I realized... listing those examples may give super important stuff about a book away, and well, I'm not one to spoil your fun!

I'm a SUPER big fan of dangling cliffs in my books, both in "end of chapter" ones and "climax" ones.

Now, please note.

This isn't where you bring your readers to the cliff, show them how far down it would be to fall, then say, "Yup, never mind, we aren't going there."


That's ultra boring.

I'm talking some dangling by clutched fists, free falling until a rope catches you, or even falling down onto an unknown ledge that allows time for a rescuer to heave you up, but lets you fall enough to break a leg or arm.

Don't be wimpy about your cliff.

Go ahead.

Wait until 2am on New Year's Day to resolve it for your characters/readers.

Make them sweat, people!

**Discussion:** What are some good books that have AMAZING cliffs in them? No need to detail the cliff... because we don't want to ruin it for anyone!

How are you at writing cliffs into your books? Are you extreme sports worthy, or are you a bit wimpy and tend to need to kick your characters a little harder?


Krista is a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mother, and a contemporary romance author. She recognizes that life can be frustrating and just plain not fun sometimes, but believes that laughter and smiles can make the not-so-fun a little better! She blogs about the amazing things God has been doing and her journey as a busy momma of 4 and caregiver to a daughter with a rare congenital heart defect at She is represented by the fab agent, Rachelle Gardner, and her debut novel, Sandwich, With a Side of Romance, released September 2012.


Sherrinda said... true, Krista. Isn't it Mary Connealy who has the heroine hanging off a cliff in the very first scene? She so loves to torture her heroines. ;)

Julia M. Reffner said...

Great post, Krista. One I was talking to my husband about is Travis Thrasher's books. Occasionally he ends the chapter mid-sentence...when you're about to find out something important...because further danger crops up interrupting mid-thought. Then you sometimes don't find out the bit of information for a good 50 more pages. Frustrating but its rarely taken me more than 2 days to finish his books and I usually read 1 book per week!

Lindsay Harrel said...

Love the visuals on this thought! :) Susan May Warren is great at making a character's lie seem true through the black (or cliff) moment. It's like the worst thing possible happens...but it still all works out in the end. Love it!

Marilynn Byerly said...

I have a private joke to myself where I literally throw my heroine off a cliff of some sort in most of my novels. I've thrown them off the side of a mountain, into a cavern on another planet, off the side of a catwalk above a Las Vegas stage, etc.

I never allow myself the same means for the poor women to survive so it's as surprising and scary for me as it is the reader because I really have to work hard at figuring out how they will survive.

Jeanne T said...

What a fun post, Krista. Let's see, I think I took my heroine off a cliff, of sorts. A relational cliff.

As for books and authors, though it's a secular book, The Hunger Games is, in my opinion, amazing at taking characters off of cliffs. One Kristin Heitzmann book I read last year opens with a cliff falling scene. Nuff said. :)

Thanks for sharing your fun thoughts today!

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I'm bad about cloistering characters behind safety barricades... although I did just write a piece with characters jumping a fence to climb icy coastal rocks!

Two of the cliffiest books I've read: "The House at Riverton" by Kate Morton and "The Opposite of Art" by Athol Dickson. In both, the worst thing that could happen DOES happen, and both are excellent books.

Krista Phillips said...

You all have some GREAT examples!!!

Another author that does a fabulous job of cliff-booting their characters is Francine Rivers.

I've literally been caught yelling at one of her books before!