Tools For Tuesday – How Reality TV teaches writers about cliffhangers

First and foremost, I hope everyone had a safe and happy Fourth of July holiday. Now, down to business…

We’ve all been in full couch potato mode when The Bachelor is about to give his last rose, Piers Morgan from America’s Got Talent is about to tell the guy who juggles Chihuahuas whether he’s going to Vegas or not, or that Jeff guy from 101 Ways To Leave a Game Show is about to reveal the contestant who guessed the wrong answer, sending them hurtling through space at the end of some jet pack-zip line thingy and the network cuts to commercial. AARRRGGHH!! You jump up, curse the gods, and flail around the room. You nearly spill your pistachio ice cream. Your drink almost gets knocked off the wagon wheel coffee table. You want to hurl the remote across the room. “How can they cut it off there! At the crucial moment of impact!” But the TV execs know exactly what they are doing. They know that if you knew their addresses, you’d personally deliver a flaming doo-doo bomb on their front door step. But they also know they’ve got you. They know you’ll want to find out what happened. You’ll even put up with 2.5 minutes of commercials in the meantime.

As writers, whether we are writing non-fiction, fiction, memoir, romance,mysteries, a how-to guide, or a textbook, we could all stand to learn a thing or two from the idiot box. People love cliffhangers. It’s almost a self-punishment thing. We like being scared (roller coasters and horror movies) we are motivated by pain (working out and high school) and we want to be kept in suspense. And if the ratings for these reality shows tell us anything, millions of us love a good cliffhanger or two.

Speaking of millions, if you’ve sworn off reality TV (you are stronger than I, my friend) you can also just look at fellow writers Dan Brown and James Patterson who are masters of the cliffhanger and sell millions of books. So, more cliffhangers = more book sales? Big jump, right? But, I’ve read Freakonomics and those guys try to make bigger jumps than that.   


Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and author whose latest, award-winning suspense thriller, The Brink, is now available as an eBook for Kindle and Barnes & Noble nook for only $2.99!

The Brink is a hell of a read.” – Bestselling author Sandra Brown

“Mark Fadden is a masterful storyteller.” – Writer’s Digest

“Mark Fadden is the next Dan Brown.” – Triple C Ranch Book Club, Southlake, Texas

Check out The Brink and Mark’s other books at

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