RU Crew – help me welcome back author Laura Griffin as she gives us a great lesson today on How to Keep ‘Em Hooked!
You’ve heard a lot about opening hooks–how to grab your reader from the very first sentence. But let’s assume you’ve started your story and managed to capture your reader’s attention. Now what? Today we’re going to talk about chapter hooks.
Chapter hooks are the sentences (or sometimes mere words) at the end of the chapter that compel your reader to keep reading into the next chapter and hopefully beyond. Sound simple? It is. But this is one of the frequently neglected aspects of a manuscript.
I’m not sure why chapter hooks are so often lacking. Is it because we writers get in a hurry when we’re about to finish a scene for the day? Do we get lazy? Whatever the reason, here are some end-of-chapter techniques that are almost guaranteed to make your reader put the book down. I have to admit, I’ve been guilty of all of these at one time or another, but luckily I had my trusty editor on hand to give me a good shake and say, “What were you thinking?!?”
The sleepytime chapter end. Your heroine wraps up an action-packed day and falls into bed. Unless she is falling into bed with a sexy hero, having her go to bed at the end of your chapter is sure to give your reader the yawns. You may think you’ve still got your reader’s attention because the character is mulling over the mystery or pondering her relationship woes, but trust me, the reader has checked out.
The fix: Don’t end your chapter with sleepytime unless the final sentence of the chapter has your character being jarred awake by some crisis or realization that carries the reader into the next chapter’s action.
Disaster averted. This is similar to the sleepytime chapter ending, but it can happen any time of the day or night. Essentially, this is when the author ends the chapter as soon as the crisis has been resolved.
The fix: Change your timing. Go back and end your chapter at a suspenseful moment (if you’re not writing an action story, this can be something emotionally suspenseful…maybe something in the dialogue) and end your chapter there. That way, by the time the crisis is resolve or disaster is averted, your reader is already well into the next chapter and you can pull them into the next plot event.
The threepeat. This is the chapter ending that keeps happening. And happening. And happening. Maybe you’re writing a mystery, and every chapter ends by cutting over to a view of the victim in distress, waiting to be rescued. Or maybe at the end of every chapter, your detective gets a taunting phone call from the villain. Whatever the gimmick, it will come across as just that–a gimmick.
The fix: Although it might be tempting, try not to use the same chapter ending device more than a few times. More than three times, and your story starts to feel repetitive.
A final word about final words. No matter what sort of fiction you’re writing, you always want to end your chapter with a punch word. What is a punch word? A punch word is whatever word in your last paragraph packs the biggest wallop. This example comes from my book WHISPER OF WARNING. Which of these two sentences is a stronger ending to the scene?
He peered through the window and spotted a pile of bloody towels on the floor.
He peered through the window and spotted a pile of towels on the floor. One of them was smeared with something dark, and in a heartbeat he knew what it was.
As you can see “blood” is a punch word, while “floor” is not.
In summary, there are many creative ways to end a chapter and hook your reader. But remember that the best chapter hook of all is reader curiosity. Your book should include long-range questions, such as: How will the protagonist defeat the villain? How will the hero and heroine overcome the barriers to their relationship? It should also include short-term questions, such as: How will the heroine make it safely into the next scene, given the obstacle you just threw in her path?
So keep throwing those obstacles out there, especially as you near the end of a chapter or scene. Give your reader something to wonder about as they debate whether to put down your book down. Compel your reader to keep turning those pages.
To end this discussion on a hook (I hope!) I’m offering a giveaway. Anyone who comments is eligible to win a $10 Starbucks gift card as well as a copy of my novella UNSTOPPABLE, which was just released as an ebook. This story features two of my favorite characters in my Tracers series, forensic anthropologist Kelsey Quinn and Navy SEAL Gage Brewer. I have loved writing about this couple, and they’ll be taking center stage in my fall book, SCORCHED.
Leave a comment for a chance to win!
What’s the last book that kept you up at night turning pages?
Join us tomorrow for When Arguments Are a Good Thing: Conflict in Dialogue by K.M. Weiland
Bio: New York Times bestselling author Laura Griffin started her career in journalism before venturing into the world of romantic suspense. Her books have won numerous awards, including a 2010 RITA (Whisper of Warning) and a 2010 Daphne du Maurier Award (Untraceable). The next book in Laura’s popular Tracers series, entitled Twisted, hits book stores in April.
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