Annie On Writing

July 14, 2010


This article first appeared over at Write Anything.

Jack Bauer
Jack has no trouble with HWM….

Whether you write short or flash fiction, novellas or novels, there is a basic understanding that if your plot doesn’t carry the reader away, then the audience will lose interest and that story is put done or binned. Additionally, if your ending withers or fizzes out, your audience will be left feeling cheated or disappointed. For those writing longer pieces of text, its extremely important for ‘page turnability’ for the ends of chapters to finish with a bang. Why? You would know yourself. You say to yourself, “I’ll turn out my light at the end of this chapter.” and yet with some books you find its 3 am and you are still reading.

With the plethora of books being published every year, readers are becoming more discerning, making the decision to put books down and not to finish them. An author needs to capture the in the bookstore while they are flicking through the pages – or in the case of shorter stories or on line – before they click away. Although there are the excuses of life getting in the way and general “busyness”, unless the ‘turnability’ of the page is high, you will lose your reader. This leaves the quandary of how to achieve this.

Heart Wrenching Moments and the Big Bang

Earlier this year, I wrote a little about HWM – a technique to inject life and action back into a floundering plot line. These scenes leave the audience gasping and desperate to continue. Endings which have a big bang are those with the enormous twists, or information coming from way left field which completely change the readers perspective of the events.

However, its not feasable to throw in car wrecks, terrorist attacks, assassinations and characters brought back to life through some miracle at the end of every chapter (though Jack Bauer seems to manage it and still get ratings) Fortunately, one does not need to add a dozen HWMs to hook in the audience, but rather a journey of spikes building and plunging the plot along and breaking the natural chapters at transition points along the way. Page turnability can be achieved though some of these techniques:

• A turning point (where something or someone is about to change)

• A jump in time or place

• A shift in point of view

• A settling of action or time of peace within the emotions

• A sudden build-up of action

What if your story just isn’t the type for the big loud, outrageous scenes? Chapter breaks can also be used to settle the energies and be quieter, still giving your audience a compelling reason to continue reading. A quieter bang comes about with a stolen piece of information, a hint, a whiff of treason, espionage, treachery or deceit .

Regardless of how you end your story or chapters, they need to be compelling, hooking the reader into your plotline, ensuring that they empathise or have an emotional response to the characters and the scenes they move about in.

How do you like to end your chapters or stories?

Photo courtesy via Wikipedia

( and yes – I’ve always wanted a reason to post a photo of Kiefer Sutherland here. ….and now I have…… sorry?  what was the question? )


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