by chad eric
Question: How do put a cliffhanger in my story and still end my book with resolution?
Create a plot in the first book with a story goal that is either achieved or not by the end, but at the same time make the book only act one in a larger story arc with a bigger goal.
For example, let's take Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
The story is about Voldemort's attempt to obtain the Philosopher's stone so he can regain his physical body. That goal ends in failure when Harry obtains the stone and Voldemort discovers he cannot touch Harry. The stone is then destroyed, so Voldemort cannot try again. It's a nice, simple ending to the quest. However, Voldemort does not die at the end, only his surrogate, Quirrel.
So this book sets up the rest of the series because it reveals that...
1. Voldemort is still alive and still seeking power.
2. Harry and Voldemort share a mysterious connection (Harry's scar hurts when they are near each other.)
3. Voldemort still wants to kill Harry.
4. Harry has some protection Voldemort can't defeat.
So we know there is still an imbalance in the story world. Voldemort has not given up, nor has he faced justice. We therefore want to read the next book to find out what Voldemort does next and whether Harry can continue to win. The goal of the series (vengeance upon Voldemort for the death of Harry's parents) is left unresolved.
It's the greater, unresolved issues that create the cliffhanger, just as it's the lesser, resolved issues that bring the book to its conclusion. You want both.