Monday, April 13, 2015

Tuesday Tips and Tweaks

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

Linda’s Tip on Hooks and Crooks and Cliff Hangers

“I couldnt put your book down and stayed up until 2:30 reading it!” I am joyously happy when my books contribute to a readers’ insomnia.

Weve 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) 

One 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. 

This 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, dont end the first chapter with -
And she turned on the television to watch Jeopardy. 

Instead, end your chapter with something like -
Just 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. 

Could you put that down? 

A fun exercise for your local writers 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 why not? 

Television 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. 

While 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 died?) 

If 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. 

Excerpt from “Night Watch” 

I was going to give some examples of chapter hooks from my newest release, Night Watch, but couldnt find any which didnt spoil the story, and of course, I want you to go and read it for yourself. So instead Im 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 Id 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 didnt 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 strangers 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.
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You can find Linda at:
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Twitter - @writerhall
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Thanks Linda, for dropping by and sharing that great writing tip.

Don’t forget to check back next week for another tip or tweak.


  1. Hello Linda, a wonderfully helpful tip. All the best with you books.

    1. Thank you JoAnne! Have a wonderful rest of the week.

  2. Only wonderful, Linda. You broke my heart with your Jesse dream. When writing, I always try to end a chapter with a hook, a cliffhanger to get the reader to turn the page.
    Thank you.

    1. That's a good idea Charmaine - yes it's so important to get readers to turn the page. Best wishes with your own writing, and I hope I didn't break your heart too much!

  3. Great advice. I love your cover. :)

  4. I love chapter hooks! What a great blog, Linda.

  5. Great tip. I love Linda Hall's books. I too have stayed up until the wee hours reading them. She never disappoints.

    Joan Hall Hovey