Leaving them Asking for More: Hook Endings -- Priscilla Kissinger
Hook your reader. If you’ve ever read a how-to book, or listened to a presentation on writing, I’m sure you’ve heard those words of advice.
Hook the reader: in the beginning and at the end of every chapter. Later on in the month, Trish Milburn will share pearls of wisdom about opening lines and how to reel in the reader. Today, I’ll share with you my thoughts about leaving the reader wanting more.
Have you ever read a book where, as you reach the end of the chapter, you find your heroine breathing a sigh of contentment as she climbs under the covers (alone), ready for a good night’s sleep (hence, she’s going to bed, alone; meaning, no hunky hero nearby ready to ravish her or to be ravished). The heroine lays her head on her pillow, closes her eyes and drifts off to sleep. Seconds later, you, the reader, close your book, turn off the light, and join her. The perfect chapter ending, right?
You don’t want someone to put your book down. You want readers so engrossed in your character’s story that they have to keep reading, have to know what happens next. For your contest entry, especially one the length of the GH, your entry may wind up stopping at the end of a scene, in the middle of a chapter. In this situation, some writers make minor changes in order to have that hook ending.
Some of my Posse sisters have volunteered their winning or finalist entry hook endings as examples.
From Saving Grace, by Norah Wilson
Jumping up, she seized the handle of the satchel and dragged it closer to the edge of the bed. A tug of the zipper, a wrench of the wrists and the bag lay open.
Grace leapt back. Holy cow! Guess she hadn’t remembered everything she’d packed.
His name emerged as a croak, probably because of the fear making her tongue cleave to the roof of her mouth. She swallowed, then walked carefully out of the bedroom to the head of the stairs. She called Ray’s name again, louder this time. He materialized below a second later.
“What is it?” he asked, his expression politely inquiring.
“I think you’d better come up here and take a look.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but I really want to know what’s in Grace’s bag. Notice the details that show us Grace’s anxiety and pull the reader in: fear making her tongue cleave to the roof of her mouth, her voice a mere croak, she tugs the zipper and her wrists wrench. And then, the big question at the end that has the reader turning the page to find out what Grace found in her bag.
From Diane Perkins, who said she often altered her entries from the “whole book” version when her entry ended at the completion of a scene instead of a chapter:
The sound triggered memories. Voices of dying men assaulted his ears. His knees trembled, and he feared them buckling underneath him. The dream of
assailed his waking moments. With it came the terror that had only been too real. Waterloo
Clamping down on his panic, he rushed into his bedchamber and pulled fresh stockings from the chest. He shrugged into his coat, and retrieved his boots from the parlor. Without a word, for he could not guarantee his words would be coherent, he rushed out of the apartment, slamming the door behind him.
Me? I’d be following this guy out the door. Intrigued by the panic rising inside of him, needing to know more about the memories the sound triggered. There are hidden pains deep inside him and I want to know about them.
From Trish Milburn, the last paragraph of Ch. 1 and 2 from Coven, winner of the 2007 YA GH:
She had to learn to control her emotions and powers better or she’d have to leave him behind, him and the belief in soul-deep love he brought to life in her.
“Excuse me.” She headed for the bathroom. Everyone would think it was to wash the ice cream out of her hair or to cry. They wouldn’t have any idea it was to prevent herself from killing one of their classmates.
Gulp. Um, “killing one of her classmates”? This girl is practicing some pretty heavy will power if she can walk away from this situation. I’m following her anywhere ‘cuz I want to see what she’s up to next.
From Mary Fecter, the end of Ch. 1 from Beneath the Surface, 2007 finalist:
He was a free man now. She had no hold over him.
But she couldn’t say he no longer had a hold over her.
She’s still in love with him, or at least, emotionally tied to this man. I’m thinking she wants to keep this to herself. Will she be able to? How will it effect her life or what she does next? I want to know, so I’m turning the page to find out.
From Cradle of Love, my 2003 finalist entry:
Dinner was going to be an interesting affair. Raquel was less than pleased about him joining them. Tony grinned, ignoring the prick of guilt for enjoying the opportunity to make her squirm a bit. It was high time the tables were turned.
Hopefully, you’re interested in sitting down to dinner with Tony and Raquel, anxious to see what trouble he stirs up.
The bottom line is this: you want to leave the judges clamoring for more. More about your characters. More questions about their conflict. More cravings to see the romance flourish and flounder. More, more, more.
Take a look at your chapter endings. You may even need to add a line or two to your contest entry. It’s okay to do that. Nothing drastic, mind you. Just the little zinger that has the reader giving you the 9 your entry deserves.
Have you considered your entry ending? Have you made any changes? Is there a compelling hook ending you’ve read recently and want to share? Let’s hear ‘em!