Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Wednesday’s Writing: Hook Your Reader-Cliffhanger Endings

womanwritingHello, Dear Readers – I’ve been lax with my blog for the last week or so, and I am so sorry. Sometimes things happen…but more about that in the next Monday’s Inspiration Blog!

Meanwhile, I talked about hook beginnings to grab your readers, and how they should happen at the start of chapters and scenes as well as the beginning. In that blog I promised to talk about the all important endings that make your reader want to read on from scene to scene, chapter to chapter. So here goes:

Each chapter starts with a hook, flows through the middle, and ends with a 'cliff-hanger'.

The term 'cliff-hanger' dates back to the old black and white movies - does anyone remember The Perils of Pauline? We've probably all seen references to these early adventures, although my guess is most of us are a bit too young to have seen them first run-through!

Pauline was the heroine in a series of movies where she went
through many trials and tribulations. At the end of each movie
Pauline was left in dreadful straits - tied to the tracks in front of a speeding train, hanging over a steep cliff by her fingertips, trapped in a runaway car speeding towards a flooded river……..

Each week faithful fans returned to the movie house to find out how Pauline was rescued from the latest terrible situation. And, of course, she was always rescued - she had to be back in her starring role the following week!

That's what we call a cliff-hanger ending. You can probably already see why one of these at the end of each chapter would seduce your reader to glance at the first page of the next chapter to see how it all worked out - and the hook at the beginning of that chapter will keep her reading towards the next cliff-hanger….the next hook….and on into the wee small hours of the night!

It's a crafty way of keeping the tension up and drawing the reader more deeply into your story. The hook that follows a cliff-hanger does not necessarily have to be the segment of story immediately following the cliff-hanger - or the bit where Pauline is rescued. You can go to another thread of the story, but you must use a hook so the reader continues reading seamlessly as she knows she is being led to the moment when all the threads are pulled together at the end.

One caveat, however. The cliff-hanger ending does not apply to the very end of the book. This is where all the reader's questions are answered, and while your characters may not be guaranteed a happily ever after, they are at least generally out of danger, emotionally on solid ground again, and ready to get on with the next phase of their lives, having changed for the better due to the events and lessons they learned in
the story.

In other words, while the end of a chapter is meant to be exciting and raise questions about what happens next, the final end of the book is calming and answers all those questions.

Once you get into the habit of thinking of your chapters like this, it will come easily to you. Like magic!

Again, this blog is an excerpt from Naked Writing, the No Frills Way to Write Your Book! in the UK, or here for Canada, and here for the US, or in your region’s Amazon store.

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