Sally came into the coffee house dressed in a pair of jeans, an old sweatshirt and a baseball cap. “Don’t laugh. I told my husband I’d go fishing with him today. He has the day off and just got a new boat.”
I handed over her cup of coffee. Apparently Ann has figured out our weekly meetings and the sustenance required. “This is good. You can spend the day in the boat, thinking about your next chapter. It’ll give you a chance to think like your reader.”
“See your reader will eventually go fishing as well – at least metaphorically, which means they can’t read your book through in one sitting. And, just like you as the author need to keep the momentum going between chapters as you write, you also need think about keeping the momentum going between the chapters for the reader. You do this buy using, just to keep with the fishing theme, a “bait and hook” technique. Or better…a Hook and Bait technique.”
Sally raised an eyebrow.
“Think of it like this – every chapter – every scene, really – has to start with a hook, something that will make the reader continue to read through the chapter. Think if it as something at stake, or something the character is risking in the scene. We talked about this over the past month as we talked about Scene tension and rhythm. But in essence, the magic of the character setting a goal and then the author threatening that goal through the conflict. This is what hooks the reader through the scene/chapter. However, when they get to the end of the chapter, the tension is over….and the reader has a choice. Put the book down or keep reading.”
“You want them to keep reading. You do this by baiting them on to the next scene by raising a new problem. Giving them a glimpse of trouble. Think of a soap opera for a moment. They end the scenes – even the happy ones – with a sense of, “Uh Oh! If Jane only knew, Or, wait until she realizes that Bob is a serial killer, Or Joe is still alive, Or that’s Rachel’s evil twin he’s kissing!” Something that whets our appetite for more. We talked about this a few weeks ago when we addressed Scene Rhythm. The Action scene must end with a disaster that contributes to the overall black moment, and causes the character to have to make a decision about their next course of action. We often call this the Y in the road for the character, but it’s also the key to keeping your reader turning pages.
“Again, think of the ending as Bait. How will you make the reader hunger for more? It’s not just about ending with a new problem, but it must be a compelling and preferably timely problem that needs to be addressed…well, RIGHT NOW by the reader.”
“I promised my husband if he let me read the Hunger Games this weekend, I’d go fishing with him,” Sally said, looking out the window as if she hoped for rain. “I stayed up for two days straight.”
“Exactly my point. Every chapter ended with something that baited us for the next one. It’s a great lesson in a page tuner.” I picked up my coffee. “Hence my third coffee of the day.”
She got up, taking her coffee, sighed. “I’m off to catch me a walleye.”
Truth: A great page turner not only hooks the reader at the beginning of the chapter, but baits them at the end with a compelling problem forces them to turn the page.
Dare: Look at your endings. Have you created a new problem for your character, or are all their problems solved? Don’t let your reader fall asleep!
Tomorrow, In Quick Skills, I’m going to post my Chapter Creation Checklist that gathers all these “to do’s” in one place.
Have a great writing day!
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