Monday, February 1, 2010
With all this talk of prologues and epilogues I thought it would be interesting to take a look at ending a scene. The type of works that I write are thrillers. They are supposed to make you want to keep reading all night, instead of what you should be doing, which is sleeping. So what is it about writing scenes for this genre, that makes you want to keep going?
It's very cliche to think of ending every scene with a death defying cliffhanger, and I think your reader will catch on pretty quickly that's what you are doing. In fact trying to create your scenes so that you always end on some kind of do or die moment, will likely make the plot, and the book very predictable.
So how do you keep the reader going? How do you get them to want more?
There are probably lots of times when you do want to leave your protagonist hanging by his pinkie finger over a flaming pool of lava, but as I mentioned you can't do it at the end of every scene. What I do, is mix in questioning. It can be inner questioning or external questioning.
What I call inner questioning is when the character questions what they are doing. The following are simplified for ease of understanding. Your scenes will have extensive buildups.
"If I launch this virus, millions will be saved, but hundreds will also die. What should I do?"
OK, so that's a very dramatic one, but you need those.
"Why did I do that? What's going to happen to me now?"
No do or die, but depending on the consequences, it can be tense.
"Should I tell my friend that his wife is having an affair with a vampire?" (No, I don't write in that genre)
What I call external questioning is when one character waits for a response from another.
"Don't do it Max. They'll send us all to the slammer."
"Ellen, take those goggles off before you fry your brain."
"Hand me that wooden stake." (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)
Like everything else in story telling, once again it comes down to conflict. Leave the reader with a conflict, whether internal, external, or dramatic action, but mix it up, and keep them guessing. The more tension you leave them with, the more they will want to open up that next chapter.