Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Silver Lining with Flaws

There's definitely a difference between unfinished business at the end of a scene, chapter, or novel and a cliffhanger with no closure.

Life doesn't come complete with smooth edges. The events of our lives that mold and change us (and our characters as realistic and relatable) don't have neat endings. But life does come with balance. There are always new questions and answers forming in each event, bringing some closure, filling a void, or motivating changes - the silver lining. 

That's what we as writers need to do.

We all want to write an un-put-downable story, want the reader to ache at the thought of putting our books down. Leaving the reader with a sense of desire at the end of each scene and chapter is key, all with keeping it plausible - sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic. How do we create such a draw within a reader that makes them peek ahead into the next chapter even though it's 2:00 AM? What makes that step irresistible?

Each scene and chapter must end on a note of character intrigue; whether physical or emotional, it does not matter. Accomplishing this from the end of the first scene will slowly create that inner desire in a reader to know your character and care. This will influence a more natural forward movement of your story, creating escalating tension - almost like mini climaxes. Now, that doesn't mean dragging the reader through tiny information dumps, because that's just boring. Show (don't tell) your creation by actively sprinkling important elements about your plot and subplots, your story world and characters to close out scenes and chapters. 

Present the reader with tidbits of new information, peeling the flawed layers of your characters' and their world in interesting ways. Your readers will become part of the silver lining of your story. Your characters' desires will become theirs. The world you create will slowly become real.  

In Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl, they use a subtle way to end the initial chapter.

That's what actually happened this summer.
We'd seen the last of hamburger soup and peach pie and tire swings. But we'd seen the start of something, too.
The beginning of the End of Days.

Now, that could mean anything. Just anything. So I had to read ahead. I could give more examples, ones containing more drama, but I think you understand my meaning here.

Use the spices of your overall story at the end of each scene and chapter to flavor the silver lining, flaws and all. 


  1. Chapter endings are the hardest part of writing for me. Some people make them look so easy to write. I wish.

  2. I agree with Stina. Knowing when and where to stop is tricky. Sometimes you have to move a few paragraphs over into the next chapter (or vice versa) to get that perfect page-turning ending.

  3. Writing a thriller really helped me with this, but some stories don't have cliffhangers. You explained it perfectly tho and if we can just invest the reader in the character enough , they'll keep reading. Usually my CP tells me better places to cut them if mine tend to go on too far. ;)


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