Monday, April 6, 2015

Cliffhangers

Did you ever go to the movies on a Saturday as a child? If you’re old enough, you might remember seeing several cartoons, a double feature (two movies), and a serial for your fifty cents. Okay, that officially makes me old!
Larry went nearly every week with a friend as a kid. His favorite serials were the Flash Gordon ones. Each week, the theater would show a new ‘chapter.’ At the end of each one, Flash was left in an impossible situation. Larry felt compelled to return the following week to see how Flash escaped.

In writing classes, most instructors teach their students to make the beginning of each chapter a ‘grabber’—a sentence constructed to make the reader want to read on. The end of each chapter should be a ‘cliffhanger’ to force the reader to turn the page and start the next chapter.
Larry learned these lessons well from all those old movie serials. In his latest books, The McGregor Chronicles, he embraces both devices.

The first sentence in Book 1 – Saving Mike is:
Wake up, Matt, wake up,” an insistent voice repeats in my head.
The reader immediately asks, “Who is this? Is he talking to himself? Is it a dream?”
As the chapter progresses, even more questions arise, and some are answered.
The last sentence in the chapter is:
“Okay, let’s see if we can get this ship moving.”
The sentence implies the possibility of failure. The reader has to move on in order to find out if the ship will fly.
Several people who read this book have said they read it in one sitting, or they stayed up too late to finish, or they couldn’t put it down. Our beta readers for Book 2 – Escape From Eden (to be published this summer) have had the same reaction to it.
As writers, we all need to learn how to construct our chapters in the same manner. As readers, we love writers who are able to accomplish it.
The proviso, however, is that the reader should never be aware of the use of the devices! They must be part of the story and invisible to the reader.
Are you a writer? Can you use these devices effectively? Are you deliberate about how you encourage your readers to continue reading?

Are you a reader? How do you feel about compelling writing, which makes it impossible for you to stop in the middle?

2 comments:

  1. Good post with good advice. I try to do that, though not always successful.

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    1. Neither am I. Larry does it much better.

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