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What is the best way to use cliffhangers to make your readers asking for more?
For any copywriter, the most important question is: “How do you make someone to keep reading my stuff?”
Let’s face it, just because you invented a catchy headline and a witty introduction; it doesn’t mean you are done with your copywriting job.
The next things you have to do are:
- hook readers
- stimulate their appetite for stories
- have them so engaged with your content that they’ll come back and ask for more.
An easy way to do so is using an old literary trick that has been overused by television series: the cliffhanger.
In this article, not only I will show you everything you need to know about the psychology behind cliffhangers but especially how to write and use them.
Let’s see how this works…
The Psychology behind Cliffhangers
Cliffhangers are used on TV series all the time. That’s where I’ll take my example, so you exactly understand how this is working.
Imagine the end of a TV episode when the villain is chasing the hero. The latest finds himself running to the edge of a cliff, falls into the cliff but manages to hang on to a dead tree. The episode ends with the hero at the edge staring into the eyes of the villain.
What will happen next?
Will he fall and die?
Will he have enough strength to get back or will someone suddenly comes from nowhere to rescue him?
You’ll have to watch the following episode next week.
This fake TV episode is a real example of a cliffhanger because the audience is left in suspense, wondering what happened to the hero. Given the suspense, the audience will want to come back.
The logic behind your willingness to find out what happens next is related to cliffhangers.
Literary speaking, a cliffhanger is a figure of speech related to a rhetorical device used by authors, screenwriters, and bloggers to trigger curiosity.
When the brain observes that a chunk of the information is missing, it creates a feeling of deprivation. Next, your brain needs to fill out the empty space, and that’s why you need to keep watching to complete the loop.
The same concept applies to all your articles. You open a loop when you start a story. If well done, your readers will want to know more. If you don’t give out the end, they will start imagining different scenarios. Close the loop at the end of your copy.
How to Master the Cliffhanger
The cliffhanger is definitively one of the most powerful copywriting tools for telling a great marketing story.
I will explain below 3 tips to help you write incredible cliffhangers in your copy that will leave your readers craving for more.
1) Prepare the Setup
Hollywood screenwriters start their movies by setting up:
the main characters
or even an object that moves the story in the right direction
Thanks to this, they get people invested in the story.
Is it possible to apply the same framework to your articles, copy, and marketing?
You bet you can!
Here’s an example. Back in 1926, John Caple (a copywriter) created one of the most famous cliffhangers in a print ad:
“They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano but When I Started to Play”
Take a look at the ad here and find the perfect example of how and when to use headlines to prepare the setup and open a loop.
Notice that John Caple started with a catchy headline that intrigues the reader and promises to offer an outcome in the article.
Other examples of catchy titles or headlines are:
- 10 Tips to Help You Write Amazing Content. Number 3 Blew My Mind.
- Famous politician caught in the bathroom with his pants off
- These Couples Challenged Themselves To Have Sex Every day For a Month, And It Wasn’t As Fun As You’d Think
2) Provide a Payoff
At the moment you introduce a cliffhanger in your marketing, content, or copy, you engage the curiosity of your readers and appeal to their emotional side.
However, if you want to write compelling cliffhangers, you need to offer readers something in return for their time.
Let’s say you wrote an ad in social media and you used the headline as a cliffhanger.
Take a look at how this ruban this white dress?
Would you like to see a genius in action?
Discover why this dress was out of order in one day last time we offered it
Is your website content costing you that kind of sales?
When your prospects land on your sales pages, you will need to satisfy their curiosity by writing a thoughtful before/after story in which you describe how your life has changed after you started using the product.
3) Be Creative
Suspense isn’t the only way to create a powerful cliffhanger. There are other approaches that work just the same:
Make a bold claim in your headline or ad to make your readers eager to find out if you will find enough arguments to sustain it;
Ask a thought-provoking question to engage your readers in your conversation. When they read a question, people can’t help but think of an answer. So that’s a great way to hook them.
Challenge a conventional belief or opinion and say: “Let me show you why this is wrong.”
So, the answer to the question at the beginning of this article, “how do you keep someone in the loop, coming back and asking for more?” is:
“Easy: subscribe to my newsletter to learn more…”
PS: If you want to know more about how rhetorical devices can boost your copy, take a look at this article: