Let’s talk about chapter endings. The chapters in your books should be like links in a chain. Each of them should have a unique purpose and move your story forward.
Chapter length in self-published e-books tends to be between 1,000 to 2,000 words. Traditionally published books tend to have longer chapters (depending on genre).
As an author your goal is to end a chapter in a way that makes it hard for the reader to put down your book. Ideally you want your reader to carry on to the next chapter or at least be excited to continue reading your book next time. A chapter should never end in a boring or mediocre manner.
One way to ensure that the tension is maintained is through the use of cliffhangers. Posing a question or having an explosive action take place and then not answering the question, stopping mid-dialogue or mid-action, ensures that your reader will want to know more.
This is however not the only way to make your reader turn the page, you can also do it in a ‘quieter’ and less ‘dramatic’ manner. For example you could end a chapter with a leading remark or imply a question, something could be foreshadowed or your protagonist could have an eye-opening realization.
To have a closer look at well-crafted chapter endings I will analyze a part of the book ‘Don’t look back’ by Jennifer L. Armentrout.
Warning spoiler alert below
In the YA thriller ‘Don’t look back’, the protagonist Samantha suffers from Amnesia. After she is missing for several days she resurfaces covered in blood. Her friend Cassie, who had gone missing with her, does not return and soon it becomes clear that Cassie is dead. Samantha struggles to remember her old life and what happened that night when Cassie died.
This book was an absolute page-turner. Each time when I finished a chapter, I wanted to continue reading. Let’s break the chapter endings down to understand what was so appealing about Jennifer L. Armentrout’s work.
Chapter 1: ends with Samantha finding out that her friend Cassie is still missing.
This is a good ending because in addition to being overwhelmed by seeing family that she can’t remember and having to talk to police, Samantha understands that whatever happened is far from being over.
Chapter 2: ends with Samantha realizing that she doesn’t like the person she used to be before the trauma. Her brother fills her in that she used to be a terrorizing, mean girl.
The ending works because it becomes clear that not only will Samantha have to struggle with the ongoing investigation into Cassie’s disappearance, regaining her memories but also with trying to fit into the old life that is now so foreign to her.
Chapter 3: ends with Samantha receiving an anonymous note, warning her not to look back at the past.
This was the point where the suspense kicked in for me full-force. Knowing that there’s someone out there, who will hurt Samantha if she doesn’t behave the way he wants her to, raises the stakes of the novel significantly.
Chapter 4: ends with Samantha realizing that while her family and friends encourage her to move on and not think too much about what has happened with Cassie, she can’t do that.
This foreshadows that Samantha will try to find out what had happened to Cassie and will thus (probably) become the target for whoever is sending her the notes or the killer (if there is one).
Chapter 5: ends with Samantha overwhelmed at school, trying to find her way around. She also realizes that the situation could be worse, because she could have been Cassie.
Again this foreshadows that Cassie is indeed dead and that Samantha herself isn’t completely out of the danger zone either. Even though nothing scary happens, the fact that the chapter ends with Samantha thinking that she could be dead; amps up the tension.
Chapter 6: ends with Samantha having a vision of Cassie.
This is a cliffhanger, since the vision continues in chapter 7. The reader wants to turn the page to find out more about Cassie, but also because this is the first sign of Samantha’s memory coming back.
Hopefully, the above examples will help you in creating an exciting and meaningful way to end your chapters. If you still feel like your chapter endings don’t have enough zest to them, I would suggest taking a book that you admire from the genre you write in and analyzing its chapter endings. Try to understand what you like and what you don’t, what works and what doesn’t and why.