Cheryl's last blog on writing gripping first chapters was very popular with my readers. This one, undoubtedly, will be, too.
Creating a Gripping First Chapter: Part 2 - Chapter Hooks
©2007 Cheryl Kaye Tardif
In fiction, once you've grabbed the reader's attention and reeled them in, you must keep them engaged. You don't want them to put your book down. You want them to turn the next page. Since the end of a chapter often symbolizes a 'stop' to many readers, you want to give them a reason to start reading the next chapter. To accomplish this, consider using Chapter Hooks at the end of each chapter.
A chapter hook is simply a method of ending a chapter on a “cliffhanger”. Most readers are tempted to dog-ear or bookmark and put down a book when they’ve finished a chapter. You don’t want them to do this. You want them to feel compelled to turn the page and start reading the next chapter. One of the easiest ways is to use a chapter hook. You basically end the chapter with a line of text that foreshadows an event.
She upended the envelope and a small box dropped into her hand. She grinned at the delivery man. “It’s my birthday.”
“The box says Bella Jewelers,” the man said. “Happy birthday.”
She closed the door, her heart skipping a beat as she stared at the small box in her hand. Had Roger sent her the bracelet she’d told him about?
She giggled, then opened the box. When she peeled off a square of cotton, she let out a startled gasp. Then, staring at the gift, she did something she didn’t expect.
When the author leaves the chapter with this hook, we just have to find out what’s in that box. So we turn the page and read the next chapter.
The box sat on the table, a pool of blood oozing from one corner.
“This can’t be happening,” she whispered.
She peeked again, this time holding her breath. And there it was. A bloody finger. A small, bloody finger.
Many of the current bestselling authors use this technique in their work. Some use it at the end of nearly every chapter. The key is to vary the hooks. Make sure that some are action sequences, some are dialogue, some are narrative.
Think of one-liner hooks—sentences you could use at the end of a chapter.
My mother sat down at the table and calmly told me how my sister died.
“Don’t open that!” Frank snapped.
When Justin turned the corner, he came face-to-face with the last person he expected to see.
Dr. Morgan frowned and pointed to the x-ray. “What the heck is that?”
There were secrets in my family. And one of them has haunted me for years.
Using chapter hooks will make your book more interesting to the reader. And more importantly, it will keep them reading.
Cheryl Kaye Tardif is a bestselling author who lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Her novels feature varying elements of suspense, from light mystery in Whale Song to her gripping techno-thriller The River to her paranormal thriller Divine Intervention. Her latest releases are Skeletons in the Closet & Other Creepy Stories and her award winning novelette Remote Control. Cheryl has also branched out into romance, under the pen name Cherish D'Angelo, and Cherish's debut romantic suspense Lancelot's Lady will be releasing on September 27th, 2010. http://www.cherylktardif.com/ and http://www.cherishdangelo.com/
Watch for my upcoming review of Cheryl's "Whale Song" in my October PopSyndicate KidLit 101 column. http://popsyndicate.com/books/book-interviews/151-kid-lit-101
Eileen Schuh,Canadian writer