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How does one get better at the 'closing bits' of a chapter?

My biggest habit is always using the same kind of closing bit, typically with x or y character spending the last moments of their day thinking about tomorrow.
I feel like that approach would get boring though? Granted different characters concern themselves with different things at the end of their day. But I feel like it'd get formulaic pretty fast.

To be clear, I'm not talking about the end of the last scene in a chapter. I'm referring to the bit of narration that's (typically) used to foreshadow/grow intrigue for the next.
 

pmmg

Myth Weaver
Well...the simple answer is write and write more, gain experience, and become aware, and start addressing it as it comes up.

I find I am not really grasping what you are looking for here. Who ask how to i get better at closing a chapter, and then say your not talking about the last scene in the chapter...

When I am writing, my scenes just kind of come to their own natural stopping point, and so I stop there. Foreshadowing usually comes out in the dialog. If a character was to say, your going to be the death of me, they better watch out, cause that may in fact happen. If you finding that the story it hitting a familiar pattern, and you cant break it, start writing about characters that never sleep on a world with perpetual day. Then you wont be able to just end their day. They will have to stop for different reasons.
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
I'm with pmmg in not understanding exactly what you're looking for here. What you're talking about sounds like a hook, the final bit of a chapter - or scene - that makes the reader turn the page because they just have to know what happens next. And the best way to learn how to write hooks is to read books you like, tear them apart to figure out what it is about the hooks you like that make you ask questions and need answers at 3am, and then practice. A lot. There are also writing guides that will help you to learn. Pick two or three that appeal to you and dig in.

Then practice some more.

How do you get to the Met? Practice. We're writers. We do homework for a living.
 
In your story that element could work if you make it interesting enough, or if it’s integral to the story. It’s just writing it so the reader looks forward to x character thinking about tomorrow. Why does x character always think about the next day? Is what you should maybe ask yourself. Why does that matter to the story at large? If it’s largely irrelevant try an exercise where you write various alternate chapter endings and practice until you make some progress with avoiding using that as a crutch.
 
Well...the simple answer is write and write more, gain experience, and become aware, and start addressing it as it comes up.

I find I am not really grasping what you are looking for here. Who ask how to i get better at closing a chapter, and then say your not talking about the last scene in the chapter...

When I am writing, my scenes just kind of come to their own natural stopping point, and so I stop there. Foreshadowing usually comes out in the dialog. If a character was to say, your going to be the death of me, they better watch out, cause that may in fact happen. If you finding that the story it hitting a familiar pattern, and you cant break it, start writing about characters that never sleep on a world with perpetual day. Then you wont be able to just end their day. They will have to stop for different reasons.
I guess I articulated my question wrong, I thought about it some more after I posted the topic and found a way to be a little more exact. I feel like I need to get better at just 'ending' a scene, currently whenever I "finish" my scenes they kind of just...stop. Like when you encounter a red light on the highway. (In film, it would be like a cold cut/fade to black to the next scene) If that makes sense? And this is becoming especially noticeable at the end of the chapter, so I have to rely on a character bedding down for the day, or some other similar narration trick to 'finish out' the chapter. I'd like to learn how to end a chapter without relying on tricks like that.
 
My biggest habit is always using the same kind of closing bit, typically with x or y character spending the last moments of their day thinking about tomorrow.
I feel like that approach would get boring though? Granted different characters concern themselves with different things at the end of their day. But I feel like it'd get formulaic pretty fast.

To be clear, I'm not talking about the end of the last scene in a chapter. I'm referring to the bit of narration that's (typically) used to foreshadow/grow intrigue for the next.
I sometimes use dialogue for this - when the conversation ends so does the scene / chapter. That can be with the characters setting up the next scene (e.g agreeing to rob a bank, with the robbery the next scene), revealing some new insight on another character who then figures in the next scene, or making a closing statement that allows the next scene to be unrelated (like this snippet):

"He would say that, he doesn't want to lose our bet."
"What bet is that?"
"A wager of who would top their profession first."
For the first time in their conversation there was just a slight sign that the emperor had not anticipated the possibility of this response.
"I see congratulations are in order then. What was the stake?"
"The only one that matters, honour."
The emperor threw back his head and laughed, "oh to be young again."
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
Exactly how to do this is going to hang heavily on what is going on for that particular chapter, but I can make some suggestions that might stir a response or two.

In general, you're trying not to give the reader a reason to close the book. So, don't end with your character going to sleep (I have a tendency to employ that, then I have to kill it every time). There are lots of close cousins to this: everyone walks out, slams door. Or a toast. Or some pronouncement that closes (rather than initiates) the action. Not that these should *always* be avoided; rather, take them as an opportunity to look further. For example, everyone walks out, then they are set upon by marauders. End chapter. Don't give the reader a reason to close the book. They'll come up with plenty all on their own.

Raise a question. We humans don't much like to leave a question hanging, so try to end the chapter with one. This can be straightforward, having a character ask a question aloud. "What do we do now?" But it can also be that the group has come to a dead end and a powerful adversary is moments away. Nobody has to ask what do we do now; the reader will ask it for you.

Another, less direct approach, is to have your hero make an obviously bad choice. The hero gives an argument why to choose the left-hand door over the right-hand door. The reader knows there's a tiger behind the door. This is done in horror, probably too often. Don't go into the basement you fool!

That's enough to start the conversation anyway. Raise a question. Raise the tension. Create an expectation. If you have to tuck your character in for the night, see if you can have that happen somewhere other than end of chapter.

Oh, and make sure your next chapter follows through. Otherwise the reader will stop trusting you.
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
I guess I articulated my question wrong, I thought about it some more after I posted the topic and found a way to be a little more exact. I feel like I need to get better at just 'ending' a scene, currently whenever I "finish" my scenes they kind of just...stop. Like when you encounter a red light on the highway. (In film, it would be like a cold cut/fade to black to the next scene) If that makes sense? And this is becoming especially noticeable at the end of the chapter, so I have to rely on a character bedding down for the day, or some other similar narration trick to 'finish out' the chapter. I'd like to learn how to end a chapter without relying on tricks like that.
There is a rhythm and flow to writing that some writers 'hear,' and some don't. I'm one who does, and I write to the music, like the example below. This is exactly how I write, and I can hear when a chapter is approaching its end. At the same time it's also usually winding up its assigned job, the plot reason its in the book in the first place. Once the chapter has done its job, then the music crescendos and I get to work on sinking the hook to drag the reader onward into the next chapter.

Now, are you looking to keep the reader engaged? (Say yes.) Or are you looking for ways to shake up your routine? One is easy. One is hard. Which is which can depend on the writer.

29389077_1490223734420257_2844638096627073024_n.jpg
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
And so as to not glut the thread, here's an example of an epilogue from our third book. It has a hook, but it's a soft hook. meaning I want the reader to come back, but not to leave feeling unfulfilled or frustrated. The best way to get out of the habit of ending all your chapters with bedtime is to stop ending your chapters at bedtime. I know it's a simplistic answer, but that's pretty much it. Only you can figure out how, because only you can figure out the process that works for you. Read the books you love. Make notes. What do you like and why do you like it? Once you've got a good grasp of the techniques you want to use, use them. Over and over. Writing is one of those skills that can only be learned by doing. You've got this.

Now get back to work.

---

Winter sat outside of Donovan’s office, waiting patiently and ignoring the glances from his assistant. He would see her. His curiosity would get the better of him, eventually.

As if summoned, the Shark King emerged from his spacious office with a smile. “Miss Mulcahy. I admit, this is unexpected. Will you please come in?”

She gave him a bright smile to match his and stood, hitching her bag onto her shoulder. “Thank you for seeing me, Donovan. I appreciate it. I think it’s important that we talk.” She moved past him into his office.

He followed her inside and closed the door. “To be honest, I don’t see what there is to talk about. Your Alerich made it very clear where you and he stand.”

She nodded and reached into her bag, pulling out her paintball pistol. “He did.” She leveled it at Donovan’s desk and fired. A sickly yellow splat exploded against the gleaming mahogany and began to spread, eating away at the wood with alarming speed.

Donovan cried out with panic and anger, rows of shark teeth flashing white. “Miss Mulcahy!”

“Yes?” She glanced at him and aimed for one of the tall filing cabinets. A twitch of her finger and it began to sag as wood and papers were eaten away.

“What are you doing?” His voice pitched high with alarm.

Winter leveled the pistol at Donovan, halting his advance with a sudden, icy glare. He threw his hands up in a futile gesture of defense. “I’m making a point. You stepped out of line, Donovan. If you threaten me and mine again, they won’t find enough of you to bury. Am I clear?”

He began to lower his hands. “You wouldn’t dare. It’s not in you.”

She raised the paint pistol just a little higher, moving his handsome face into her sights. “I’m not alone anymore, Donovan. I have a family to protect. Children. Don’t push me or I’ll explore just exactly what I’m capable of, and I’ll walk over your body to do it.”

He took a step back, eyes wide.

Winter kept the pistol steady. “Then we understand each other. Thank you for your time. You might want to try and do something about that before the potion goes through the floor.” She stepped back and let herself out, leaving the Shark King to salvage what he could.
 
That's enough to start the conversation anyway. Raise a question. Raise the tension. Create an expectation. If you have to tuck your character in for the night, see if you can have that happen somewhere other than end of chapter.

Oh, and make sure your next chapter follows through. Otherwise the reader will stop trusting you.
Pretty much what I always do, with the proviso that it depends on where the chapter falls in the story. Opening chapters have different dynamics to middle and end chapters. If I can force a reader, desperate for sleep, to start yet another chapter at 2.00 a.m. (while cursing my name) then I know I have succeeded.
 

Penpilot

Staff
Article Team
When you say chapter, do you use that interchangeably with scene? A chapter can be an arbitrary collection of scenes or just one scene. For me, I generally use one scene as one chapter.

With that said, I use scene sequel format when designing my scenes. Another way to label it is Action scene and Reaction scene.

An action scene has a goal, eg, destroy the enemy base with a small squadon of space fighters, and an obstacle to over come to achieve that goal, eg, 5 enemy space fighter squadrons protecting that base. At the end of an action scene, there can be 4 possible outcomes. Success, Success but..., Failure, and Failure and...

Straight up success is reserved for the end of the story. The other three choices lead to more story, and if done well, can help draw the reader into reading further. Success but... would be yes they destroyed the base, but now they're surrounded and outnumbered by an enemy fleet with hundreds more fighters. Failure and... could be fail to the destroy the base and now they're surrounded by an enemy fleet. Failure is just straight failure.

Obviously, it all comes down to execution, so for an action scene, you may want to set up the situation where it's like OMG, how the hell are they going to get out of this?

A reaction scene comes after an Action scene, and as the name implies, it's a reaction to what happened in the action scene before. The reaction scene is composed of four things. An emotional reaction to what happened in the action scene. Logical choices of what to do next. Consequences of each logical choice available, and the choice.

In some cases the middle two elements can be skipped because sometimes there's only one obvious choice. Come face to face with a bear. Oh crap! Run!. You don't always need to deliberate.

To follow up the attack the enemy base example, the emotional reaction may be crap, or blame Bob for messing up. Then you can run through the choices of what to do next, surrender, fight, beat the crap out of Bob, and then you make the choice, the main character is going to take on the enemy flagship by themselves while everyone else makes a run for it... except Bob. Bob has to walk home.

Somewhat akin to an action scene, if done well, the end of a reaction scene will have a choice that makes the reader wonder how the hell are they going to pull that off. Which leads into the next action scene, with the choice as the goal for that scene.

Any way, not sure if this the what you were looking for, but here it is. Take it or toss it.
 

Karlin

Troubadour
You can try what the Chinese Classics do.

"The result was: A foot kicked out and a fierce mountain tiger was startled; a fist struck out and a dragon of the sea met a sorry plight. A peaceful garden was instantly changed into a minor battlefield. What came of the ruffians’ scheme to upset Sagacious? Read our next chapter if you would know."

Nai'an, Shi; Luo Guanzhong; Sidney Shapiro. The Outlaws of the Marsh (p. 79). Kindle Edition.

or this:

"We do not know how many more days it will take them to reach the Western Heaven; let’s listen to the explanation in the next chapter."

The Journey to the West: Volume IV . The University of Chicago Press. Kindle Edition.

or: just stop. If the story is good, the reader will want to know what happens next in any case.
 

pmmg

Myth Weaver
I guess I articulated my question wrong, I thought about it some more after I posted the topic and found a way to be a little more exact. I feel like I need to get better at just 'ending' a scene, currently whenever I "finish" my scenes they kind of just...stop. Like when you encounter a red light on the highway. (In film, it would be like a cold cut/fade to black to the next scene) If that makes sense? And this is becoming especially noticeable at the end of the chapter, so I have to rely on a character bedding down for the day, or some other similar narration trick to 'finish out' the chapter. I'd like to learn how to end a chapter without relying on tricks like that.

As a different tact, what is wrong with letting it end abruptly, like they came to red a light? And would it be possible to see an example of what you are speaking of?
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
You can try what the Chinese Classics do.

"The result was: A foot kicked out and a fierce mountain tiger was startled; a fist struck out and a dragon of the sea met a sorry plight. A peaceful garden was instantly changed into a minor battlefield. What came of the ruffians’ scheme to upset Sagacious? Read our next chapter if you would know."

Nai'an, Shi; Luo Guanzhong; Sidney Shapiro. The Outlaws of the Marsh (p. 79). Kindle Edition.

or this:

"We do not know how many more days it will take them to reach the Western Heaven; let’s listen to the explanation in the next chapter."

The Journey to the West: Volume IV . The University of Chicago Press. Kindle Edition.

or: just stop. If the story is good, the reader will want to know what happens next in any case.
These are the best hooks ever. :D Good examples!
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
As a different tact, what is wrong with letting it end abruptly, like they came to red a light? And would it be possible to see an example of what you are speaking of?
Seconding this. We have a chapter planned in our current WIP that ends mid-word. Language is a lovely toy. Don't be afraid to play with it.
 

TWErvin2

Auror
Take a look at some of your favorite books by your favorite authors, especially in the genre you're writing.

See how they ended the chapters (or scenes). Note the variety, when and how they used such endings. What effect it had upon you as a reader, and what you suspect the intended effect was (possibly they were the same).

Then work to apply it to your own writing style and work in progress.
Sometimes it takes a little pre-planning to structure a chapter. But often it will come more naturally, especially when you have a number of ending techniques in your skill bag to use.
 
You can try what the Chinese Classics do.

"The result was: A foot kicked out and a fierce mountain tiger was startled; a fist struck out and a dragon of the sea met a sorry plight. A peaceful garden was instantly changed into a minor battlefield. What came of the ruffians’ scheme to upset Sagacious? Read our next chapter if you would know."

Nai'an, Shi; Luo Guanzhong; Sidney Shapiro. The Outlaws of the Marsh (p. 79). Kindle Edition.

or this:

"We do not know how many more days it will take them to reach the Western Heaven; let’s listen to the explanation in the next chapter."

The Journey to the West: Volume IV . The University of Chicago Press. Kindle Edition.

or: just stop. If the story is good, the reader will want to know what happens next in any case.
When were these written?
 
As a different tact, what is wrong with letting it end abruptly, like they came to red a light? And would it be possible to see an example of what you are speaking of?
It depends on the chapter, some chapters feel like they did their job and can just 'stop' dead like that (like a straight jump cut in a film) but others feel like two-part ers that need some kind of 'bait' at the end. I know relying on the bait too much can get formulaic though if you do it the same way every time.
Either way I'll finish chapter 1 tonight and post it for feedback. I think it's about time I stopped procrastinating chapter 2.
 

pmmg

Myth Weaver
Is this discussion about how to close chapters? or scenes? How many of these would be present in the chapter 1?
 
Is this discussion about how to close chapters? or scenes? How many of these would be present in the chapter 1?
I'd suggest the same principles apply to scenes. My chapters frequently involve scenes from different POVs and I always (if only in a minor way) leave the reader with questions about where it's all going, thus building anticipation - whether scene or chapter ending. This is particularly important as the pace ratchets up towards the climax.
 
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