Friday, March 12, 2010

Page Turners...

We've spoken before of the importance of opening lines. Today we're going to turn everything on its head and discuss the importance of ending lines, specifically the ending of a chapter. Obviously, the purpose of the opening line is to get the reader's attention and create enough interest to encourage them to read on. The ending of a chapter serves the same goal, i.e., to put the reader in a position, by your choice of words, that it's next to impossible for them not to read more. In other words, keep them turning pages to find out what happens next.

The film industry used this "cliffhanger" technique quite successfully during the fifties and sixties when the serials were popular, encouraging their young viewers to return to the theater the following week, spend their money on a ticket and gorge themselves with sweet and salty treats from the snack bar. They're using this technique today when creating their movie trailers. And writers have been using the old make-them-want-more writing trick for even longer.

Below is a short excerpt from my yet-to-be-published middle grade novel, Cannibal Island. It's perhaps not the best example or the most dramatic example, but it was handy and easy to get to. Plus, there are no copyright issues involved.

This is the last few paragraphs from chapter one...

     Fate led me to a small enterprise in the nearby town of Southampton. Less than an hour after entering the Emporium of Nautical Charts, I found myself in the employ of Thomas Willoughby, proprietor. Although a bit eccentric, Mr. Willoughby had a reputation as an expert in charting and navigation. He also had a tendency to fall asleep at his desk in the afternoon.

     At first, the work was new and interesting. However, as time passed, the familiar surroundings and the dusty smell of old charts became tiring and monotonous. I grew bored with the tedium. After a childhood of travel, and the new clue my father had discovered regarding the location of the mysterious disk, I craved adventure on a larger scale than I was finding at Mr. Willoughby’s small shop.

     When the tiny silver bell on the front door announced a visitor that gray winter morning, fate again stepped in and steered my future in a new direction.

     A chill wind rustled the charts on my desk as the stranger entered.

As always, your comments are welcomed. Perhaps we can have a contest for chapter endings in the near future. I'll base that decision on the number of comments received on this post.  


  1. I love a good contest. Let us know.

  2. I completely agree. I think, in my own limited experience as a writer, that chapter endings are extremely important. They are the most fun to read and the most fun to write. It is part of the allure of the entire experience, hearing your reader fume at the suspense or feeling your own mind strain to know what comes next. Definitely important. :)

  3. Love the trailer and hope someday I need to know how to make one myself.

    So hurry up and get that puppy published! Can't wait to read it - the monkey comment intriques me.

  4. Thanks melodycollen,

    The person who added the monkey comment is familiar with the manuscript and loves little Nugget (the monkey).


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