Chapter Endings and Cliffhangers

· drafting

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.