Jan. 20 Writing Prompt

In the last few prompts we have covered scene building, piece by piece.

In case you missed it, here is the breakdown:

  • Jan 16 – Focus on a perfect scene
  • Jan 17 – Using only dialogue
  • Jan 18 – Using no dialogue at all
  • Jan 19 – Focus on description for the scene

Today, we will continue the trend and complete the scene building exercises.

As we know, there are several factors that go into a proper scene. If you think of each scene as a cube, we have the 6 sides to deal with, the 5 senses to utilize, characters and dialogue to build on and a story to move forward.

Now that we have practiced building the scenes from the various different angles, it is time to put the finishing touches on.

Just like in any writing, you need to propel the story forward, you need to give the reader a reason to turn the page or continue to the next paragraph.

In most cases (though, not all) a scene will cover an entire chapter. 1000 to 3000 words (or more!) about a single place and time in your story.

Not only do you then need to go through the story line, characters and plot arcs and sub plots, but you have to be interesting.

Readers will put your book down if they aren’t interested, and we do not want that!

So, how do we keep the reader engaged?

We give them questions that they must have the answers to.

So today’s prompt will focus on the end of the scene or chapter. Let’s take a look at it.

January 20

End the scene with a question that requires an answer not yet given.

Have you ever read a watched a TV show and when it ends, you plan to turn it off and go to bed? Except when the episode ends there is something that makes you go “Wait, what??” and you watch the next episode to get the answer?

That is what today’s prompt is all about. Books do it too, and I am sure you have spent many sleepless nights finishing a book because you just had to keep going.

The trick is that most good writers know you plan to put the bookmark in at the end of a chapter. You will close the book and will pick it up again when you have time.

But, if you can make them take that bookmark back out, continue reading and end up finishing the book in one setting…

Well, then, they have read a book they will talk about. It will stop being a good book and become a great book. Why?

Because the chapters were written in a way that led you to a door.

The Door
If you want to know what’s on the other side of the door, you have to open it.

It gave you a question that burned inside you. The only way to answer that question was to turn the page, open that door and keep reading.

So, how do we do that? It isn’t as hard as you may think.

Readers don’t require much, to be honest. They want questions and answers to those questions. And while it may be tempting to have a huge “who dunnit?” question every chapter, you don’t have to.

Little Questions are Just as Powerful

Here are several methods to add questions.

  • Add the unexpected. If the reader expects Gary to open the door to a party, have him open the door to an empty room.
    • What happened to everyone? Why is the room empty? Is Gary in the wrong place?
  • Introduce someone or something new. Maybe Gary is set up to meet the leader of the local street gang. But when he gets there it’s a 12-year old girl with a teddy bear.
    • Who is this girl? Why is she there? Where is the gang leader?
  • Answer a question by asking another. Readers love having all of their questions answered. When you answer one, immediately ask another.
    • So the girl is Gary’s niece. But, how did she get there?
  • Add an element of surprise. Surprising the reader with something they never saw coming is a great way to have them ask a lot of questions.
    • Gary notices the teddy bear is heavy and sees stitching on the back. What’s inside? Is it ticking? Who put it there?
  • Give a false lead. Answers to questions are great, but it is even better when that answer is easily seen as false by the reader. They then want the real answer, and they want it NOW.
    • Why is the teddy bear full of rocks? When the 12-year old states the gang leader put them there as a message, the reader wants to know why.
  • Be blatant. When your reader is running out of questions to ask,m you can provide the question for them.
    • Ending the chapter or scene with the character asking the question is a great way to get the reader involved. “Yes! I want to know that answer, too!” they will say when Gary asks his niece “Who put you in this room?”
Questions are Easy

As you can see, there are a lot of ways to introduce questions into the ends of your chapters.

Doing so will force the reader to turn the page to get their answer.

When they do, that bookmark moves back a chapter and you engage them just a little longer.

Do it well enough and you have a great story that the reader can’t put down.

Now, it is your turn. Use one or more of the methods listed above (or use others ones not listed.

Write an ending to a chapter or scene that leaves the reader with a question.

When you are done, post it in the comment section below for everyone to read. Answer other comments by listing the questions their scene makes you ask.

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