Monday, April 6, 2009

Chapter Ending Hooks

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.

Chapter Eleven

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.


sherrinda said...

Aha! I am the first commenter. There should be some sort of prize for an early bird like me. I think it is the Romance Bandits who give out a Rooster for the day to the first poster. (Not sure what you do with the rooster, or why you would want a rooster, but...that is their prize.)

I love hooks, and have a few in my WIP. I don't know that I have added them in each chapter of my WIP though. (I'll have to go check mine after work)

My question is this: Should a hook always give you an idea of what's coming up?

Tina M. Russo said...

Basically Mary you are my favorite hooker.Good to have you back

And don't forget folks, if you comment every single day this week in Seekerville you are in the drawing for a copy of The Writer's POrtable Therapist. See the Seekerville Clueless Edition for more details.

Morning Sherrinda. Did we tell you the rules? First one to Seekerville makes coffee. Weekends you are on your own of course.

Lisa Jordan said...

Here's a scene hook from chapter one:

She whispered so softly that Paulina had to lean in close to catch her words. “I made a promise long ago, and I don’t have much time to keep it.”

Great post, Mary! Thanks for teaching us how to be better hookers. :D

Rose said...

Hi Mary!

I like this post. I have one more item on my to do list when I revise a manuscript now.


Barbara Early said...

I'll take a decaf. And I brought cinnamon rolls...

It is beginning to amaze me how timely these topics are! I've been working on chapter endings. And since you asked for sharing, here are a couple from my WIP...

Then I heard a sneeze.

“Hello?” I turned around, and shone the flashlight throughout the crawl space. There was no answer.

“Is anybody there?” There was still no answer.

Throughout the years I had heard and imagined many sounds in the old church, but a sneeze wasn’t one of them. But not seeing or hearing anything, I turned back to the electrical box.

Then something touched my right leg.

The sneeze and the nudge turn out to be from a very broken down cat named Jezebel. The very next chapter ends like this...

Suddenly a sneeze echoed through the dark auditorium.

Michael laughed and called out, “Okay, Jezebel, you little vixen. Get in here.”

A moment later the auditorium lights flickered on, and a female voice answered, “What?”

Julie Lessman said...

Grin ... Tina, you are SOOO right ... Mary is Queen of Hookers in my book too!

And MARY!!!!!!!!!! Welcome back, darlin', and what a great blog subject. I actually think this is one of the most important things a writer can do -- end chapters with a great hook, and I think that even goes for scenes as well. End EVERYTHING with a great hook if you can, is my motto. And the more drama the better, is what I always say.

Here's a scene ending from my WIP, book 4 in the Daughters of Boston saga, which is Katie's story. To set up the scene, I'll tell you that Katie, through rebellion of course, gets drunk, and the hero rushes her home and puts her to bed before her parents get home. He gives her a Lifesaver to mask the alcohol and she falls alseep with the mint in her mouth.

“Katie … are you done with the mint?”

Her chest rose and fell with the rhythm of sleep. Luke leaned close and squinted. He sighed. Sleep was good. But not with a Life Saver lodged in her throat. “Katie,” he whispered, “Did you finish the candy?”

“Mmmm …” Her eyelids fluttered open before closing once again.

With a weary release of breath, he bent to pry a finger into her mouth and swiped her tongue. Reaching for his handkerchief, he pocketed the half-dissolved disk of candy that adhered to his finger, then leaned to press a gentle kiss to her cheek.

At his touch, her lips tilted into a dreamy smile. “Mmm … I love you, Luke McGee,” she whispered, and then rolled to her side with a soft, little snort.

He rose to his feet and stared, his heart comatose in his chest. Drawing in a deep breath, he bent to tuck the covers tightly to her chin, finally exhaling shaky air. What he wouldn’t give to make it so. But he knew better. His lips tightened. Alcohol had a way of distorting the truth.

He bent to graze her cheek with his fingers one last time, then slowly lumbered to his feet. “I love you, too, Katie Rose,” he whispered.

And he was stone-cold sober.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

I hadn't thought of the play on words endings before. I must have some fun with that.

Thanks for sharing those snippets, Mary, they brought your fun stories back in mind. Geat reads!

Chicki said...

Excellent examples for a topic with which I can really use help.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hey, Mary! I missed you! Hope you had fun on your trip.

Okay, I'm really manipulative when it comes to chapter endings. I write my entire book, then when I'm nearly finished revising, I decide where to end chapters. Sometimes I end right in the middle of a scene, like this:

“Not funny. Now will you please tell me what’s going on? Who’s Griff?”
“All right, sis. Griff is Dr. Beverly’s brother. He’s a little bit crazy. He hit his head when he was a child, and ever since then, well, he ain’t been right, folks say. Most of the time he acts fine, but sometimes he gets agitated. When he does, he’s liable to hurt somebody. I’ve never seen him as riled as he is right now.”
She couldn’t see anything past the bend in the road. “The house is just ahead, on the left.”
She became aware of an animal-like growling, growing louder and fiercer by the moment, coming from behind a row of trees. Her heart thumped against her chest as an uneasy feeling crept over her. “What’s that?”
“That’s Griff.”

Fun, eh?

Melanie Dickerson said...

Well, it might come across better if you could tell where the paragraphs begin and end!

I like everybody's hooks. I love to read books that have good hooks. I aspire to be a great hooker. :-)

Mary Connealy said...

Well, okay, Sherrinda. Watch your mail. I'm boxing up a really cranky chicken right now.

Mary Connealy said...

Well, Tina and Lisa, I can see a recurring theme for the day now. Yippee! NOT

Mary Connealy said...

Yes, Rose you DO need to do this. Do NOT skip it.

Barbara, I got tingles with the sneeze in the dark and the touch on the ankle. Yes!!!!

Mary Connealy said...

It's great to be home again, Julie.

I've been watching the show 24 this year for the first time. And that show is just the MASTER of the cliffhanger scene ending. It's worth watching just to see the way they hook the viewer in, then abandon them to ANOTHER scene where they hook the reader. Even the four screens right after each ad, where they show you for brief seconds each plot thread and I feel myself remembering where each one was left dangling and trying to guess which one they'll pick to pursue.

Mary Connealy said...

I love that scene, Julie. I'm just sitting her smiling at the ending line. I can't wait for the next installment of the Daughters of Boston series. A Love Denied. Coming in May, right?

I'm all twitching just waiting for it. YAY! (not yay with the twitchiness...that'd be weird. Yay for it being soon!)

Mary Connealy said...

Eileen, thanks for the kind words about my books. Get in there and mess with your characters a little bit more.

Chicki, you too. Marching orders from Seekerville.

Mary Connealy said...

Melanie! So nice to be back. Your scene made me laugh. I love it.
"That's Griff."

I defy ANYONE not to read on.

Erica Vetsch said...

I love how you use the hooks, Mary.

I remember reading Julie Garwood's old stuff and loving the way she grabbed me with humor at the end of a chapter.

In one book the heroine ends a chapter thinking something along the lines of "She'd married the most wonderful man in the world."

And the next chapter began "Twas the truth, she'd married a gargoyle."

Cracked me up. And kept me reading, which is more important to the author. :)

Ruth and Lacey said...

Oh, this is wonderful, wonderful stuff.

Seriously good. Fun. Informative. I love these things they call 'Seekers' on this planet.

And we read about hookers on Tritarion II in the first bloom before the second moon rising. I'm blushing, knowing I share one's company today.

Does she wear high heels? One wonders...

Mary, welcome home!!!!

Here's a chapter end from Seeking the Garden...


“Farming’s like life,” the older man spouted, pulling himself up so she could listen to his heart and lungs with greater ease. “Full circle. Life, death and everything in between.”

“I guess.” Kayla thought of the myriad of choices available in this day and age. Why would anyone farm?

She had no idea. Extremes of weather, fluctuations of market, never-ending days of slogging through muck and mud, snow and slush. What normal person chose that over climate-controlled nine-to-five, paid vacations, full benefits, and a 401k?

Huh. She’d just answered her own question.


In her brief interlude with Marc DeHollander, she recognized normalcy as a relative feature. The father had it in abundance. Warm. Kind. Sociable, despite his illness.

The son was fresh out.


Barbara, I love that you had the foresight to use the name Jezebel for the cat. That makes the scene...

And Melanie...

What a perfect lead in. Wonderful. I want to meet Griff and see what's going on. Like, now.

And Jules...

Our little Katie done gone and growed herself up! :) And of course she's tippling, the naughty little Irisher. So true to her roots, LOL! And Luke sounds Yummy. the capital letter was most assuredly intentional.

Ah, hooks.

Oh, wait. Mary meant that kind of hook all along.


Shame on you.



Mary Connealy said...

Hi, Erica. Julie Garwood is the master of this. I've had several people comment on this chapter ending hook style in my work and ask if they can steal it.
I tell them of course...I stole it from someone else.
We're all learning from each other.

Janet Dean said...

Thanks for this post on hooks, Mary. You're a master! I'm under deadline for book three so your timing is perfect. Thanks Seekers and commenters for the excellent examples from your work. Off to see if my scene endings measure up.


Linda Cacaci said...

Hi, Mary.
Thanks for the great post.
I love those chapter ending hooks. They make you go on to the nexrt chapter.
Hugs to everyone.

Jessica said...

Oh boy! I love end hooks (not that I'm a pro or anything, lol). I love how you say yours are premeditated, because so are mine. As I write I'm conscious of how many more pages are left for that chapter and what I want the characters to talk about, etc. I try to keep the juicy stuff for last. :-) Then I hope my reader just has to turn the page! (uh, not that I have any readers, seeing as I'm not published, lol)

Mary Connealy said...

Hi, Linda, glad you like the hooking style.
Okay that's the last tasteless joke in that least from me. I can't control you.

Mary Connealy said...

Jessica, you've got to write for readers, long before you have any. I kept going through some discouraging time by writing for the few people who actually read my work. My critique partners, my daughters, whoever I could bamboozle into reading my books.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Mary, Yes, I am already trained to look for those fun hooks and just know I'm not going to be able to put one of your books down at the end of the chapter. So if I pick up your book, I know I better not have anything else planned. smile.

Thanks for the great reads.

Gina Welborn said...

Thanks, Mary, for the post. I loved reading your scene hooks, and I'm now compelled to work on making mine more hooky.

Gina Welborn said...

Mary, I forgot to add...

Hubby and I are 24 fans too. What I can't figure out is how Jack Bauer doesn't realize that his life always turns sucky at the bottom of the hour.

Mary Connealy said...

LOL, what I want to know Jack Bauer getting a year off before the NEXT twenty four hour nightmare or is he really only eight days older than when the show started eight years ago.

I know one year he spent the off season being held in a terrorist prison camp...didn't he? I seem to remember that.

Poor old Jack. No respect. Saving the country over and over and all he gets is GRIEF!!!!!!

If we didn't need him to save the world I'd strongly suggest he retire and move to a truck farm somewhere, grow organic tomatoes, get a nice wife, maybe start going to church, watch someone else's TV perils while he sits in a recliner eating popcorn.

Mary Connealy said...

Majorly cheered by writing since I got home from my travels. I did a bit of writing on the road but it was hard to get in the groove...lame excuse, I know. I should have tried harder.

but I wrote 3000 words since I got home. 60,000 words into a 90-100,000 word book. Time to start wrapping things up!!!

Tina M. Russo said...

I thought Jack spent the off season in a Canadian jail for drunk driving.

Jessica said...

Mary, thanks for the encouragement about readers. :-) Though I have to say that I highly doubt anyone had to be bamboozled to read your writing. :-)

Interesting thing, y'all. Jack Bauer AKA Sutherland used to hang out at my dad's bar whenever his band would play there. I got to see him, and to my great depression, he is a very small man. LOL I'm 5'10, so it stunk. (I should add that I was and still am happily married, but at the time there was a bit of starstruck in me).

Lorna said...

I'm late to the party, but Mary, you are the best hooker I know. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) Honestly, when I read Gingham Mountain, I noticed the hooks and I thought, "How does she do that?" Thanks for sharing your planning secret.

Mary Connealy said...

If I had Jack's job, drunkenness might seem like a good idea.

How would a mere Mounty every catch him though. Drunk or not. That man is WILY

Mary Connealy said...

JESSICA!!!!!! If we count Seekerville as you knowing us personally (and we DO!) this is ONE DEGREE OF SEPARATION FROM JACK BAUER.
Just finished watching. Pretty sure Jack is dying from exposure to a biological weapon. Don't see how he'd going to shoot his way out of this.

I don't underestimate these writer's though.

Mary Connealy said...

And Lorna, thank you soooooooooo much. We hadn't had a hooker joke in.............. several hours.

You saved us from abandoning that line of humor.

Nise' said...

Glad you arrived home safely. You got out just in time as MI got dumped on with snow.

Mary didn't you catch that hook that there may be a remote chance of treatment for Jack?

Between Season 1 and 2 is 18 months, three years separate season 2 and 3, 18 months after day 3 day 4 begins, 18 months separate season 4 and 5,
20 months have passed between 5 and 6, between season 6 and 7 four years have passed. So Jack does get a day off LOL. I am a huge fan (can you tell?).

Missy Tippens said...

Such a great post, Miss Mary the expert hooker!! ;)

We're glad you're home. It's been too quiet.

Thanks to all who've shared their hooks! I enjoyed them all.

Patricia W. said...

I enjoy books where the beginning hook plays off the last ending hook. Kind of like watching TV with "Last week on..." and "Scenes of next week on..."

It makes you want to stay and read. I have to incorporate this into my own storytelling.

Tina Pinson said...

I make no claims to being a hooker. Happy or otherwise . . . but here is one of my hooks from In the Manor of the Ghost

Afraid to look at the window again and have her fears justified, she closed her eyes against the burning tears. Unaware, as she succumbed to the blackness, whether it was her voice she heard screaming so loudly, so pathetically, or the haunting cries of her husband and child, calling for salvation.

Sheila Deeth said...

I like a balance between chapters hanging together, so busy moms can put the book down and not get lost, and good hooks that make sure busy moms pick the book up again quick.

Walt Mussell said...

This is a great post. I've been working on improving my scene hooks. Hope being a day late to get here was okay.

I'm trying various scene hooks in mt WIP, some active action and some plays on words. Hope they work.

Dee LeRoye said...

I never really thought about what makes me keep reading at 1 in the morning with my beloved snoring beside me. Great post on hooks.

I went looking in what I've written to find hooks. I've been told by a reader of The Bronze Cowboy that "I couldn't put it down."

So, here is the end paragraph of Chapter 13. When the last truck was loaded and gone, Tom came at last to Amy and held her close for a long moment. Then he got into his pickup and drove away. She made sure the boys were in the house before she let herself cry.

In the short time I have been able to be back into writing, I have learned so about hooks...I wish I could take back the last one of my self-published books and rewrite it.

Mary said...


I enjoyed reading your post and you've done a great job of explaining a hook.

And from my WIP, chapter one. The laundanum carried her into a gray, misty world. Her face twisted with pain. Tears fell, wetting her pillow. Even here, in her dreams, a horrible battle raged.