How to Make the Most of Your Chapter Endings

Photo credit: mfhiatt on Flickr
While we recently discussed the importance of getting a book ending right, I’d like to talk about another form of endings, that to me are equally important.

Of course, as you I’m sure so astutely gathered from the title, I’m talking about chapter endings.

While writing and revising, I like to imagine that one day, a reader will be reading my book in the middle of the night, and will eventually have to decide do I read another chapter or go to bed?

My goal, in that hypothetical situation, is to make it difficult for the aforementioned reader to put the book down. I want my readers to think I’ll just read one more chapter, then realize ten chapters later that they hadn’t intended to read this much. If I do my job correctly, putting the book down will never be an easy decision.

Although it may feel like it, accomplishing this feat isn’t a work of magic—it’s a combination of tension, intrigue and great chapter endings. But what exactly makes a great chapter ending?

My favorite kinds of chapter endings tend to go one of three ways:

  1. They drop shocking information. Usually this is a big reveal, some kind of plot twist, or unexpected danger to the character. I tend to be quite fond of these in my own writing, because as I’m drafting they make me want to continue writing.

    Example: “Someone closes a hand over my mouth.” —Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi (page 341)

  2. They leave you asking questions. These questions can range from how the hell is the character going to get out of this to who is that mysterious stranger that keeps appearing everywhere? The point is, if you leave your readers with questions about the story at the end of a chapter, chances are they’ll want to continue reading to try to get those answers.

    Example: “‘He’s not joking,’ Brendan says to me. ‘And I hope you know how to use a gun.’” —Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi (page 119)

  3. They end on a haunting or particularly evocative note. These can vary pretty widely, but sometimes the right image to echo the mood of the book or whatever is happening can be just the transition a reader needs to push them on to the next chapter.

    Example: “Because it’s so difficult to fight what you cannot control and right now I can’t even control my own imagination as it grips my hair and drags me into the dark.” —Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi (page 109)

I used all of my examples from Unravel Me because I particularly love how Ms. Mafi ends her chapters, and I often found myself saying one more chapter while reading. I raved about its genius here.

While those aren’t the only three ways to end a chapter in an interesting manner, they happen to be my favorite techniques, and I’ve found that they work well. But now I want to hear from you: what techniques do your favorite chapter endings use? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
What makes a great chapter ending? Writer @Ava_Jae shares some tips on effective ways to end your chapters. (Click to tweet)  
Are you making the most of your chapter endings? (Click to tweet)


Robin Red said...

That's how I ended up reading The Hunger Games so fast. Each chapter ended just right and kept me turning the page.

Ava Jae said...

Yes! The Hunger Games is a great example. Definitely a page-turner. :)

maria smith said...

I agree, chapters have to end leaving the reader gagging for more...

Good post.

Ava Jae said...

Thank you, Maria!

Catherine said...

I agree that Unravel Me had terrific chapter endings. I couldn't read it fast enough! Great post!

Ava Jae said...

Thank you! And I agree—I flew through Unravel Me. Thanks for stopping by, Catherine!

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