Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Husband Married a Hooker, Part 3

We've talked about hooking readers with your title. We've covered the importance of hooking with your first line. Today, we're going to talk about the hooks that turn a good read into a page-turner--the hook at the end of the chapter.

Mary Higgins Clark made a fortune writing short spare chapters and ending each one with a hard hook. Her books are called fast reads because no one can put them down. A hook is a tantalizing bit of information that compels the reader to keep going. The best compliment my editor ever gave me was sharing that she always had to stop mid chapter when she was editing my work because if she got to the end of the chapter, she’d have to go on.

Here are a few types of "end of chapter" hooks:

Bridging hook- In this hook, you bridge from one chapter to the next by picking up shortly after you left off. I'm sorry I don't know what book this example is from, but I read it once and thought it was delicious. A couple is fighting at the end of the chapter about whether or not to keep a stray dog. Finally, the guy says, "Ok, he can stay tonight, but he's not sleeping on the foot of our bed."

The next chapter opens with: "The dog snored all night."

It makes me smile every time I think of it. In only a few words, you learn a lot about the relationship and you certainly learn who really had the last word in that argument!

Danger, Will Robinson—Ending chapters with physical peril may be a cheap trick, but it works almost every time it’s tried. I heard Jessica Andersen reading an excerpt from her award winning Nightkeeper series at a book signing once. She very cleverly read a chapter that ended with the character's car careening out of control and plunging off a cliff. Well, you have to buy the book and keep reading then, don't you?

If you have a fight scene or a dangerous situation, use it to pull your reader forward. Save the resolution for the next chapter, not the end of this one.

L’amour—The same principle for a fight scene works for a love scene. End the chapter with a kiss of promise and your reader will keep turning pages. Don’t end with the cigarette moment or worse, having the loving couple fall asleep. Something else needs to happen to keep the momentum of the story going or the reader will turn out the light and wake up her husband!

Make it matter—Anything that raises the stakes is a hook. If the bank is about to foreclose, the sheriff shows up on the doorstep at the end of the chapter with the notice. This is especially important at the end of the crucial third chapter.

Why the third chapter? Because when an editor or agent asks for a partial, they want the first three chapters and synopsis. Hit them with a hard hook at the end of 3 and they'll have to ask for the full manuscript.

Setting end of chapter hooks is the best way to write a compulsive read. Who really needs 8 hours of sleep anyway?

Here's an example of an end of chapter hook from my new release STROKE OF GENIUS. In this scene, Crispin Hawke shooes Grace Makepeace, whom he's just met, away from the sketch he keeps covered in his studio--the one of the woman who's been plaguing his dreams for months:

Anyone viewing the sketch would never believe Miss Grace Makepeace hadn’t sat for it personally.

And in splendid nakedness.


Now it's your turn. If you're a writer, do you have a favorite end of chapter hook from your WIP? Readers, what end of chapter hooks kept you up late?

PS. I'm also blogging at Seductive Musings and at Tracy Madison's Blog today. Giveaways at both places, of course! Please pop over and say hi!

12 comments:

Edie Ramer said...

Anyone viewing the sketch would never believe Miss Grace Makepeace hadn’t sat for it personally.

What a brilliant hook! I always try to write a hook at the end of scenes. My CP, Michelle Diener, whose historical will be out in 2011, amazes me with her great end-of-scene hooks. She makes me want to be better at it.

EmilyBryan said...

I remember your American Title excerpts, Edie. You're a good hooker too!

Katharine Ashe said...

Emily, What a fun exercise. The example you gave is marvelous--a definite Must Read Next Page hook! And a belated CONGRATS on your book release yesterday!!

I adore ending chapters with love-scene hooks, building up the sexual and romantic tension steadily approaching the end of the chapter and stopping short with the hero and heroine just on the verge of... something! Then I give that 'something' at the start of the next chapter, of course. :) One from my August release:

He glanced up. He shouldn't have. Her lips were parted and damp, the tender redness faded at the edges. Her eyes shone like lit coals, beckoning.

Only a man with a fool's destiny would resist the invitation.

EmilyBryan said...

Katharine--Lit coals. I love it.

You are coming back here to guest blog when your release hits the shelves in August, aren't you?

Sandy said...

You certainly hooked me, Emily.

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks, Sandy!

Louisa Cornell said...

Now I HAVE to know what happens in the book, Emily! Great hook!

Here's the end of the partial for The Deceit of Desire (aka The Manwhore book as my friends call it!)

A slight feminine hand shook his shoulder violently. He rolled over to see Sally Warren sitting up with the sheet pulled over her bountiful breasts. Bountiful? How did he know they were bountiful? He blinked a few times and sat up beside her. It wasn’t a dream. He’d really made love to Sally Warren last night.

The shrieking grew louder. Footsteps raced up and down outside the bedchamber door.
Sally’s eyes grew wide and bright.

Cain reached out to touch her face, because he simply must. “Sally.”

The sound of dozens of feet thundered down the corridor accompanied by more screams. Cain leapt from the bed and scrambled to find his breeches. He slid them on without looking for his smalls and shoved his feet into his evening shoes. A quick search and he suddenly realized his shirt still lay on the drawing room floor downstairs.

“Stay here,” he ordered Sally. “Don’t leave this room until I come for you.”

“But, Cain,” she started.

He leaned across the bed and kissed her hard. In three strides he crossed the room and snatched open the door. He closed it firmly behind him and walked into complete chaos.

And amidst it all stood a pale-faced maid shrieking hysterically, her hands red with blood.

“Murder!’ she cried. “The mistress has been murdered!”

Katharine Ashe said...

Oo, Louisa --

Cain reached out to touch her face, because he simply must. “Sally.”

--I love this! And a thrilling hook indeed.

Yes indeed, Emily. I'm so excited to guest here in August!

librarypat said...

Saw you at Seductive Musings.
What good examples of hooks. Now my To Buy list is longer. Sadly, it doesn't take much to hook me. I'll keep reading all night until I can force myself to stop...or my husband come out and says "Do you have any idea what time it is?"
I hadn't thought of end of chapter hooks, but come to think of it, I usually manage to make myself quit in the middle of a chapter. Probably because my "just until I finish this chapter" isn't working.

EmilyBryan said...

Louisa--Love that your hero is so protective of the heroine.

EmilyBryan said...

Katharine--Good! Can't wait to see your debut!

EmilyBryan said...

Pat--Our husbands must have been separated at birth. How many times have I heard, "Do you know what time it is?"