Sunday, July 16, 2017

Try ending scenes with cliffhangers in your novel.

Ways of ending scenes. 
  • For example, in Revenge in Reno, I end one scene in the middle of the action as my protagonist, is entering a potentially fatal conflict with the bad guy’s henchmen. This draws readers to keep reading.
  • In another scene, I end with a protagonist epiphany. “So that’s why the cops found a uniform at the scene; he was disguised as a policeman.”
  • In yet another scene ending, protagonist learns new information and sets a new goal. The course of the story might change at this point. “I had a feeling he was too good to be true. I’m going to visit Monroe in his office first thing in the morning.”
  • End with emotional turmoil. The event or incident of the scene may be over, but that does not mean the character or characters have emerged unscathed. “Are you okay?” “No bones broken. But I’m bugged I had to come down the stairs on my back.”
  • End with a promise. The scene ends, but it leaves readers anticipating what is ahead. “Let me get you a drink. I think I have finally figured out who wants revenge.”

Every scene where the protagonist’s goal is clearly understood creates a question for readers: Will they be successful, or not?

Most stories revolve around a protagonist who goes after something, fails and tries again. Early in your novel, it is best if the protagonist is in worse shape at the end of a scene than when she started it.

The main purpose of an opening scene
is to make readers keep reading.

Narratively, the scene can do this by introducing a compelling situation. Structurally, the scene can end mid-action to keep readers reading. A number of elements go into writing a good action scene. 

First, readers have to care about the characters. Although an opening scene should be compelling, full-on action in the first lines is not necessarily the best way to start because readers are not yet invested in the characters.

----- (From NOVEL SECRETS available in paperback and Kindle form.)

Lary Crews