This week author Linda Hall joins us
with her tip.Linda Hall is the
award-winning author of more than 20 mystery novels and short stories
Tip on Hooks
and Crooks and Cliff Hangers
“I couldn’t put your book down and
stayed up until 2:30 reading it!” I am joyously happy when my books contribute
to a readers’ insomnia.
We’ve all had that experience—of
becoming so totally engrossed in a book that the world around us fades. A novel like that has something called
suspense, or tension. Suspense is required in all novels, whether or not they
fall into the genre normally labeled “suspense.” Romance novels need it—the
sweet grandmotherly ones need it, along with the hot ones. Literary novels need
it, and so do apocalyptics and SciFi. Nonfiction even needs it. Suspense is
what keeps you turning the pages (or tapping the edge of your eReader)
way of adding suspense to your novels is through chapter hooks. These are
sentences or paragraphs at the end of each chapter which ask a question, create
a doubt or set up a the next scene.
is a rather simplistic example—but if a chapter has your good guy settling down
in front of the TV with a bowl of popcorn, and in the next chapter you want to
have your crook come through the door, don’t end the first chapter
she turned on the television to watch Jeopardy.
end your chapter with something like -
as she switched on the television, she heard a noise coming from the kitchen.
What was her cat into now? She stood up and spotted her cat curled up and
sleeping under the coffee table.
fun exercise for your local writer’s
group is to take any book, any book at all, and flip to the end of any random
chapter. Does the sentence make you want to turn to the next chapter? Why or
series are excellent at hooks. Even non-mysteries such as Nashville (my current
addiction) ends each episode with a “hook”, so you will be sure to tune in next
week. Watch for them next time.
a chapter hook is for each chapter, a cliff hanger ends the television “season”
and creates expectation for the following year. (Downton Abbey is a good
example of that. **Spoiler alert** remember at the end of Season 3 when Matthew
you are writing a series, consider adding a cliff hanger to your book so that
your reader will be sure to look for your next one.
from “Night Watch”
was going to give some examples of chapter hooks from my newest release, Night
Watch, but couldn’t
find any which didn’t
spoil the story, and of course, I want you to go and read it for yourself. So
going to excerpt the first page of Night Watch which, I think gives an
example of a “hook.”
I was in the middle
of a Jesse dream when Kricket disappeared. It was the best Jesse dream I’d
had in a long time, and I wanted to stay in that place forever.
We were sailing. We
always sail, the two of us, in Jesse dreams. We were out in the middle of the
bay on my old wooden catboat, the one I had before I knew Jesse, before he was
such a part of my life. I sold that boat years ago to someone who trailered it to
Lake Ontario. But dreams are like that, full of curiosities and strange
chronologies, yet somehow making full sense at the time.
The wind was a
steady ten knots, the sun warm on our necks. We moved effortlessly on the tops
of the waves as if across silk. I leaned back, held the tiller with both hands
and pressed my sandaled feet down onto the leeward side. The creaking of the
pintles, the whoosh of the water beneath us, and the wind filling the sail were
the only sounds. We didn’t talk.
We don’t talk in Jesse dreams.
Down, almost at
water level, Jesse was winching the sail in tighter, tighter, one beat-up boat
shoe braced against the bulkhead. I looked with longing at the curve of his
bare ankle. I wanted to reach out, trace my fingers along its bone, cradle it
against my cheek. It had been so long. Too long. Almost two years gone. Yet, in
some ways, it will always be yesterday.
I wanted to call
out to him, but have learned not to in Jesse dreams. If he turned to look at
me, would I see the face with the sun- ruddied grin? The mussed hair always in
need of a cut? Or would he stare at me with cold, unseeing eyes, face streaked
with blood? Would it be a stranger’s face
even, which turned to gaze up at me?
Jesse dreams always
hold a sharp edge of terror that leaves me breathless and gasping when I
finally claw my way up toward waking. Yet, despite this, I crave them, hunger
for them. I will take the horror —all of it—for one moment more with Jesse.
Kobo - http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/night-watch-25
Ibooks - https://itunes.apple.com/ca/book/night-watch/id957890275?mt=11
Smashwords - https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/509409
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/WriterHall?fref=ts
Goodreads - http://goodreads.com/goodreadscomwriterhall
Thanks Linda, for dropping by and
sharing that great writing tip.
Don’t forget to check back next week
for another tip or tweak.