Monday, April 16, 2012

The Hook Brings You Back

I was critting the other day, when an acquaintance called. The conversation went a little like something this:
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Acquaintance: What’re you up to?
Carrie: Just critiquing someone’s manuscript.
Acquaintance: Ah, is it any good?
Carrie: Yeah, the writer is great with chapter hooks. o O {Now leave me alone so I can finish.}
Acquaintance:  …And that makes it good?
Carrie: Uh, yeah.
Acquaintance: Why?
Carrie: Because the hoooooooooooook brings you baaaaaaaaaack! ♫ So, what's up?
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Hook by Blues Traveler on Grooveshark 
 

Yes, I broke into song (“Hook” by Blues Traveler) for the occasion—but if you think about it, it makes sense. What is your goal at the end of every chapter? To entice the reader to keep reading. Plain and simple. The real question is how do you accomplish that?

Image by derekGavey
With hooks!

I know, you’re used to implementing them at the beginning of books, but guess what? There are plenty of hooks in that tackle box. You can use as many as you want. :)

I’m not saying every chapter has to end with a hardcore cliffhanger. You’ll probably want to mix it up a bit. Just make sure it’s compelling. Make the reader take that book to the bathroom! (You didn’t think I was going to go there, did you? *grins*)

Since The Hunger Games is so big right now, I’ll use Suzanne Collins as an example. This is the end of Chapter 1. Needless to say, if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie/trailer, overlook this quote:

“Effie Trinket crosses back to the podium, smoothes the slip of paper, and reads out the name in a clear voice. And it’s not me.

It’s Primrose Everdeen.”

Bam! I don’t know about you, but that made me want to keep reading. (And reading, and reading…) Finding just the right note to leave things on takes finesse. When I find someone who does it well, I’m impressed. :)

So, what about you guys? How do you know where to end your chapters?

Have a great week!

P.S. Whoa! I’m one follower away from 300! How did I miss that? I should probably do a giveaway soon. How about a blog header or a promo button? Maybe a chapter critique or a character doodle? I don’t know. (Sorry, I can’t do gift cards/books. I’m poor, and that’s not even a slight exaggeration.) Let me know if you have any ideas. The purpose, after all, is to thank you. :)

80 comments:

JeffO said...

I'm not sure I do!

Seriously, I end where it feels right. Sometimes that's at a natural ending point, where some big scene wraps up. Other times it's at a deliberate cliffhanger, like the excerpt from Hunger Games.

Donna K. Weaver said...

I do try and leave a chapter with a hook where they want to keep reading. However, we have to be careful not to use cheap hooks--the ones where it's a tense situation and suddenly there's a noise or a knock at the door. You turn to the new chapter and it's the mailman or something stupid like that.

Cassie Mae said...

I always leave my chapter off with a hook too. Not sure how successful I am, but I also title my chapters that way too. My cps have told me they've kept reading because of my chapter titles. That's a good thing right? LOL.

Tina Moss said...

One of my beta readers calls my chapter endings "the infamous cliffhangers." LOL. I usually try to end them on a hook.

Carrie Butler said...

If it's natural and feels right to you, it probably works. Even if that particular scene wraps up, you can use a segue to keep things moving. (A lingering worry, a premonition, a revelation of one’s feelings, a question, etc.) I bet you keep things moving on a subconscious level. :)

Carrie Butler said...

Great point, Donna! Those endings feel like false advertising, and we lose the reader's trust. That's certainly something to watch out for. :)

Carrie Butler said...

You bet! I want to hear some of these chapter titles sometime. Knowing you, they're probably awesome. :D

Carrie Butler said...

Nice! It takes hard work to reach infamous status. Does it make you want to work on your evil laugh? *Grins*

Mrs. Silverstein said...

I've shifted my focus lately to a different kind of writing--I'm taking a TV writing classs online, so I'm working on a half-hour spec script (which is what aspiring TV writers use as writng samples when they are looking for representation and jobs, and what the rest of the world would call well-formatted fanfic). The thing I'm struggling with most are the act-outs: what happens right before the show goes to commercial. It's a similar idea to chapter endings, with the added wrinkle that each act must be approximately X number of minutes (depending on the format, show, network, whatever.). File under: things I didn't know I didn't know how to do!

Leigh Covington said...

Yes! I love a good hook! I'm reading Cinder right now, and I can't put it down! Been a very fun book to read :)

Kimberlee Turley said...

I heard somewhere Suzanne Collins had a background in TV which is why she does cliffhangers so well.

Melissa said...

I'm getting better at this. (I think. LOL) I've even seen authors insert a chapter break mid-scene at a tense moment. It's like 'NOOOOO!' because you're afraid their going to switch locations/scenes and make you wait a couple chapters (like some do), but it sure makes you turn the page and keep reading. Great post! Love the music, too. :)

Natasha Hanova said...

I totally agree with Donna K. Weaver. Readers don't want to feel cheated and gimmicky chapter ending hooks might leave them feeling fooled. That said, I do try to earn my end of chapter hooks.

L.A. Banks was an awesome author. I've been know to read her books in the drive thru.

Elise Fallson said...

Looking over my wip and I find that some of my chapters end in hooks, but not all. Need to work on this... (:

Jessie Humphries said...

Holy crap Carrie! I am totally flabbergasted right now. Not just because I get to be your 300th follower, but because I can't believe I wasn't already following you! I clicked on follow just to make sure for some reason, and it let me. I don't understand. I have been following your blog for months. So what the H? Sorry and congrats at the same time!

Emily R. King said...

Sometimes hooks are welcome and other times they make me want to scream. I don't believe in slashing a chapter in two just to get the reader to keep reading. I feel it's insulting (seriously, finish the sentence!). BUT if there's a natural pause in the story, feel free to hook me! Chances are I'll keep reading regardless.

Joylene said...

From the beginning of the chapter to the final moment, I try to build conflict by making things as bad as possible for my character. Not always easy to do. I like the subtle hint that something very bad is about to happen even though the protagonist thinks he's scout free.

Jenny S. Morris said...

I've had a CP comment on the end of my chapter saying-this isn't good enough. You usually end your chapters really strong. So I guess I do this. I read a post the other day that talked about a movie fades out from each scene, setting you up for the next one. I thought that was a good way to think about it.

Nancy Thompson said...

I think I did an adequate job of ending each chapter in a hook, because that's the way I like books I read to work. I usually tried to leave the reader on an emotional precipice. You tell me, did I accomplish that?

Carrie Butler said...

Well, I did read it in two days, Nancy... *Grins*

Carrie Butler said...

That sounds like a lot of fun, Mrs. Silverstein! I think I speak for everyone when I say I'd like to hear more about it sometime. :) Thank you for sharing with us!

Carrie Butler said...

Oo, I'll have to check it out. :D

Carrie Butler said...

Oh, yeah! I had forgotten about that. :D Good point, Kimberlee!

Carrie Butler said...

Thanks, Melissa! :) Oh, I know what you mean. When they switch locations/scenes after a cliffhanger, I'm like, "Nooo!" Sometimes I have to skim, and then circle back! LOL

P.S. Yes, you are. :)

Kelley Lynn said...

For this MS, my fifth, I've actually concentrated more on this than my previous ones. It's nice to feel compelled to want to start the next chapter. Keep them up until the wee hours of the morning :)

Carrie Butler said...

Oo, I love how you phrased that, Natasha. Earning your end of chapter hooks. Well said! :)

Carrie Butler said...

Isn't it great when you find something specific to work on? To me, it's much better than when I go through and think, "Hmm, something's off here." :)

Carrie Butler said...

Thanks for being my 300th, Jessie! (I hope no one reads that out of context. LOL)

That's so weird, isn't it? You know what I think? Blogger is the read "B-word"! ;)

Carrie Butler said...

Great point, Empress King! :) Forced hooks have the opposite effect. They make the reader want to stop reading. (Usually because the book has been chucked across the room...)

Carrie Butler said...

Don't tell me that! Dead Witness has been taunting me enough as it is. "Reeeeead me, Carrie. Let me skip to the front of your TBR pile..." Now it'll just be louder! *Grins*

Lydia Kang said...

Ha, I was just struggling with this today. I generally end my chapters at about 9-12 pages, so somewhere in those pages I try to find a bit of revelation (emotional or otherwise) that really catches some attention. I end it just before, or just after that.

Lydia Kang said...

Oh, and I have to agree with Donna--I used to call that "fake" tension or a "pretend cliffhanger." One of my betas pointed that out at me and I don't do that anymore. :)

Cassie Mae said...

Hmmm...

I must be losin' it if I want Nerdy-boy to kiss me.

There's one ;)

Gina C said...

terrific post - and always a great reminder. mystery goes a long, long way :)

Carrie Butler said...

Nice! :)

Carrie Butler said...

Sounds like you do! :)

Oo, that is a good way to think about it. Thanks for sharing with us. :D

Lisa Regan said...

Love that song. Love hooks in books. Hah hah I rhymed. But seriously, I love when writers do it and not in a hokey way. Yeah, the entire Hunger Games trilogy did that to me. Many hours of sleep lost to the "Just-one-more-chapter" syndrome

Carrie Butler said...

Yes! Those late night reads are always the best. :D

Leslie Rose said...

I try to give an arc to every chapter. I try to identify why that chapter needs to be in the larger story. I do like to plant "bait" to keep readers swimming through the book.

Carrie Butler said...

That's a great method, Lydia! I like that. :)

Carrie Butler said...

Good call! Isn't it funny how we can't see these things in our own work, at first? Thank God for betas/critters! :)

Carrie Butler said...

Thank you, Gina! :) Absolutely!

Carrie Butler said...

And what a great reason to rhyme! :D

Oh, that's the perfect way to describe it ("just-one-more-chapter" syndrome), especially for that trilogy. I would pass out at four in the morning, clutching my Kindle. LOL

Carrie Butler said...

You're on it, Leslie! I wish I were that organized. :)

Talli Roland said...

Ah yes, the dreaded hooks! Like Leslie, I try to give each character an arc that places it within the overall plot.

Mina Burrows said...

Yes! A most excellent post! So damn true! Listened to the entire song - which happens to be a fav of mine. "Suck it in suck it in suck it in..."

Shelley Sly said...

Yes! That song is so fun! I got that in my head right when I read your blog title; didn't know you'd link to it in the post. ;)

I like how the song is catchy, which is the point. He's singing about nothing, but yet we're hooked. :D

cleemckenzie said...

I love it when a book hooks me over and over and in different places.

Sally said...

Ah, hooks. I love and hate them- because as interesting as they are, they make me take books to the bathroom, come on! (yup, I can go there too XD)

I actually pride myself in finding the right spot to end a chapter (or full story) in (most of the tike, at least) Whether it's a cliffie or not, I just feel the moment that BAM! That's where it stops. I can't explain it, but it's definitely an awesome feeling when you can just sit back and grin, because you KNOW you'll have jaws dropping xD

David P. King said...

Excellent point! There should be hooks throughout the book, not just the first chapter. Although I think I'm much better at the mini-cliff-hanger ending that makes you want to turn the page. That's what I hear, anyway. :)

The Golden Eagle said...

I've never actually written a novel with clearly-defined chapters. For my NaNoWriMo novel I divided it up into chapter-like sections, but the other two novels that I finished are mostly a stream with breaks every 2-10 pages or so.

Congratulations on 300 Followers! :)

Melodie Wright said...

I try to end each chapter with a hook or a cliffhanger. I approach each one as a short story set within a larger story, so I generally know when it's time to stop.
Wording it so it reads hooky is the trick!

Melissa Sugar said...

I try to end every chapter with a hook or cliffhanger as well. I make sure that something changes and that change has dire consequences for the MC. During my revisions I look at each scene to see how it ended. If it ends with disaster or tragedy then I am satisfied. If not I am looking for a suspenseful cliffhanger to end with.

Carrie Butler said...

That's a great way to go about it. :D

Carrie Butler said...

Thanks, Mina! :)

Hah! I love that part. I was so proud of myself for remembering the words. :D

Carrie Butler said...

I must say, you have excellent taste in music, Shelley. ;) Oh, that's a great a point!

Carrie Butler said...

Those are the books we remember best. :)

Carrie Butler said...

Hah! Sally, you rock.

It is an awesome (and slightly vicious) feeling, isn't it? Sounds like this is one of your writing strengths! Maybe you should do a blog post on it sometime... ;)

Carrie Butler said...

Thanks, David! Oh yeah? Hopefully I'll get to find out for myself someday--you know, when you're a bestselling author and I'm one of your devoted fans. :D

Carrie Butler said...

Really? I've never heard of that method (aside from free writing in the first draft), but it sounds cool! I bet the story flows well. :)

Thank you! :D

Carrie Butler said...

Good call! That was one of the things I enjoyed about SA. :)

Carrie Butler said...

You must enjoy torturing your characters, Melissa! That's okay. I think we all do. ;) Great point about including a "change" in every chapter, by the way. I love that. :)

Iain said...

Please tell me you didn't take the MS you critting to the bathroom. lol
I just finish the chapter at the point where it feel right to stop. Maybe I should be a bit more calculating about it.
You're right with the Hunger Games. I haven't been able to put them down.

Morgan said...

I'm ALL ABOUT the end of chapter hooks... and not only those, but end of scene hooks too. You can't take a chance on your reader, lol... you've got to do everything you can to get them coming back for more!

Fab post, Carrie ;)

Carrie Butler said...

While I enjoy multi-tasking, I can assure you that never happened. I'm not even entirely sure it's possible. :P

No need to be more calculating! You know what they say: "If it ain't broke; don't fix it." ;)

Woo!

Carrie Butler said...

Good point, Morgan! Thank you! :D

Lynda R Young said...

congrats on your 300+ followers :)

Yep, the hook is really important as long as it goes with the flow and isn't just thrown in there for the sake a 'hook'.

Carrie Butler said...

Thanks, Lynda!

I agree. Like everything else, the hook should serve a purpose and fit in with the flow of the story. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

And now you're over three hundred followers!
Carrie, thanks for commenting so often on my blog. I apologize I haven't reciprocated as I should've. I think I am ready for the dust to settle on the A to Z Challenge.
Now if I could just get off 1499 followers - I've been stuck there for two days!

Nick Wilford said...

I'm not writing my book in chapters. I'm just letting the story flow and I plan to carve it all up at the end. (Like a big, juicy turkey... actually that is the WRONG analogy!) But I like to think there is enough drama there that suitable hooks can be fashioned.

Carrie Butler said...

Woohoo! What a great, supportive community we have. :D

No problem, Alex. I love stopping by, and I know you're busy this time of year. (Twelve more days!) Here's to hoping you get that 1500th (wow!) follower tomorrow. :)

Carrie Butler said...

It sounds like you and Eagle have similar methods, Nick! I'm sure there will more than enough hook material. :)

Phil Siegel said...

Suzanne Collins did an amazing job with hooks in HG. Every chapter ends in a hook! No wonder I couldn't put that book down. I'm trying to incorporate them into my WIP as much as possible. I just want them to be organic - not ending a chapter mid-sentence.

Carrie Butler said...

I agree, Phil! Organic is a great word for it. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Carrie, just wanted to say thanks for always stopping by. I appreciate it. Sorry if in the madness of the Challenge I haven't visited as often.

Carrie Butler said...

No problem, Alex! I totally understand. :)

Sally said...

#I see what you did there!

Haha I'm storing it away then. Nothing sure yet, but I'm thinking this summer is looking mighty fine to start a blog ;P

Carrie Butler said...

I agree! :D

Lindsay N. Currie said...

Hmmm, I just usually go with what feels natural but sometimes that's harder than others. I agree with you though, those chapter ending hooks can often either make or break my resolve to continue reading:)

Carrie Butler said...

That makes sense. Your chapter endings/hooks always feel natural to me. :)