‘Momentum in a novel comes, at least partially, from regularly engaging the reader’s interest.’ William Ryan Guide How to Write.
We know the importance of the first lines of a novel, and the first few chapters in grabbing the reader’s attention, but the need to continue reading, chapter after chapter, keeping your reader hooked throughout your story takes some doing. Chapter endings are crucial in this. We want a reader to say ‘just one more chapter.’ at way past midnight. How do we keep the momentum going? The way we end our chapters is vital to keeping our readers engaged in our story. I have put together some articles and podcasts that are filled with great tips and advice about how to end chapters.
This article discusses 12 techniques used by famous writers to keep readers reading, including using a graceful cliff-hanger, asking a question to end your chapter, creating mystery, and using a revelation/surprise.
Masterclass explains that it is a good idea to end a chapter at the end of every scene, when moving to a new location, POV change, and if your chapter is getting too long. It shares 2 ways to end a chapter: with a cliff-hanger, and at a natural pause. Interspersing cliff-hangers with natural-pause endings will keep your reader interested without overwhelming them.
This article discusses the dual duties of chapter endings. The end of a chapter brings closure to one chapter but at the same time needs to lead readers and characters to the next scene and story event. The end of a chapter should be as, if not more enticing than the opening lines. It also discusses the purposes of most chapter endings, and what good chapter endings accomplish.
This article shares 4 ideas for ending chapters so that readers will kill to know what happens next. It discusses the traditional transition points of chapters. It says that the end of a chapter should not end much of anything, instead it says to imagine the concluding sentences as hints of reminiscence for what led everyone up to that point, tinged with hope, anxiety, or fear for what lies ahead.
Writer’s Digest offers 3 simple, essential techniques that can help you make effective pauses. Making chaptering part of your initial outline can be constrictive. Write first and evaluate the structure second. Structure your outline by episodes and events, not chapters. It recommends you have chapter breaks when your story requires a shift and breaking chapters in the heart of the action.
Your chapter endings should serve one of 5 purposes including, ending on the highest/lowest emotional note for that scene, to emphasise a particular reveal, or to allow readers a moment to absorb what they just experienced. The article mentions three techniques: cliff-hangers, zooming out, and bookends, and explains how to use them.
Kristen discusses the problem with using cliff-hangers and the power in posing subtle questions.
This podcast looks at the craft of writing convincing endings for each chapter of our novel.
Amie shares 4 tips to keep readers reading.
There are plenty of tips here to try in your writing. Try a few suggestions, see how they sound when you read them out loud. Having a cliff-hanger at the end of every chapter might be too much, it might read like a soap opera, but mixing up the endings with posing subtle questions could entice your reader to read on with just as much anticipation. I hope this article has been helpful. As always if there are any topics you want me to cover please get in touch.
(c) Lucy O’Callaghan