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032 Use Internal Cliffhangers So People Never Stop Reading
5th May 2015 • Rough Draft • Rainmaker.FM
00:00:00 00:07:09

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So your visitor loved your headline. Will she read the rest of the article? One of the best ways to increase your chances is by using internal cliffhangers.

A cliffhanger is a scene in a book, movie, newspaper story, or TV show that holds something back from the reader or viewer.

More than likely you re familiar with the cliffhanger on the macro level, which is designed to keep a person emotionally connected to the content until the next post or episode is shipped.

These cliffhangers are external to the content, like the buckle between two train cars.

The promise is that if you keep reading or watching, you ll eventually be rewarded with what you want to know.

And you can create this same kind of tension inside your content as well.

In this 6-minute episode you’ll discover:

  • The two kinds of curiosity: the one that kills and the one that doesn’t
  • One thing you can do at the end of a paragraph to make people stick around
  • The internal cliffhanger that can backfire if you get it wrong
  • How to make your reader think “Is she about to do what I think she’s about to do?”
  • The turn of phrase that people love to hear
  • And more!

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The Transcript

Use Internal Cliffhangers So People Never Stop Reading

Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, a digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at RainmakerPlatform.com.

Demian Farnworth: Howdy friend, this is Rough Draft, your daily dose of essential web writing advice. I am Demian Farnworth, your host, your muse, your digital recluse, and the Chief Content Writer for Copyblogger Media.

And thank you for spending the next few minutes of your life with me.

So I ve said this before but I ll say it again Just because you got people to read your headline doesn t mean your job is done.

Nor is your job done if they read the first sentence. Or the second.

Take a typical article as a case in point.

I might have hooked you with the headline intrigued you with the first sentence lured you with the second, third, and so on, pulled you closer with a subheadline, got you to pause with a bullet list

Let s just speculate at this point that our visitor has stopped and become a reader. She is one of the ten percent who will actually read the entire article. Like word for word. From paragraph to paragraph.

And one of the best ways to increase your chances that she ll actually do that is by using internal cliffhangers.

One Thing You Can Do at the End of a Paragraph to Make People Stick Around

Introducing the internal cliffhangers.

A cliffhanger is a scene in a book, movie, newspaper story, or TV show that holds something back from the reader or viewer. More than likely you re familiar with the cliffhanger on the macro level, which is designed to keep a person emotionally connected to the content until the next post or episode is shipped.

These cliffhangers are external to the content, like the buckle between two train cars.

The promise is that if you keep reading or watching, you ll eventually be rewarded with what you want to know.

Most of us have experienced the cliffhanger by watching the evening news. When the anchor, just before the commercial break, ends the segment by saying something like “The FDA discovered a food label mistake that could harm your child. Learn why you should be alarmed right after this break.”

Who s going to walk away from that? It will take a lot of willpower. And the cliffhanger is the art of keeping your audience coming back for more. Keeping them in their seats.

The Internal Cliffhanger that Can Backfire If You Get It Wrong

But there is another way to think about cliffhangers on the micro level better known as the internal cliffhanger.

Internal cliffhangers stitch your story, article, or podcast together using emotions. Using curiosity. Use gall. These are statements and devices inside a piece of content — inside a piece of content — that entice a reader to keep going.

Think of them as mini-moments of seduction the scraps of food you dribble out to lure the bunny rabbit into your house.

See, suspense is the main currency of cliffhangers.

The Two Kinds of Curiosity: The One that Kills and the One that Doesn t

But you don t have to use pure suspense to create a great internal cliffhanger. They are other approaches:

You can use curiosity. Curiosity is what killed the cat. And the lone teenager at youth camp who thought she heard a noise in that abandoned cabin. But curiosity works on the intellectual level, too: Here s a headline from CNN: Pentagon s Humanoid Disaster-Rescue Robot Is Dressed to Impress. Hm.

You can use challenges: Make a bold claim at the end of a paragraph that strikes people as audacious, and they ll stick around to see if you can pull it off.

You can use humor. When the jokes inside your knee-slapping posts are killing your readers they want more. People like Johnny Truant and Chuck Wendig are excellent examples. Their comedy is like glue. (But beware: you actually have to be funny to make this work.)

How To Make the Reader Think “Is She About To Do What I Think She s About To Do?”

You can use amazement. Set up the most ridiculous scenario you can think of and your readers will wonder: “Is he about to do what he suggests?” Like “77 impolite ways to touch sick people”.

You can use doubt as an internal cliffhanger. Challenge a conventional belief or an opinion of a respected leader and say “I ll show you why he is wrong.”

The Turn of Phrase that People Love To Hear

You can use a turn of phrase as an internal cliffhanger. We get hooked to writers who can conjure up an attractive metaphor, concoct an slick idiom. This is why the metaphor “fiscal cliff” has such power. Or this: “He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.”

The goal is to pepper these internal cliffhangers through everything you write, and like transitional words and phrases, people will not only find easy to follow your ideas, but you ll make it hard for them to stop reading …

And while not as effective, but highly useful, you can also use the ellipsis ( ) , the three period punctuation, as an internal cliffhanger.

Ellipses gesture the reader to keep reading because the answer to their desire is about to be satisfied

And finally, you can also use dialogue as an internal cliffhanger. Dialogue, you know, human speech — he said, she said — in written form, with quotation marks all.

Dialogue is a great way to keep your audience reading.

But because it s such a large, nuanced subject, we ll have to wait until the next episode to dive into it

Until then, take care.

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