Welcome to a new month! A month of clock movement, warmer weather (hopefully) and writing a lot more words on your WiP.
To start off the month, I want to begin at the ending.
Essentially, we will talk about endings of all kinds. Ending scenes and chapters, ending sections, answering open questions and of course, the big ending of your book.
I thought about continuing with the beginning of the end jokes, but decided against it. Instead, we will work in a logical and forward manner.
Let’s start with the endings of the chapters, shall we?
These are important on so many levels. But, before we get into the reasons and the why’s and where’s, let’s look at today’s writing prompt.
Write a short chapter, but make the ending so different from the rest of the narrative, it becomes shocking.
A shocking ending?? Who would have thought?
Alright, so you probably saw that coming. But there are a few points I want to hit on here.
If you recall, one of the big things about chapters is that they need to provide questions that our readers must have answered. Your audience needs that one thing to force them to turn the page and start that next chapter and beyond.
Let’s assume, though, that you can’t or don’t want to put a new question at the end of every chapter. Instead, you can shock the reader.
If you give them something unexpected, of course it will raise their curiosity. They will, inadvertently, have questions, but most of them will be about themselves (or you!).
They may ask things like “what just happened?” or “how did I not see that coming?” But they won’t necessarily be questions about the story that they must have answered.
Instead, they will be so surprised and puzzled, they they will read on to see if it happens again.
We have already discussed how powerful small questions at the end of a chapter can be. Having your reader ask “Why would Tony do THAT?” is one of the most powerful things you can do as a writer to force the reader to turn the page.
The problem with this approach is that you have to eventually answer every question the reader asks. And if you are a wise writer, you have noticed the conundrum this creates.
“How will I know what questions a reader may ask?”
The answer is, you can’t. You can guess, and you can lead them, you can offer avenues full of questions you have planned for. There will always be questions you don’t foresee, though.
If there are too many of these unanswered (and unforeseen) questions, your amazing book gets a 2-star review and a quote along the lines of “I really tried to like this book, but it has too many loose ends.”
We don’t want that.
So, breaking your chapter endings up with some shocking elements is a great way to minimize the questions while still making them important.
Shocking chapter endings have a lot of power.
Just for a moment, I want you to imagine something for me. Imagine you have your book completed and you get to sit in a room watching someone read it.
Maybe like an interrogation room with the whole two-sided mirror thing. You get to sit and watch someone read your book, live, on the spot and in person.
Now, those questions the reader asks themselves will be quite visible. They will get a weird look on their face, maybe tilt their head, or even start turning the pages faster.
That’s powerful stuff, right?
Now imagine they reach the point in your book where the first shocking thing happens. Their eyes get wide, mouth opens, and if you are really good, they will say out loud something like “Wait. What? HOLY FUCK!”
Now, you tell me that isn’t powerful stuff. I will never believe you.
True power with words is something few can harness with ease. The easier it is for you, the more natural it becomes, the smoother the delivery and the bigger the shock.
And how do we get better? We practice (perfectly, right?). So take today’s prompt and use it as practice. Write a short chapter, and make the ending something so shocking your reader will want, no… need to turn the page.
Post your thoughts (or the chapters you write) in the comment section below.