Sometimes it’s difficult to know where and how to end a chapter. The writing is flowing and everything is coming together. But you need to change the scene and start a new chapter and you’re not sure how to end this one.
Two sure-fire ways to end a chapter that keep me turning the page are: humor and tension.
I like characters who exhibit a sense of humor even in the most dire of situations. The master of blending humor with tension is Dean Koontz.
This ending of Chapter Five in Koontz’s By the Light of the Moon is a prime example of cutting the tension with humor while maintaining the drama:
As Dylan quickly cut away the remaining restraints, the jigsaw junkie – now locking pieces in the picture at a frenetic pace that even methamphetamine could not have precipitated – altered his nonsense chance: “Deedle-doodle-diddle.”
“I feel a pressure in my middle.”
“I think I have to piddle.”
This scenario occurs after Dylan and his brother Shepherd, who suffers Asperger Syndrome, have been given shots of some unidentified stuff by a man resembling a mad scientist. Putting together a jigsaw puzzle at top speed and uttering “Deedle-doodle-diddle” is Shep’s way of dealing with the situation. The rhymed response is Dylan’s way of dealing with it.
The tension-laden chapter ending is a foolproof attention-grabber, practically guaranteeing the reader won’t put the book down.
This excerpt from my work in progress, Nero’s Fiddle demonstrates:
Bev’s instincts were in high gear; that tingling sensation along the base of her neck had her attentive.
Below the sounds of birdsong and rustling undergrowth, she heard a noise that didn’t belong. It was a sound with which she was very familiar: The click of the hammer of a weapon.
She slowly turned her head to the right.
And found herself face to face with the business end of a double-barrel shotgun.
This chapter comes to a close on a scene which begs the reader to turn the page and keep reading. It also occurs in a point in the novel when the reader is well invested in this character and her cause.
Ending a chapter at a point where the character displays humor in the face of adversity (thereby displaying a strong character in my opinion), or ending it with the character facing a dangerous situation is certain to keep your readers reading. And loving what they read.