7 Tactics To Grip A Reader At The End Of A Chapter

end of a chapterWhen you write the end of a chapter, you want readers to be desperate to turn the page and read on irrespective of the fact its 3:41AM and they have work the next day.

You want your book to be the cause of their bleary eyed appearance as they clutch the work coffee machine and growl at any one who comes near.

But what is it about a chapter ending that makes someone read on, rather than put it down and go to snoozeyland?

Here are nine tactics you can use to grip a reader and tickle their temptation soft spot to read on.

Tactic ONE – Ignore The Reader

The end of a chapter is also called a transition because it ‘transitions’ you from scene to scene. Got to love when it does what it says on the tin. BUT, the misnomer that comes with the word transition, is that writers often think they need to either:

  • Carry on the action in the next chapter where the last one finished
  • Carry on the timeline exactly where the last chapter finished

Both of these, while not wrong, are definitely not necessary. Chapter endings are a literary device. Think of it as a wrench in your writerly toolbox of delights.

You can wrench a reader to an entirely different point in the book….(see what I did there…*snigger*) okay, moving on…

Tactic TWO – Arc Like Noah Only Less Wood More Words

Chapters need story arcs just as much as the whole book AND your characters do. But the arc in a chapter is often more pronounced. It’s unusual to start a chapter and end it with the same level of tension and pace.

By arc, I mean, the place your chapter starts – say Voldemort attacking Harry P, and the end, where Harry defeats him. Two entirely different places, two different emotions and two different levels of pace and tension.

If every chapter is flat (sure some need to be) you’re not giving your readers a reason to read on.


The Testing

You can buy the book here.

Tactic THREE – Pull A Rabbit From Your Writerly Magician Hat

Writers are magicians. That’s a fact, we make people feel stuff, create entire new worlds and bring magic to life. So embrace that shit at the end of a chapter. Do a big reveal. Whip a literary bunnikins from your book-hat and shock readers.

Like at the end of the first chapter of the Testing where we have been eagerly awaiting Cia’s school results – because all she’s ever wanted to do is go through the Testing to get into University

“No matter how hard I worked, I wasn’t good enough to be chosen for The Testing. As I leave the stage and am given hugs of congratulations by my friends, I can only wonder: what will I do now?” Joelle Charbonneau, The Testing, Ch1, loc 213.

Now I HAVE to know what happens, what WILL she do?


Tactic FOUR – Get Your Toddler Out – Ask Questions 

Which leads me nicely onto the next tactic – Ask a question but never, NEVER answer it. The quote above is a good example of this, Charbonneau both reveals info and asks a question.

But you don’t have to hit us with the literal branch like she did, you can ask a metaphorical question, say by putting your character in a difficult situation – the question then becomes, how will Toby-woby get out of the poopee he’s in?

But like I said, the important thing is to not answer the question immediately you start the next chapter – leave a reader hanging, answer it in two or three or twenty-three chapters time.


You can buy the book here.

You can buy the book here.

Tactic FIVE – Cock Your Conflict Gun & Fire At Will 

Conflict 1 & 2 – Create A Sticky Situation or Do something Interesting To A Character

I just read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Riggs puts Jacob into a whole heap of trouble at the end of the first chapter after seeing a monster that couldn’t possibly exist.

“And then I must’ve blacked out because he was saying Jacob, Jake, hey Ed areyouokayorwhat, and that’s the last thing I remember.” Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, Pg 33.

This quote kinda serves for both, Jake’s in a right sticky sit. But it’s also interesting because we want to know what he saw, and why he’s subsequently blacked out.

Conflict 3 -Rifle In That Toolbox Pull Out A Spanner & Throw It

Spanners are awesome and I don’t even like DIY. But literary spanners are awesome sauce, they’re like the perfect roast potato – crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside *drools*

Angelfall

You can buy Angelfall here.

A spanner can be anything. What is it your character wants? Be a bitch chuck something in the way and prevent them from getting it. Did Toby just save enough pocket money to get the supercool new rad car racer thing that he’s wanted for a year? Fuck him. Fuck the Toby, the car’s sold out. FOREVER.

*muhahaha rubs writerly hands together*

Angelfall is another great example of this. By throwing Penryn into a shitty situation she can’t do anything about.

“…but there’s nothing I can do about that. I start to tell her it’ll be all right, but the lie dries up in my mouth. It’s pointless to reassure her. I take a deep breath, and yank open the door.”Angel fall, Susan Ee, Pg 3.


Tactic SIX – Top Up The Tension With A Time Tease

One of the easiest ways to ratchet up the tension in a book is by applying a time pressure factor. Only got three days till the meteor hits the Earth? Better make sure the hero can save the world before then. Adding a time pressure factor in right at the end of a chapter is a guaranteed method of making the reader want to devour your pages. Because…because will your hero make it in time? *bites nail*


Tactic SEVEN – Soap Opera the Sh*t Out of Your Chapters

You know when you’re watching Corrie, or Eastenders or (insert culturally relevant soap opera show) and the end of the episode goes something like this:

Pregnancy test flashes positive. Girl turns white.

Girl’s friend says “But Shanice, is the father Derick (her boyfriend) or Tyson? (her estranged cousin, who she fell in love with (before she knew he was her cousin) after being beaten black and blue by Derick.)”

Shanice looks up, mouth opens to answer… *Dramatic Pause*

Insert cliff hanger music

DUM DUM DUUUUUUM…

Scene End.

You’re on your feet, as red faced as the local alcoholic and bellowing expletives at the screen.

I’ll never forget the iconic Eastenders scene with Kat and Zoe Slater who have been brought up as sisters but actually aren’t. I had to include it because in my humble opinion it’s one of the greatest soap opera moments in British history.

So what tactics do you employ when writing the end of a chapter to grip a reader and make them turn the page? Let me know in the comments.


If you liked this post, why not sign up to get more writing tips and the latest in publishing news straight to your mailbox? Sign up here.

funny 5-july

78 comments

      1. Maybe change your mindset? If you see your work as valuable then sharing and promoting it for others to enjoy takes on a different mindset – if your providing value and enjoyment to others then surely that’s a great thing to promote…?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think I said that wrong, I am more than happy with our website and all our blogging activities. It has turned out far more successful than we could ever have dreamed of.
        But Marketing is another animal entirely. Begging doesn’t feel right, however well you do it.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yeah begging is not the way forward. Have a look at Tim Grahl’s book. He talks about being relentlessly helpful and a different angle of marketing it might help to explain what I mean 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally agree with what Sacha said about marketing. And you’re not begging people to read your book, you’re advertising your work because you think it’s worth reading. It should be moderately subtle; take any ‘buy my book at’ or ‘check out my book’ out of your bio and write something about YOU. In fact, get rid of anything that says ‘check out my book’. If you write (tweet) something interesting about the book, some people will automatically ‘check it out’. They will not, however, do so because they are told to. What’s the incentive?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Terry, sorry it took a while to approve this comment. Glad you agree too – If you have put all that time and effort into your book, you have to have belief that what you are producing is worth peoples time and money. That’s a great tip too on the tweets I’ll have to bank that for next year 😀

        Like

  1. Throwing spanners is not only dangerous, but lets you release your inner megalomaniac. I remember reading ‘Jude the Obscure’ and thinking “Fuck me, Thomas Hardy is a right bastard!” NOTHING could go right for poor Jude for more than a couple of pages, and it made me wail for him and keep on reading. Must be fun to write it as well as excruciating to read!

    Like

      1. No judgement here! Not many people I know have read that book, which makes the title quite apt!
        Great post anyway. Very informative and encouraging!

        Like

      1. You’re welcome. Life is hectic with the kid on vacation until next week. That and some automated job thing keeps calling my wife at 5 am, but she doesn’t have the code to stop it. Looking forward to the weekend for sleep and it should be cooler. How’s life treating you?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Almost time for the kids to go back though! I know a few parents who are looking forward to that! haha. We just potty trained actually so that was a barrel of fun! not. At least its over. I am real close to the end of my book now too, can’t believe it! FINALLY.

        Like

      3. I’m looking forward to it. Partially because I can write again, but also he wakes up asking if he gets to go to school. I can only say ‘next week’ so many times. 🙂 Potty training creates some ‘fond’ memories. Specifically, ones you can bring up in public.

        Like

  2. I like to try and end on a cliffhanger. Like a “Tune in next week to find out!” 50s style cheesy TV serial. (It works really well in pulp fiction anyway, which is apparently what I write). And I have no problem whatsoever with ending a chapter with one character doing one thing, and starting the next chapter with someone else in a different place.

    I treat chapter endings a bit like scene changes in theatre/film.

    Lee Child does it all the time. He’ll finish one chapter with Jack in a sticky situation, then the next chapter will be about a different character and will have its own cliffhanger, then there’s another one about the villain, so you have to read two more chapters just to get back to Jack…then…rinse and repeat.

    And I’m reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children now!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course not every writer has that problem, but some do. I guess we all have skills in different areas.

      I think that is an awesome analogy – the comparison to theatre scenes.

      I think it’s easier to do the Lee Child thing when you write in third person. I’m primarily a first person writer so can’t do that as easily. :s

      OOOH what do you think of miss peregrine?

      Like

  3. I’m gonna mention it again, but this takes me back to each chapter of ‘The Truth App’ where I had many wanting me to release the next installment. From the comments and the likes each chapter got, I think I got many to come back the following Thursday to carry on the read. I’m a huge fan of cliffhangers as they certainly make the reader want to carry on reading and not to want to put that book down.
    I’ve just finished the rewrite of The Truth App for the upcoming book. It will be interesting to see the reaction given that in the book it’s all one story.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s