Every chapter should end with an “oh, shit!” moment. TV writers use this to keep fans coming back week after week. Seasoned novelists use it to keep readers turning the pages late into the night. These are the moments that get your heart pounding and put you on the edge of your couch. It’s a useful tool in making your book addictive, and also keeps you sticky in the minds of readers when they go to the book store to find something new to read. How do you create the same effect for your books?
Now, I know a lot of authors like to write at least the first draft without an outline, but in order to create these thrilling cliffhangers, it’s important to have a clear idea of where things are and where they’re headed—especially when writing character-driven fiction. Contrary to popular belief, outlining isn’t sketching out every single detail of the story. My writers’ group marvels all the time at how organized I am, and all I really do is jot down a couple of sentences.
For example, when writing new issues of Sandpaper Fidelity, I create four-issue arcs. Each issue in that arc is part of an overall change in the dynamics of the series, and each one ends on a mini-cliffhanger. I jot down the big moment for each issue, and while writing use that as my destination. In no time at all, I’ve written at least 1,000 words and have even intrigued myself.
Do you end your chapters with shockers? What’s your favorite way of building up to it?