Ever since college, I've always loved writing the end of things. Back then, it was usually the conclusion to whatever twelve-page paper assignment I had due. It the most satisfying part to write, not only because it meant I was finished with the essay, but because I liked to end them with a bang. Chapter endings give me that same sort of satisfaction as a writer.
Sometimes, I drop story hints and reveals. Other times, I like to stop on an emotional note, either a high or a low. But my favorite chapter endings are the ones that end with a cliffhanger! (Cue the evil laughter that comes with making readers want to turn another page immediately.)
We talked about first lines before, about how they hook in readers and give hints to the world a writer is creating. Last chapter lines serve a similar purpose, but in this case, the hook can be emotional or atmospheric. Like this line from a secret chapter in Wolves:
Meanwhile, I turn back to the trees. The woods are waiting.
This one is very atmospheric. Sena, the main character, has business in the woods and even though I can't tell you what that business is (spoiler alert), you can tell from this line that the woods in the story are very ominous. Even though the splinter wood is just a setting, it's almost its own character since the trees the ones waiting for Sena. Creepy!Here's another example. This time, the hook is that I stopped the chapter in the middle of the action:
Then the street explodes into fire and smoke. But we are already running.
Dun dun duuuuuun. Things are exploding and people are fleeing! Exciting cliffhangers always make it easy to turn the page to find out what happens next. (Though in this case, you'll have to wait for the book to find out the next part. 😅) But I don't use cliffhangers like this all the time. As a writer, my goal isn't to exhaust readers, but rather keep them engaged in lots of different ways. Hence the very different chapter endings.
If you're writing something right now, try and play with your chapter endings. What's your hook? Or, if you're in the midst of reading, do you have a favorite type of chapter ending? Are you a cliffhanger fan or not at all? You can reply directly to this email or come chat with me over on Twitter or Instagram. I'm always excited to talk about the dramatics of books and writing!
A version of this story appeared in Wolves and Wonder, my monthly newsletter that includes no nonsense writing advice along with book updates and sci-fi inspiration. Get it in your inbox; you’ll love it.