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Friday, October 30, 2015

When You Come to the End of a Chapter Jump Off the Cliff

An author must make many decisions in the course of writing a fiction novel. One very important choice is how the end of every chapter is handled. There should be a hook at the close of a chapter that intrigues the reader enough to turn the page. In other words, jump off the cliff. Most times, this suggestion should be handled figuratively, not literally, since too much tension might wear the reader out. Often, revealing a new secret or a new character will do the trick, deepening the crisis for the protagonist.

In my book, PATRIOT'S PRIDE, released in June of this year, the first chapter ends with the hero threatening to put the heroine in the brig. The second chapter ends with the hero wondering what new sickness has come over him. At the end of the third chapter, the heroine shows her mettle and takes over the care of an emotionally disturbed young woman despite the hero's warning. Nobody jumps off a cliff, but emotional leaps are perilous as well.

There's a wonderful blog post on the topic at The Editor's Blog that's worth reading. Jami Gold's post, Cliffhangers: Not Just for the End of a Book, offers good suggestions, too.

How about your book? How did you end the first, second, and the third chapters in your book? Tell me in a comment below and then give a link to the book.


Janet Lane Walters said...

Great post. What you want to do is leave the reader wanting to know more

Penelope Marzec said...

Hi, Janet! Yes, teasing the reader is the goal. :-)

Anonymous said...

I agree totally, Penelope. Hold-your-breath-page-turners! First Chapter in Roped ends with Crissy's Nana dies unexpectedly. "Papa always told me when one of God's children died,it was shoutin' time in heaven and a party would be goin' on up there. Tears flowed like a flash flood down my cheeks. "There sure ain't no party down here tonight. My Nana's gone. Gone forever.

The second chapter ends on a milder note: "I thought her heart just pumped so her mouth could spew words to hurt folks.

Duck, huh? Wouldn't duckin' make me a coward?"

Third chapter her dad is fired by her nemesis' father, her goat is killed by the nemesis' dogs and her dreams of a silver buckle grow faint: "Now I had no goat, no money, and no dreams."

These chapters have death of a loved one, necessary change in Crissy's behavior, and loss of dream. The following chapters amp until those final chapters end in tragedy...or so it seems in "Roped." Wait 'til you read "Twisted."

Roped, by DiAne Gates

Carlene said...

I love it when I'm thinking I need to quit reading when I reach a stopping piont. And there never is one...

Julie B Cosgrove said...

I learned in a writer's workshop ago that to get them to turn to the next chapter, you got end with a tickler, a hang or an "oh,no." You mix them up so they don't feel duped, just interested enough to read on.
SO, per your suggestion, here are my three first chapter endings for Freed to Forgive, Marisol's Journey from trafficked to Triumph:

When he left seminary for his first assignment in 2013, little did he realize the path God had intended to blaze. By His design, Jen had altered Jake's life as much as she had her own. As he crossed in front of the altar, Jake couldn't shake the sense the young Hispanic girl on the sidewalk today was about to change it again.

She lifted a prayer to the One who knew for sure what these next two months entailed. Satisfied it lay in the right hands, she settled back for the congested Friday afternoon trek down the highway admist eighteen wheelers, RV's cars loaded with rambunctious kids and trucks towing boats or horse trailers.Yep, summer in Texas.

She raised her face to the ceiling. "Will that stop these memories from choking me? Will You leave me alone to evil my life? She closed her eyes and opened her past like a mental scrapbook as the counselor had advised.

Penelope Marzec said...

Hi, DiAne! Roped sounds exciting and it is on my to-be-read list.

Penelope Marzec said...

Carlene: I know what you mean, which is why I'm always staying up past my bedtime...

Penelope Marzec said...

Julie: So true. Mixing up the type of hook at the end of the chapter is the way to go. Keeps the reader guessing. :-)