Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hooks: End of Chapter

For this final segment on Hooks, I’d like to talk about the end of the first chapter. Your reader liked your first line enough to keep reading. She liked the end of the first page and kept reading. And now she’s at the end of the first chapter. Will she keep reading? Or will she shut the light off and go to bed? As a reader, how many times did you tell yourself you’d read just until the end of the chapter and then you’d shut the light off, but when you got there, something enticed you to read on? That enticement is the hook. It’s something the writer shows or hints at that puts a question in your mind. And you feel compelled to turn the page because you just want to see what will happen.

Following are some examples of good hooks:

1. Cinderella Christmas by Shelley Galloway, Harlequin American Romance:

A man waves Brooke Anne into the conference room when she pauses at the door with her cleaning cart. She tries to ignore the ‘suit’ while she cleans. Suddenly he slams down the phone, drops his head in his hands and says he needs a dance partner for the next night and his date has to know how to ballroom dance. Brooke Anne admits she knows how to waltz, rhumba, etc.

Last lines of Chapter One:
He tilted his head. Narrowed his eyes. All at once he seemed to be seeing someone behind the Jovial Janitor sweatshirt. “You may be right about that.”

The Hook: Can she pull it off? Will anyone recognize her?

2. A Soldier’s Reunion (Wings of Refuge ) by Cheryl Wyatt, Love Inspired:

A major bridge collapsed causing vehicles and people to fall into the river and leaving others stranded. Nolan, a pararescue jumper, notices a woman herding some children to safety. She looks like the high school sweetheart he abandoned years ago. He jogs up behind her and listens. It sounds like her…

Last lines of Chapter One:
“How’s it going over here?” Nolan asked.
The woman jerked at his voice. Had to be her. Only one way to be sure. Nolan spoke their secret code.

The Hook: What’s the code? Will she acknowledge him?

3. The Gunslinger’s Untamed Bride by Stacey Kayne, Harlequin Historical Western:

Businesswoman Lily is checking an employee list from her newest acquisition, a lumber camp. One name jumps out at her, that of Juniper Barns, her father’s killer. She decides to visit the lumber camp and avenge her father’s death. At the camp, someone points out the deputy. She heads into the middle of the functioning camp where she’s surrounded by working men.

Last Lines of Chapter One:
She steps around a pile of logs, seemingly unnoticed by the men milling about like work ants. Where had the deputy gone off to?
“Lady! Heads up!”
Lily turned toward the sharp call, just as something struck the side of her head. In a flash of pain and bright light, the world went dark.

The Hook: Will she remember why she’s there? Was it an accident?

4. Broken Lullaby by Pamela Tracy Love Inspired Suspense:

After 3 yrs of being on the run from her mob family, Mary and her son, Justin, are back home where she’s inherited a used car lot. The office building is dilapidated. Broken windows, sloping floors, etc. Mary whispers about making mistakes into the empty room and hears a moan.

Last lines of Chapter One:
At first, Mary thought the prone figure wrapped in an aged blanket surrounded by years of grime and neglect was dead. Then, it rolled over and sat up. Mary screamed.

The Hook: Who’s wrapped in the blanket? And why?

5. The Perfect Couple (The Last Stand) by Brenda Novak, Mira Romantic Suspense:

Tiffany is driving to a remote location to dump the body of her husband’s latest ‘pet’. She hears thumping in the trunk and realizes 14 year old ‘Rover’ is still alive. She phones hubby for instructions. Angry at being interrupted, he tells her to deal with it or else. She balks at first then remembers how much he loves her. He’s spent time and money to tattoo his name all over her body. She’ll do anything for him. (I’m thoroughly creeped out by this time.) Tiffany pulls over to the side of the road and opens the trunk. Black, blue and bloodied, ‘Rover’ pushes past her and runs away crying for help.

The last lines of Chapter One:
She had to get out of sight before Rover attracted someone’s attention. And then she had to think of a way to break the news to Colin.

The Hook: What will Colin do to her? Who are these people? Will they get caught?

All these chapter ending hooks leave questions in the minds of the reader. They don’t all end in the middle of a scene where you’ll get your answer in the first few lines of the next chapter. Some, like the Cinderella story, will develop over the course of the next day as she dresses up for the ball. Or like in The Perfect Couple where you hope they’ll get caught soon but you know they probably won’t until the end of the book. But it doesn’t matter, because you’re interested enough in the story to read the next chapter.

You need a hook at the end of every chapter. If you don’t implant more questions into the mind of your reader, they’ll probably put the book down and nod off to sleep or walk away. If you want readers to say, “I couldn’t put it down until the end,” then you need to keep them interested. Just enough to hook ‘em.

Have you ever kept reading chapter after chapter to the book’s conclusion and lost all track of time? Which authors hook you? Or do you think it’s unfair of a writer to use these tactics to keep readers interested when they should be getting a good night’s sleep?


Yunaleska said...

Oh I think hooks are totally fair! I try to use them in every chapter (or most chapters). Its something which I'm a little bit stronger in (I think) than other areas of writing. Too many authors to name do that!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Good morning, Yuna. It's funny you say that because when I was writing the post, I wanted to give an example of a passive chapter ending that didn't encourage you to read on. Of course, I wouldn't pick an actual book to do that so I went to my own writing. And you know, even in the first book I ever wrote (which I consider boring) I couldn't find a chapter ending without hooks.
Go figure.

Yes, many authors have this down pat as well.

Thanks for joining us.

Yunaleska said...

I pop in when I can :) Not a romance genre girl, not really, so I won't always comment on posts.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Yuna, you do fine. We appreciate you coming to visit whenever you can. Thanks for the support.

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Hook endings are fabulous, keep the interest going, and yes, keep my up later at night, but I also think that frankly, they're necessary. I'm not one to give up on a book just because it didn't make me instantly rush into the next chapter. I can appreciate a leisurely read now and then, and have finished a few books I probably shouldn't have stuck with if I'd held to Janet's approach. That being said, a book I'm reading right now ended chapters and chapter sections with far too many resolutions, goings to bed, or sassy comments before sex (and I know the sex isn't waiting for me in the next chapter). I still keep going, because I'd like to finish it and see how everything falls out, but it's been a few days since I picked it up, what with one thing and another, and I honestly cannot remember what the last thing I read was, nor what, if anything, the conflict at that point was. I just know it was very likely one of several discreet exits into a wooded glen, a bedroom at midday, or right there in front of the fire, and they all run together. I'll finish the book in time, but without good hooks to propel me forward (and the author has great hooks sometimes.. just not all the time), and with the same flat hook over and over, I don't have anything sticking in my head telling me to go back. It's not a good thing when you can't remember what was going on in a book, because all that comes to mind is various mild, atmospheric scenes.

One author on my shelf with excellent hooks, who also keeps me going to exclusion of the time of day, is Jacqueline Carey. Rereading her first book again this spring, I could take the time to really look at technique and pacing, and appreciated how her short-ish chapters draw you from one to another with a good ending, and a strong new beginning line. That one chapter ends and another just starts below it on the same page, also helps for forcing you to see what's next and deciding, 'well, maybe just a little longer."

Suse said...

Hi Anita, quite often I tell my husband I'll be to bed as soon as I finish this chapter. Yeah, like he's never heard that one before.

I'm with Yuna that hooks are fair. I believe we as writers should provide an entertaining can't-put-down story for our readers. Can I do that yet? It's something I'm still working on.

As I commented in Helena's blog earlier this week, I'm reading Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon. She makes an interesting point about hooks which she refers to as power positions: which include "firsts" and "lasts":
* first and last words
* first and last sentences
* first and last paragraphs (in sections or chapters)
* first and last pages (in chapters, short stories, and novels)
* first and last chapters (in novels)

I'd never thought about hooks in all these different places in a story, but it makes sense once I do think about it. I plan to keep these in mind as I revise my stories.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Anita,
Great post! I love your examples and I want to know what Nolan's secret code is!

I think hooks are important in every book. And not just in the opening lines. I try to create hooks throughout my stories. I'm not sure I always succeed, but it's something to strive for.


Anita Mae Draper said...

Hayley, it sounds like you like a nice relaxing read sometime where you're not 'pressured' into reading it all in the space of a few hours.

I actually like that too. Just not all the time. :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Wow, Suse, thanks. That's good info.

And yeah, my hubby just rolls his eyes when I say that, too. Heh

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Jana, Nolan's secret code is that he calls Amanda, 'Manda Panda', which she responds to.

Yes, I find that I naturally gravitate to adding hooks in my work.

PamelaTracy said...

Thanks so much for including Broken Lullaby as a book with a nice hook at the end. You know, from the time I started writing I studied chapter endings. Someone once told me to write short chapters, but my chapters always grow, so I had to learn to figure out a good chapter end. I pretty much believe you need them for scene endings, too.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Pamela, I agree. Hooks can be added in scene endings as well to keep the reader interested.

Chapter length is another of those topics writers can't agree on. One scene per chapter? One POV per chapter? I read where one author published a one page chapter because that was the complete scene. Now that's wierd to me. I guess I go for the long chapters as well.

Thanks for stopping by, Pamela and keep up the great writing.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Great examples, Anita! I'm honored (and floored!) that my book is among them.

This is a great article and it makes me want to go read all of those books!

I love reading great hooks as much as I love the challenge of writing them.

There are so many authors who do this well. Mary Connealy is one too.

Hugs all...and I would say, "Happy Hooking" but that would sound really bad. LOLOL!


Cheryl Wyatt said...

Jana...LOL! About the secret code...

Hope you'll read the book to find out. LOLOL.



Cheryl Wyatt said...

Welll PTHHHH! LOL! I see that Anita already told ya. I didn't read down far enough.