by Pam Zollman
When most readers reach the middle of a chapter, they start counting the pages to see how many are left. They do this to find a good stopping point. The problem is that sometimes, if the book is slow, the reader will not pick up your book again and you’ve lost him. The trick to keeping him turning pages and keep your story fast-paced is to use scenes and sequels to create hooks at the beginning and end of chapters.
Your story should start with some sort of hook to make the reader want to continue. Most often action is used to sweep the reader along. After using the scene-sequel pattern, you come to the end of the chapter and must decide where to stop.
Chapter Endings: If at all possible, try to end each chapter with a cliff-hanger to force the reader to turn the page. The cliff-hangers can vary in intensity, but should make the reader curious enough to find out what happens next. The best way to do this is to use one of the following:
1) Disaster – End the chapter at the end of the scene with the point-of-view character being hit with the disaster. The reader will want to turn the page to see if the character survives it and what happens next.
2) Dilemma – End the chapter in the middle of the sequel with the point-of-view character having to decide what to do. His choices aren’t great, but he has to do something! What will he do? The reader must turn the page to find out.
3) Decision – End the chapter at the end of the sequel with the character having made up his mind what he will do. He’s picked the best of his bad options, and the reader will turn the page to see if the decision was a good one or not. Plus, now the point-of-view character has a new goal, and the reader will want to read on to see if he can achieve this one.
Ending a chapter with Goal, Conflict, or Reaction are weaker choices. However, even these can be very effective with the right plot situation.
Chapter Middles: End chapter 1 with either Disaster, Dilemma, or Decision, so that chapter 2 starts out in the middle of the scene-sequel cycle. By the time the reader reaches the middle of the chapter and starts counting pages, you’ve started the scene-sequel cycle all over again.
Chapter Beginnings: Whichever part of the scene-sequel cycle you ended the previous chapter with, you start the next chapter with the next part of the cycle.
Next time we'll discuss how to use Scene and Sequel to pace your story. Feel free to contact me at pam (at) anauthorworld (dot) com, if you need help with your writing.