Pink Heart Society regular Stefanie London is talking about that all important hook...
Have you ever read one of those books where you felt as though you were being propelled through the story, unable to stop reading even if your eyes were drooping and the clock was telling you you’d be very sorry in the morning?
There are a lot of ways that a writer can achieve this sense of urgency for the reader. Today I’m going to talk about ending your chapters with hooks.
I once got a very useful piece of information from Valerie Parv (Australian romance royalty). She said:
If you end a chapter with a character going to sleep, chances are the reader will too.
The end of the chapter should compel the reader to keep reading. I liken it to the technique they use on shows like MasterChef. Just as they’re about to lift the lid on the Mystery Box or announce the winner of a challenge, the show cuts to an ad break. If they’d shown you what treasures were concealed inside the ad box and then cut to a break, viewers might be inclined to change the channel or perhaps get up and do something else.
You can use this technique in your story to keep the reader engaged from one chapter to another. Here are some do’s and don’ts for chapter endings:
- Introduce some new information right before the chapter ends that will hook the reader into wanting to find out more
- Throw your character’s lives into chaos before the chapter ends so your reader is left wondering what will happen to them
- Pose a problem that your characters need to solve in the next chapter or few chapters
- Have your characters make a decision that they need to take action on in the next chapter
- End the chapter a little earlier than you think you need to – you don’t have to show the characters putting the dishes in the sink if they’ve just had dinner. Stop the chapter while the action is still fresh.
- Tie everything up in a neat little sentence at the end of a chapter (unless, of course, it’s the last chapter of the book) or you’ll risk draining out any tension in your story
- Send your characters off to bed…unless they don’t plan on sleeping ;)
- Have your characters reflecting on what happened in the chapter at the end of the chapter (or at the start of the next one for that matter!) A line or two about how they feel if fine, but we don't need an internal recap of the chapter's events
- Feel like you need to end every single chapter on a big hook, use this technique to vary your chapter endings and add drama – but if you do it too often the reader will catch onto your writerly tricks
When looking at the do’s you can use one of these types of hooks or combine multiple types. How about an example? Here’s a snippet from my upcoming release with Harlequin Blaze (you can see more information about that at the bottom of this post!)
Here, the characters were getting hot and heavy in the bathroom when they get interrupted by her house phone ringing:
“Let me grab that so the noise stops,” Rose said as she ducked out of the bathroom.
But the sound of her answering machine message cut through the air. She turned back and shook her head, motioning for Max stay where he was.
Then the beep was followed by a heavy breath, the sound causing the hairs on the back of Max’s neck to stand up.
“Where is it?” demanded the voice on the other end of the line. “We know you have the Noelle Diamond, Rose. Next time we call, we’ll expect you to hand it over. You won’t be able to run away to London this time.”
At this point the chapter stops and I’ve done a few things:
- Thrown the characters’ lives into chaos by confirming that someone is after Rose and that they’ve issued a threat (albeit a thinly veiled one)
- Introduced a new piece of information, i.e. what these people are after (the diamond)
- Put the characters in a position where they need to make a decision, i.e. what to do about Rose’s dangerous situation
Remember, hooks can be added in later. I often write my stories without worrying about chapter endings during the first draft process as the story is flowing and I don’t like to let my internal editor have any control at that point. So you can definitely go through your manuscript after it’s written and look at the end of each chapter to see how you can make it better.
Have you read a book recently that had you totally hooked? I’d love to see some more examples below of chapter endings that had you flipping the page as fast as you could!
Stefanie's latest release is A Kiss in Kite Harbor which is out now in the Small Town Summer box set.
Twelve years ago they shared a life-changing kiss…now she’s coming back for more. When successful plus size model, Shelby Jenkins, is forced to return to her hometown of Kite Harbor, Maine, she must face her past demons. But asking for help doesn’t come naturally and it’s doubly hard when she needs it from the boy who broke her heart. Now he’s all grown up and is more tempting than a double fudge sundae with a cherry on top.
Nate loves being a teacher in the small town where he grew up. When the woman who stole his teenage heart returns, he’ll do anything to prove he’s no longer the insecure boy who betrayed her. As long as he makes sure he doesn’t fall for Shelby since she has a big, exciting life waiting for her back in the city.
Can his shot at redemption be enough to convince her to stay?