Maintaining Interest for Your Chapter Endings
Some people often get confused by chapter endings and last chapters. Not just that they save all the excitement in their story for the last chapter and forget to add page turning intrigue to the rest. So what is the difference between the two and knowing how to make your next chapter too good to ignore?
1. Last Chapters
Last chapters are the final chapters of your story. As an example, they feature resolution and a little of left-over climax. This is where mysteries are fully resolved, loose ends tied up, and come-uppances delivered. The main leads overcome all the issues that have kept them apart, be it external or internal conflict, and we have our happy ever after—or at least for the foreseeable future.
...if you're going to write a romance, let it be one that the reader will remember for a long time, if not forever.
In one story I came across (with quite an old publication date so this writer was already breaking the mould), the hero was a millionaire who'd lost everything. In the last chapter he was going to have to start all over again. The heroine was going to support him as they began life in quite a modest apartment. It was a fascinating bucking of the traditional trend.
So if you're going to write a romance, let it be one that the reader will remember for a long time, if not forever. You don't have to bankrupt the hero, but add a little frisson, as one of my characters, DJ, advises the hero Gerry in my novel Beneath the Beta.
Whatever it is, try and create some emotion in the reader that piques their curiosity.
2. Chapter Endings
If you're writing a novel with chapters, each chapter in your book might be 2,000-4,000k words on average. Or it could be 300 words. Go with what works for that section. Use your reader skills to tell you if it feels right to make a break. It could be something poignant, a bit of drama or mystique, a cliff-hanging moment. Whatever it is, try and create some emotion in the reader that piques their curiosity.
However many words you use, the last lines of each chapter, should hold as much interest as its opening ones. Other than the final chapter these are the magic markers; those stepping stones that guide your reader on to the next section. You’ve got them dancing along, there's the suspense, humour, tension, everything gripping and suddenly, there’s the hook—you’ve got the reader thinking: 'Oh, my god - what's going to happen now?'
3. Throwing a Spanner in the Works
Somebody's turned up that shouldn't have. They've arrived just as someone's made life-changing plans, or there's a a will to be read, or to stop someone making a terrible mistake. They're a secret well-kept and not welcome. There's a diagnosis. The boy seeking his true father meets a girl who's secretly plotting to destroy every member of the royal dynasty that killed her parents. Someone's spotted an intriguing resemblance between two people (one of them being a child is a common motif). A clue or comment falls into place. War begins. Aliens arrive. And so on.
To grab your reader's loyalty, the key is to leave the reader wanting more; eager to read the next instalment. Mystery clues dotted throughout are always a good element: readers love to play detective. So it doesn't always have to be the chapter ending, but something that's caught their attention. That hook. They want to find out if their theory is correct.
What made you want to turn to next page or chapter?
I've personally condemned any number of innocent victims in the stories I read, although oddly, in movies I always finger the right person almost from the get-go. I guessed the twist in M. Night Shyamalan's iconic horror The Sixth Sense in a most inanely clueless moment, but it took nothing away from a chilling, well made and pretty damn scary movie..
Remember, keeping the reader on that journey is important. Drop clues, leave hints but don't give it all away. In fiction, stay the hell away from the And this was becauses.
Have a look again at some of books you've recently read. What made you want to turn to next page or chapter? Once you understand the key elements of chapter endings, practise developing your own endings. It doesn't matter if they seem outrageous or unfeasible; you're practising. The more you do this the more you'll understand about giving something at at the end of each chapter that holds the reader all the way to the final page.