I had a really great week last week doing a book tour to Michigan. An interesting experience and the best part of it was talking to the people who love to read and write.
And when I meet writers we talk….prepare to be shocked…writing.
One of the things that came up that inspired this blog post was chapter ending hooks.
We all know we’re supposed to end each chapter in a way that hooks the reader and keeps them turning the page, because if someone is going to set a book down it’s going to be at the end of a chapter. So how to hook a chapter.
This is something I try really hard to do.
I’m very premeditated hooker. Wait a minute????
The end of a chapter is a place to have a lot of fun as a writer.
Here’s an example of a chapter ending hook from Petticoat Ranch--this is actually a scene ending hook but the theory holds. --this is directly after they've taken wedding vows on about twelve hours of acquaintance...and Clay spent about ten of those hours unconscious or in town.
>>>Clay was humbled and proud, and when he found evidence of a large herd of cattle coming to water at several springs, he realized he'd bought himself a fine ranch. All in all, a perfect day. Just maybe the best day of his life.
There never was a worse day landed on the shoulders of a single woman who had walked on the face of this earth! Sophie tried to tell herself Eve had a worse day when she got herself kicked out of the Garden. And Lot's wife had to have been unhappy about being turned to salt. That was a long time ago, though. What was happening to Sophie was happening right now--and to her. She'd put it up against the worst that had been handed out to anyone.
From Calico Canyon
Daniel talking to his most unruly son, Mark., trying to explain that, no matter how much he hadn't wanted to end up married to Grace, marriage was for life.
>>>Then Mark perked up. "You know what?"
"What?" Fear skittered down Daniel's spine like a eight-legged creepy crawler. He'd seen that look on his son's face before.
"She don't have the have the rest of our lives. She's only got the rest of her life." Mark tipped his head sideways in a way that was purely cheerful. "Gotta get to the chores."
Mark went off toward the barn whistling, almost as if he knew Grace's life wasn't necessarily going to be very long.
She was going to die. If she was lucky, it would happen soon.
Grace pushed herself away from the wall. "And when in my life have I ever been lucky?" She might as well plan on making a hundred years old.
From Gingham Mountain
>>>Grant fell in behind and he heard more hoofbeats following. His family. He'd created it out of his desperate loneliness. But created it he had. He'd done a good job.
He never had to be alone again.
"Just wait until I get that man alone!"
Now all of these lines aren't diving straight into action, the lines stand alone as plays on words. So if your scene doesn't lend itself to a good ending hook, that's a really great time to make the scene ending sing just by manipulating words.
Chapter and scene ending hooks aren’t just a good idea, they’re fundamental to a well written book. It’s not a step you can skip. I spend time on the ending of each chapter doing my very best to write it in a way that will make a reader want to see what’s next.
I've been going through the books looking for examples for this blog and now I wish I'd done more. I see places it would have worked well. I guess that just means I have plenty to learn and hopefully I can keep improving with each book.
I also try to … well, the word that comes to mind is TRAIN readers of my books to expect those hooks. So now they’re not looking at the end of a chapter as a chance to set the book down and get to bed or get back to work or feed their children or any of that other nonsense that might come between a reader and their reading.
Now they’re anticipating that I’ll do something special with the end of chapters. They’re anxious (in my dreams at least) to see what I did this time, which means they're going to start that next chapter to check.
So, use cliffhangers, use language, use comedy, use explosions, but what ever you do, hook the chapter ends and you’ll have hooked your reader.
If you’ve got questions about chapter ending hooks I’ll gladly answer them. If you've got examples from you own work let's hear 'em.
If you met me on the book tour (I told lots of people to stop by Seekerville) then say 'hi'. I’m delighted you’ve come to check us out.
And if you’re Patty Smith Hall…I am the president of your fan club, darlin’. Thanks for paying attention to four lonely, homeless writers.