Sunday, 30 May 2010

Chapter Ends

I'll let you into a secret: I'm a bit obsessed by chapter ends. It's one of those little corners that seem to be left out of books on writing, but it's an important area for a writer to master. Think about it. Most people read late at night. They want to read a chapter before turning the light out. Your job is to get them to read another chapter, and another. And another, all the way until The End.

Watch soaps for masterclasses in how to get people tuning in the next day. There's always a sudden revelation, a question that must be answered or a dramatic situation to be resolved. When writing we might choose to be more subtle about it, but essentially the trick is the same. Make the reader read 'just a little bit' of the next chapter, and you've got them hooked.

Some writers do this naturally. JK Rowling is a good example, as I discovered when I read the first Harry Potter books aloud to my children. The chapters are long and it's hard to find a natural point at which to stop. Unless you want to read for an hour you end up breaking in the middle of paragraphs. Small wonder she gets kids reading; the books are compulsive page turners because there are no places to stop.

The worst thing is to end the chapter with them all going to bed and zzzzz-ing away - you might as well write 'put this book down now'. The exception is when you're writing a picture book, when parents are reading hoping their children will drop off at the end of it. So, if you want to write a page turner, pay attention to your chapter ends. Keep them reading.

My next event will be speaking at Corsham Library, Wiltshire with fellow New Romantics Lucy Diamond and Veronica Henry 3rd June at 7.30pm. Come and join us!

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