This week has been a week of cliff hangers if you watched Eastenders and their thirty year anniversary celebrations. Each live episode ended on a point in the plot which left the viewer needing to tune in to the next programme to find out what happened....or some viewers anyway! This got me thinking about what persuades our readers to keep turning the pages and come back for more.
What does make the difference between a story that we can't put down and one that we can read at a leisurely pace or even fail to finish? I would suggest a few of the following:
- real, credible characters with whom I can fully empathise, their flaws as well as their merits, especially a main character I can really care about
- a gripping plot that presents me with lots of questions that need answering, keeping me hooked from the very first page
- language that does not hinder the pace of the writing but adds to the flow of the story
- vocabulary choices that enhance the images of the story that I am forming in my head
- chapter endings that make me not want to wait to pick up the book again.
For me, chapter endings with hooks or cliff hangers are vital to make the reader come back for more. It may be said that script writers of soaps do this to excess, but we do need to think about leaving an unanswered question at the end of chapters or instalments. Readers will then start to form possible answers in their heads before returning to the story to see whether they had predicted correctly. This week, I came across an excellent post on How To Write Chapter Endings That Make Readers Want to Turn the Page on Anne R Allen's blog, October 12th 2014. She invites her readers to match the endings of the first chapters to some book titles from well known authors. This is followed by an excerpt from Jessica Bell's book which gives advice on ending chapters.
My only experience of writing stories as short serials has been with Creative Frontiers. 'I Want Gets Nothing' was posted over five days in November and this week my three part crime story, 'Stalking Diana' was published. You can read each part here:
I tried to end each instalment with something to bring the reader back the next day. I was pleased that some of the comments suggested that readers did want to come back and find out what happened:
Is Diana who I think she is? I’ll just have to keep reading …(Part 1)
This is getting much darker. No idea how it will end. (Part 2)
A really good end to this.... (Part 3- END)
How do you ensure that your readers keep reading? Have you any tips for good chapter endings? I'd love it if you left a comment. Thanks. :-)
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