Friday, February 17, 2012

Tis a Writer's life for me! - Chapter endings!

I love writing chapter endings!  Yes, I know I'm weird. Most writers have great difficulty closing out a chapter with something exciting and tense, something that makes the poor reader turn the page! But for me,  I love creating those cliff hangers!  I love torturing my reader into never being able to set the book down and having to stay up all night because each chapter closes with a situation that would forbid them to sleep until they know how things turn out! What a beast I am!!

I like to think I accomplish that task most of the time. But how do you do it? How do you always end a chapter with something dramatic?. I mean, let's face it, maybe there's nothing really going on at that moment in the book that's overly tense.  Here's some ideas that may help you with examples from my own books.

End with the worst thing possible that could happen to your character
(In this case, losing his father’s ship to a lady pirate!) (The Red Siren)
I thank you, Captain, for your chivalrous rescue.” The woman pointed her pistol at him and cocked it with a snap. “But I believe I’ll be taking over your ship.”

In a romance, have your heroine find the hero talking intimately to another woman or visa versa
(The Reliance)
Merrick sat at a table in the back, surrounded by a band of filthy pirates. His ebony hair hung to his shoulders, and his familiar baldric crossed his thick chest. On his lap sat a beautiful, dark-haired woman. He laughed then buried his face into her neck, kissing her.

Charlisse’s heart shattered and crumpled like sand to the floor.

Play upon the character’s worst fears
(The Restitution)
Isabel bolted up in bed and glanced over the shadows in her room. Her eyes darted to the cradle beside her. It rocked back and forth. She peered inside. Her baby was gone. 

Create a moment of extreme embarrassment
(The Blue Enchantress)
Hope’s eyes widened. She flung a hand to her mouth, then bent double and lost the contents of her stomach all over his boots.

Unexpected action
(The Raven Saint)
Rafe opened his mouth to tell the exasperating woman that God was on no one’s side, but her eyes fluttered shut, and she collapsed in his arms.

Have an unexpected or long lost character enter the room
(Background: A man has just entered the tavern where Hope is waiting. It is the man who sold her as a slave on St. Kitts.)  The Blue Enchantress
His satin waistcoat and breeches bespoke either great wealth or ostentatious pride, and he perused the room with haughty disdain as if he owned the place.
Hope panted out a ragged breath. “Lord Falkland.”.

End with a threat
(The Raven Saint)
Rafe threw back his shoulders and lengthened his stance to cover up the fear tying his stomach into knots. He swung back to his father whose blue eyes glowed with cruel deception. “What is this about?”
His father grinned. “This is what I believe you call a mutiny.”

End with an action that could end badly
(Background: Hope is being sold as a slave to a slimy merchantman) (The Blue Enchantress)
As the man counted out the coins into the auctioneer’s greedy hands, Hope reached for the sword.

End with a promise of disaster.
(Surrender the Night)
A petal loosened and floated to the floor by her feet. When it struck the wooden planks, a heavy drape of foreboding fell upon her. Something terrible was about to happen. Something that would keep Alex from her forever.

End with a promise of action
(The Blue Enchantress)
Clenching his fists, Nathaniel resolved to speak with Hope tonight, for he could no longer deny his feelings. He must tell her he loved her.

End with violence
(The Falcon and the Sparrow)
She halted behind him, knees quaking. Her fingers gorged with blood. Gripping the candlestick with both hands, she hefted it as high as she could. Then, squeezing her eyes shut, she tensed her arms, readying herself to swing with all her might.

A daunting realization:
(The Raven Saint)
Sometime in the middle of the night, a lurid thought seeped into Grace’s mind, jarring her consciousness. A picture of a ripe yellow mango danced through her mind. Lifting her hand to her throat, she gasped as tears of shame burned behind her eyes. I am a thief.

End with a question (Surrender the Heart)
Footsteps stomped. Marianne held her breath.
A half circle of light advanced upon her shoes, then crept up her legs.
“What have we here?”

Ominous foreboding
(Surrender the Heart)
It was the only hope Noah could cling to as he swung over the bulwarks and dropped into the boat that would take him, his men, and Miss Denton to a fate worse than death.

End with a shocking statement
(The Falcon and the Sparrow)
Once she stepped over the threshold of this house, she would no longer be Dominique Dawson, the loyal daughter of a British Admiral. She would be a French Spy.

End with a vow
(The Red Siren)
Everything inside of her screamed in defiance. She would not serve a God who had allowed such suffering in her life.

An ultimatum
(The Red Siren)
You will marry me.”
Yanking her hand from his, Faith retreated. “I will not.”
“Then I shall be forced to turn you in for piracy.

Okay, now it’s your turn. If you're a writer, give me your best chapter hooks! If you're not, tell me which of these really impacted you or better yet, list some from a book you're reading. They can either fit into one of these categories, or you can create additional ones. (I’d love to have you add new ones to my list!)


  1. Fri Feb 17th,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    I really enjoyed today's blog "Chapter Endings". So, that's how writers/authors lure you into: "Just have to read one more chapter to see how this ends" scenario. Wow, that is exactly 'why' I cannot put the book down ... even when I know it's well past my bedtime !!! Those chapter endings catch me each and every time !
    Loved your examples from each book. And, as I own each of your books ... they all brought back memories.
    The first one from the 'Red Siren' ... when Faith announces to the tricked Captain: "But I believe I'll be taking over your ship." ... I can just see her "attitude", and hear the victory in her voice ... she is being extremely bold, cocky, and confident. But truly, I remember them all.
    I am reading a book right now called: "Maire", by Linda Windsor. Just scanning through the chapters I have read thus far, she seems to end most of her chapters with an announcement or statement. At the end of Chpt 23 (pg 294): 'In the distance a night bird sang a lullaby to its young, but Maire paid it no heed. She was listening, instead, to the singing of her heart.'
    Thanks again, for sharing your 'chapter endings' with us ! You do them, so very well !!!
    Have a great weekend.
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  2. Hi MaryLu,
    What wonderful examples of your end of chapter cliffhangers! I love writing hooks at the beginning and the end of my chapters. I often try to have a hook at the end of the scenes, though not as powerful. Here is one of my favorites intimating the revelation of a big secret that has been kept throughout the story of my new release, The Shadow Catcher's Daughter.

    A small stream of blood trickled from the corner of his mouth. _____ took a shuddering breath and spoke his last words. “Tell her.”

    Sometimes just a few words can leave the reader wondering such as the above "Tell her." or these:
    "But there is more.", “Papa! Your neckerchief is on fire!”

    I also like to shake things up and have the character do something totally unexpected such as here when she runs into the arms of another (from Carving a Future/Colonial Courtships): "All gazes shot to Nathaniel faster than a lead musket ball and then ricocheted over to Constance. Then she whizzed off the blanket like a cannon on fire—straight into Jonathan’s arms."

    Whatever prompts the reader to want to find out what happens next rather than tying the chapter up with a neat resolution. You are a master at that! I can never put your books down - really, I read your novels faster than any others.
    You are an excellent teacher as well. Thanks for these great posts.

  3. Brenda, thanks! I loved that scene too where Faith steals Dajon's ship! Ah, to be a lady pirate. :-) Linda Windsor's books are great! That was a superb line.. see it doesn't have to be something jarring.. it can even be something poetic that makes you sigh...

    Carla, Thanks for your compliments! I'd say you're pretty good at chapter endings yourself! Love your examples.. adored the "tell her" as his dying words... so dramatic.. And of course anything catching on fire is great... but running into the wrong man's arms is even better! Excellent examples!

  4. I really love this post!!! I'm not a published writer, but here is an ending to one of my chapters: "And then she woke up. Taking a deep, calming breath, Eden opened her eyes. To discover a man looming above her."

  5. Thanks for these GREAT ideas for chapter ending hooks, MaryLu!!! My CPers and I try to monitor for these for every chapter and now you have given us a great cheat sheet to use! Blessings!

  6. Heather.. that's a great chapter ending! Impending danger! Perfect.

    Thanks Carrie!! Glad you can use them.

  7. Thanks, MaryLu! You are a master storyteller so I appreciate that!

  8. You definitely do a great job with chapter endings! I can't remember a single book of yours were I didn't finish it in one night! I could never put them down! I am far from being a published author, but I have the layout of a few chapters written that I plan to use in a book sometime in the future, and here are some of the endings.

    The pain in her leg intensified, causing the room to spin. The pistol fell from her grip, right before everything turned black.

    His last words were drowned out by the cruel laughter of everyone listening, and ______'s bloodcurdling scream. She watched in horror as the sword sliced through his throat, silencing his foolish, yet somewhat comforting words, forever.

  9. Oooh.. Emily. Good one! A gruesome death is always a great way to end a chapter..!! Makes the reader wonder.. is he really dead? or What's going to happen now to the heroine? Yikes!!

  10. I just love these posts. I'm learning so much! And its no wonder why I always end up reading one of your novels late into the night-just finished reading Surrender the Night and loved it!

  11. MaryLu your tips and insights and inspirations are awesome and incredibly helpful and encouraging! Thank you!

    I'm working on my own pirate-related series...

    Here's some of my chapter endings (what do you think?) ;)

    “Ok, I’m going to release you and I want you to count to…hmm…what do you think? One-hundred? No, that may be too long. How ‘bout thirty? But count real slow.”
    He released her and disappeared into the darkness.
    She stood still, biting her lip, too scared to see where he went, but did as he had instructed and began slowly counting in her head.

    Here's another one:
    Before she could say anything else he left her standing there to stare after him, as he exited through the crowd and out the ballroom doors almost hurriedly.
    She wondered if she’d ever see him again. She hoped she’d see him again.

    I realized that some of my other ones not all that "cliff-hanging," which is one thing I love about books when they leave you wanting more and can't to see what happens next. So thank you for the tips! ;)

  12. I'm Hannah Lorenz by the way...the writer of the anonymous post (with the pirate-related series). I mean to post my name (because I was not entirely sure how else to go about letting you know my name, but to just do the anonymous option because I don't have any of the other options that I am aware of) Anyways I forgot to post my name on the comment before I posted the comment but of course I forgot, lol.

    God bless!
    It has been very fun reading your writer's life blog!

  13. Hi Hannah! So glad my posts have helped you with your writing! How very cool you are writing your own pirate series!! Very exciting.

    I loved your both your endings. The first leaves the reader with a lingering sense of time pressure and tremendous fear... Will he release her? Why does he want her to count? Should she obey?

    The second gives a whisper of hope, of dreaming, of sorrow... nicely done. :-)

    Thank you for sharing them! And the best to you in your writing!

  14. MaryLu, I do love your chapter endings! Of the ones you shared, my favorites are Faith taking over the ship, Charlisse seeing Merrick with another woman, Grace unexpectedly fainting, and Hope reaching for the sword.

    From the book I just finished, Death Star, there is a great scene at the end of the third chapter:

    As each prisoner passed through a scanner, there sounded a musical tone. Reading their implants, she guessed. Most of the notes were the same, but now and again a different tone would sound, a full step lower, and the prisoners connected to them would be separated from the others and directed away from the main body toward a stairway to a lower level. Maybe one in fifty, she figured. Who were they? she wondered. Rejects? People bound for a one-way trip out the nearest air lock?
    When Teela passed the scanner's arch, the tone emitted was the lower one. She felt her heart race faster, her breath catch, as the guard brusquely ordered her to step out of line.
    Whatever that sound meant for those it selected, she was apparently about to find out.

    Brenda, Maire is such a good book! I still need to read the other two in that series.

    Hannah, your chapter endings are great. I love how you added a sense of humor to the scene where the pirate is telling her to count! That's surprisingly rare.

  15. Oh.. Sarah, I love that chapter ending.. How could you NOT turn the page on that one? :-)

  16. Thank you!!! ;D

    Hannah Lorenz

  17. I'm only 16, but I love writing, and the idea of writing cliff-hangers at the end of chapters, like I have read in many books, always enticed me. Here are some chapter hooks from one of my current favourite books: The Hunger Games.

    'All of the pieces are still fitting together, but I sense he has a plan forming. He hasn't accepted his death. He is already fighting hard to stay alive. Which also means that kind Peeta Mellark, the boy who gave me the bread, is fighting hard ot kill me'.

    'Sick and disorientated, I'm able to form only one thought: Peeta Mellark just saved my life. Then the ants bore into my eyes and I black out'.

    'When I break into the clearing, she's on the ground, hopelessly entangled in a net. She just has time to reach her hand through the mesh and say my name before the spear enters her body'.

    'My eyes scan the woods just in time to see the first creature leap onto the plain. As I'm turning away, I see another half-dozen join it. Then I am stumbling blindly after Cato with no thought of anything but to save myself'.

    When reading the book these were some of the chapter-endings that kept me the most hooked and gave me the most inspiration, so I thought I'd share them :)

    Much love,