Monday, 13 February 2017

4 Cliffhanger Ideas for Chapter Endings

Hook: a device designed to catch people's attention.

It's important to keep your reader's attention (that's right, make them stay up past their bedtime!) so I tend to put all of my cliffhangers at the end of the chapter as opposed to mid-way through. This keeps the reader invested in the story and the characters. If not, they'll lose that immediacy of what's happening in the now and will be reaching for that bookmark.

Don't let that happen!

So here are a few ways to keep your reader in the moment and wanting more.

1. Important Decision: A crucial choice your character has to make that will affect the direction of the plot. It's even more enthralling for the reader if we know either choice will result in some form of disaster.  

In this example from Asp of Ascension, the main character is desperate enough to believe the one person she trusts the least. 

      Terry's patience grew thin. "What am I supposed to do?" she demanded.
      The line was dead quiet except for Dr. Mullaca's steady breathing. Finally she said, "That should be obvious, girl. If you want to save your father, you have to find that missing asp!"

2. Physical Danger: When your character is in a life or death situation where there is seemingly no way out.

But of course there's a way out! There's a hundred more pages, so the reader really, really, wants to know HOW that's going to happen.

In Butterflies Don't Lie, the main character (through a series of bad decisions) ends up falling off a sailboat in the middle of the ocean. Too bad she can't swim.

I stumbled forward, groping for the safety stay, but I was already moving too fast. I tumbled headfirst over the edge and hit the water. The last thing I remember seeing was Blaine’s shoulders. He was turned away—as always—with his back to me.

3.Unexpected Revelations: This is one of my favourites, otherwise know as the plot twist! Something occurs in which the character (and hopefully the reader) discovers something so shocking that it changes the direction of the plot.

In Night Shift there is a particular 'holy crap' twist that I'm quite proud of, but I can't put that one here because I don't want to spoil it for future readers. So here's another example of an unexpected revelation in the book that changes the motivation for the character and even switches the track of the plot.

When he finally looked over, tears were running down Mary's cheeks, her lips quivering. "Daniel," she said, still pointing to the picture of the blonde woman. "This is Virginia."

4. Hinting at a Mystery: Keep the reader guessing. It's also more satisfying if the answer to one mystery creates more questions for the reader.

In Girl on the Run, the main character's inner monologue alludes to a secret guilt. At this point we know she's suffered a loss, but we're unaware of the full disaster.

     I used to care about provincial records and even the Olympics, but not anymore. Those were things I not longer had, and no longer deserved. I put my hand on my stomach, on the heaviness that was always there. A reminder of what I'd done and what I'd lost.

What ideas have you used to hook readers at the end of your chapters? Please share your own chapter endings in the comments section. And remember to add the title so we can find it at the bookstore!


Brandon Ax said...

It seemed like I stood there for an hour. In truth, it was no more than a few seconds, but in that time a million thoughts shot through my mind. I wanted to hug him. I wanted to push him and yell. I wanted to kiss him. I'm not sure why, but my mind made the decision and I felt my fist tighten at my side. In a show that would make any daughter's father proud I stepped forward, twisted at my hip and punched Aiden right in the face.
(excerpt from Elemental available on Amazon)

I too always try to end my chapters in a way that intrigues the reader to keep reading. One of my favorite is to have my characters react to situations in an unexpected way leaving the reader to wonder what the fall out will be.

BR Myers said...

This is great, Brandon! I'd keep reading for sure. Thanks for sharing a bit of ELEMENTAL with us.

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