Thursday, June 23, 2011

End it.

Ending a chapter isn't easy. I mean, you want the reader to read on, right? What's the best way to end it and how do you know when? I was reading a WD article on 3 Ways to end a chapter and found it interesting.

I tend to write a chapter with an ending in mind. Now, this may not be a normal way of doing things, especially while writing the first draft, but my mind is not the most normal. I've been told to write the first draft straight without worrying about breaks in chapters, which is hard for me. On this last project, I did a mixture of both. I think some folks do chapter breaks as part of their outline some say, no, concentrate on the structure. I think that's all up to what you feel is right for you.

Regardless of your method, ending a chapter the right way is a must. Like I said, you want the reader to continue.

One way: End it when the story requires a shift. A change of time, place, scene, weather, points of view all can end a chapter nicely, leaving you wanting to know what will happen next.
For example-- Rachel grabs her bag stuffed full of all her possessions. "Let's go," she says. We run to the car and drive down the street heading to nowhere. Okay, maybe not the best example.

Another way: End it in the middle of action. This is my favorite kind of chapter ending. It's like the dum dum dummmm. Leaving me wanting more and more.A good fight, chase scene, kissing scene, really killer dialogue, you get the idea.
For example-- The door swings open, Joe throws a fist at Tim, and blood splatters from his nose.   Yeah. I'll turn the page wanting to know how that ended and why. 
Another example that's even better-- I just finished reading Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (don't say a word, I'm behind, and yes, so awesome). One of her chapters ended like this, "Without hesistation, I shoot her through the heart." Okay, who doesn't want to read on?

What's your favorite way of ending a chapter?

Any other tidbits you would like to share?

Have a great weekend! I will reveal the winner of the Lipstick Laws contest on Monday.


  1. This is the ONLY thing in my manuscript I feel I do well. I like my chapter endings. Now, if I could just like the series of words prior to the last line, things would look up. :)

    I don't have any strategy; I tend to end in the middle of action or with a punchline of some sort - a new piece of information the reader didn't see coming, but perhaps one that will make them turn the page instead of inserting the bookmark.

    When it comes to ending chapters, I find reading it out loud helps me figure it out more than anything else. There is something about the way it sounds that tells me if I've ended well or need to rework it.

  2. Any kind of hook is a good way to end a chapter because then the reader doesn't take it as their cue to put the book down to pee or feed their kids or some other equally ridiculous non-reading activity. To add to your idea to end it in the middle of action, you could also have a character introduction or a secret revealed. Something that shakes up the status quo basically.

  3. I kinda like to plan my chapter endings. Not ALL ahead of time, but say I'm 6 pages into a chapter, I start thinking hmm, what's gonna happen in about 4 pages where I can end things? I prefer ending with a cliff-hanger, page-turner rather than a low point or end of a scene, but sometimes those are nice to intersperse between the more gripping ones. :)

  4. I admit, I never plan chapter endings. I write the whole story, go through all the edits, and the last thing I do is break it into chapters. Most are natural breaks rather than cliffhangers though.

  5. This is a great topic, Christine. I don't necessarily plan how my chapters will end, but I DO plan on what changes between each chapter. So when I end Chapter X, I try to hook the reader by hinting that lots will happen in Chapter Y.

    It's good to be back at your blog! I hope you're doing well!

  6. I'm not a good chapter ender. I tend to end them when everything is nicely wrapped up for the moment rather than in the middle of action. My editor is constantly harping on me to liven up my endings.

  7. In first draft I don't plan anything - including my chapter breaks. I just write until I get to a point that feels right and put in a new chapter number. I don't think chapters all need to be the same lenght, although I do prefer that they're not too long (from a reader's perspective) because I'm the sort of reader who can't put a book down unless I'm at the end of the chapter.

    Most of my chapters tend to end on mini cliffhangers.