1. MizukiUkitake
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    MizukiUkitake New Member

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    Best way to end a chapter?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by MizukiUkitake, Sep 28, 2016.

    I've always ever settled for a cliffhanger to end my chapters, but I wonder if I'm overdoing it.

    Example:
    Chapter 1 ends with
    She approached the large black door hesitantly. The dead plants, and the dry dirt looked like something from a horror movie. But it was just a dream, it had to be.
    Thunder boomed around her, shaking the ground and causing her very soul to tremble. Eyes watering, she reached for the knocker, pulling back with a gasp as the door slowly opened before she could even make contact.
    Chapter 2 opens with
    Standing over her now was a towering figure, big and bulky, twice as tall as he was wide. His voice blended with the thunder claps, it was so deep as he questioned her presence.​

    I typically do this in all my writing. Is it okay to end without a cliffhanger?

    Would it be okay to do this:
    End of Chapter 1
    With a frown, Kaytlin turned back to her eggs. Almost immediately, she heard Makros eagerly stuffing his face, but when she looked back, the piece of ham was gone, and the shell was still nothing but darkness inside. Shaking her head, she served herself.​
    Start of Chapter 2
    "So.. is the other guy coming down to eat?" she asked.
    "Lusk will join us, I'm sure... yes.." He let out a single chuckle, as if he thought it silly of him to assume such a thing. Or perhaps silly to need to suggest it. "He was just close with Ellie. I can't blame him."
    I've always felt that cliffhangers pressure people to keep reading and move on to the next chapter, but I know not everyone reads the same way I do.
     
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  2. U.G. Ridley
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    U.G. Ridley I'm a wizard, Hagrid Supporter

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    Alright, this is going to turn into a full-on rant, so get ready.

    In my opinion, it's a reaaaally bad idea to end a chapter with the: "He opened the door--aaaaaand". Don't know where I heard that phrase--I believe it may have been Brendan Sanderson--but it is basically any time you end a chapter in the middle of an action, without showing what actually happens as a result, but by saying that something is about to happen. I believe it is also often referred to as "Thriller-Plotting", due to the amount of authors in the thriller genre that abuse it. It's a technique that basically fucks with the readers by not giving them any sort of resolution to the chapter, but instead saying "You'll have to read the next chapter to see what happens!" Or, in the case of the door metaphor: "You'll have to read the next chapter to see what's behind that stupid door!"

    And most of time, the result is underwhelming.

    Don't get me wrong, it works, but it works for the wrong reason. You're jolting the reader along, not giving them the chance to take a breather. It might make them read your book to the end in a short sitting because you are playing to that part of their brain that just needs to know, but your readers will hate you by the end of the book. If you set yourself up with the "the door opened--read the next chapter to find out more!" thing, then you are basically saying that whatever is behind that door is gonna blow your goddamn mind. But most of the time, you're not gonna be able to fulfill that promise, and your readers will be thoroughly pissed. By the time they've finished the book, they're gonna leave a two-star review on Goodreads and never read another one of your books again. To use these types of tricks is amateurish, and shows a great lack of confidence in your actual writing. (In my opinion...).

    My preferable chapter setup, is Beginning-Middle-End, and then possibly a hook at the end if it fits. In some cases, the "middle" will stretch across multiple chapters, if the sequence is just that long, but that's not a problem. Variations on this can be done in specific cases, but do them sparingly.

    The Thriller-Plotting setup often looks something like this: End-Beginning-Middle... Yea. That's actually how they do it. Basically, as soon as the introduction to the story is over, a chapter will end with a "door" being opened, and then the beginning of the next chapter will show the reader what's on the other side of that door, and then the middle of the chapter will act as a beginning to the next act/conflict, and the end of the chapter will act as a middle, ending with another "door" being opened, but its contents not revealed. Can you see why this would be annoying? By putting the chapter break in the middle of every conflict, the reader never gets to breathe. A lot of readers cannot put a book down until the chapter is over. The chapter break is their cue to take a breath. But if the chapter break is placed after the middle of the conflict, instead of after the end, those readers will feel the need to read the next chapter to get a resolution, even if they are exhausted of reading your sadistically persuasive book. But because they hate putting a book down before the chapter is over, they have to keep reading. Then the cycle is repeated until the reader has spent their entire day reading your book, and being justifiably annoyed at you.

    *End of rant...*
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2016
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  3. MizukiUkitake
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    MizukiUkitake New Member

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    That's a very wise and insightful point, thank you for that. I hadn't considered that view.
     
  4. AASmith
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    AASmith Contributing Member

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    Personally the end of my chapters are sort of an end to the scene though I tend to have a few scenes in one chapter if all the scenes build up to one larger point so to speak. I do have a few cliffhanger scenes but the start of the next chapter doesn't pick up with the end of the last one. It may be the next day or week or something. I am not writing a suspense/ thriller though. I think ended every chapter with a cliffhanger is a bit much.
     
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  5. MizukiUkitake
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    MizukiUkitake New Member

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    This particular story is a slice-of-life with a pinch of fantasy. First time writing something other than pure fantasy.
    And just a little side question, but still related: Is 1575 words too short? Should I push it a little further, maybe to 2000?
    First chapter is 1106, but it's incredibly angsty and depressing since it talks about the main character mourning, which leads to the appearance of the other characters in chapter two, so I wanted to keep it relatively shorter.
     
  6. AASmith
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    AASmith Contributing Member

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    If its for a middle grade then 1500-2000 is okay but YA+ i think that's on the very short side. typically chapters are around 45oo. HOWEVER, some people write differently. In your first draft you can have 2000 words per chapter but then beef it up in your editing process.
     
  7. Elven Candy
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    Elven Candy Contributing Member

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    I'm not really fond of either example. The first one feels cheap, and the second feels like you broke a scene in half. If time has passed between the first and second chapters in the second example, you need to mention that at the beginning of chapter two. My goal with chapter endings is when the reader finishes the chapter, they feel like the scene or thought is complete.

    For a story that's only 1600-2000 words, I'm not sure you even need chapters. I'm not familiar with short story formatting, though.

    ETA: I just read AASmith's response and realized you're probably talking about chapter length. I think 1000 words is a tad short, but the first chapter of a book tends to be the shortest chapter so if that's where you think a chapter break needs to be, go for it. I have some chapters that are around 1500 words, and I'm not going to push myself to increase their size at least until the second draft.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2016
  8. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    I think the OP means that the chapter is in the 1600-2000 word range.

    As for the original post, I absolutely agree with @U.G. Ridley and others. It is a relatively cheap maneuver and can end up biting you in the ass. Let your overall story prompt the reader to turn the pages. Let your plot be so engaging that you don't need a cliffhanger. As others have said, it can work and has. Just be careful.

    For chapter length: This is a subjective issue. I recently read a book that had thirteen chapters and about 350 pages. The chapters were relatively long and that was no issue for me. I also read a book that had about 350 pages and it came in at close to fifty chapters. I enjoyed both of those books immensely.

    What I'm trying to say is that as long as your chapters end at logical places and they break the story up for a reason, it won't matter too much whether one is 1100 word and the next is 2600 or 4500. And breaking your chapters in logical places ties back into the original post. Right in the middle of a big reveal is not a logical place to break a chapter. Don't put too much thought into it now. Write your story then evaluate what is working and what you think needs some extra effort.
     
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  9. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Mix it up a little. As much as I enjoyed Pirate Latitudes-Michael Crichton, each chapter picked up right where the previous one left off.
    That was kinda annoying.

    So use your chapter transitions wisely, and shake things up a bit. :)
     
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  10. TheWriteWitch
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    TheWriteWitch Senior Member

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    I agree with Cave Troll about shaking things up a bit.

    It also depends on your timeline and style. Are you writing it as fast-paced where the reader is right there in the action? Or do you want to use chapter transitions to change locations, move around your timeline, etc.

    Love that you are thinking about the reader - that will always help you!
     
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  11. MizukiUkitake
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    MizukiUkitake New Member

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    In this particular story, I'm trying to go slow and smooth. Basically, a girl has been depressed over her grandmother's death for two years (what I consider an unhealthy length of time), and makes a wish to not be lonely, one night while clutching her grandmother's pendant. As it turns out, the pendant is magical, and wishing with it summoned an imp and fairy from another world that the girl's grandmother had grown up knowing about. They want to return home, but can't until the next full moon, a month away. During that month, the two magical creatures help the girl open up and move on, and teach her that she has a lot of talent.

    Normally, though, I try to have a lot more action and energy.
     
  12. TheWriteWitch
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    TheWriteWitch Senior Member

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    It sounds like you have a great mix of action and energy. Ending a chapter with her facing a choice could be good for your character. Just an idea to add to the mix. It's hard, but I really do believe you can feel when a chapter is done - don't doubt yourself!
     
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  13. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Breathe.
     
  14. MizukiUkitake
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    MizukiUkitake New Member

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    Breathe?
     
  15. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    No use; you'll only get a one-word reply from questioning. Maybe two words if Solar feels so inclined.
     
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  16. IHaveNoName
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    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    Put the breaks where they would logically go. It's like writing a paragraph - you don't start a new one if you still have to complete the previous thought or action, right? If everything's been wrapped up and you can move on to the next scene/action sequence/whatever, then it's time for a new chapter.

    Chapters should be as long as they need to be. I know that's really vague, but I've seen chapters that were only a page long, and some that were 30-40+ pages. Don't obsess over the length, or try to make them all uniform, especially not in the first draft.
     
  17. Crybaby
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    Crybaby Contributing Member

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    Me personally, do what you feel is right for your story. It's healthy to get other people views but healthier to go with your own gut instinct. Try it. End chapters where the scene is completed then read both and see which one reads best. Mixing it up is always good advice. Although some people love the cliff hanging chapters. It depends what your reading and what excites or intruiges a reader.

    Not everyone is of the same opinion.
     
  18. JLT
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    JLT Active Member

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    I think I'm with U.G. on this one. The cliff-hanger chapter ends might be appropriate for some writing (Dan Brown has made an art form of it, which is why reading his books is like eating Pringles), but most of the writers I admire don't use the device very much. Instead, they treat each chapter as a complete short story with a more or less distinct beginning and an end. When they do break that format, they alert the reader that there's another story to be told immediately, a story that requires a chapter of its own.

    A good example of this is Tom Berger's Little Big Man. The chapters could stand alone, but there are instances where the chapter's end signifies a change in circumstances that leads you to the next phase of the story. I suggest that you read this book, if you haven't already. Aside from being one of the most accurate fiction books ever written on the American West, it's a masterpiece of storytelling.
     
  19. nataku
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    nataku Member

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    The chapter ends where it ends. It either ends in a cliffhanger or an important plot point or just randomly. As writer you have the freedom to end it however you decide to end it.
     
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