Friday, November 11, 2011

Castle Time: Hooks

I love watching Sherrinda's tweets on Monday night between (central time) 9 and 10.

Even if I'm not able to be watching Castle (perish the thought!) I can always feel the tension from her tweets.

Usually it's something like, "HOLY COW!! _________________ just happened! AHHHH!!!"

And it's usually during a commercial break.

I can just picture spunky Miss Sherrinda. jumping up and down on her couch, yelling at the TV, "HURRY UP, stupid commercial, who needs Covergirl Makeup or insurance or a dumb car at a time like this?"

Because there is something Castle always does an amazing job at.

It HOOKS you.

It makes you hate commercial breaks... And at the end of seasons... when the main character gets shot (seemingly) dead...

That's what we want for our books too.

We want to grab the reader's attention and make them hurry through potty breaks, eat with a book in their hand, and read until their eyes cross at 2 in the morning when they have to be up for work at 5.

When they get to the chapter end, you want to entise them to read "just one more chapter."

But how do we do that?

A few ideas:

Leave the reader on an inhale. I think about this every time I end a chapter. My goal is for the reader to take a sharp inhale of breath when they read the last sentence. Don't explain a thing. You build, build, build through the chapter, then KABLAM something happens and end of chapter.

Leave the reader with emotion. Leave the reader crying, or jumping for joy, or scared. We don't like to have unfulfilled emotions.

Leave the reader with a sense of foreboding. Even a subtle illusion to "something might be coming" is enough to perk the reader's interest enough to turn the page to see what that something might be.

Really, it boils down to one thing:

Leave the reader wanting more.

This applies not only to chapter ending hooks, but to our novel as a whole. Until the end, when we reach our satisfying conclusion, our readers should always be wanting more of our characters, more of the story.

Discussion: What are some methods you use to end your chapters? Some recommend to automatically chop the last paragraph off of your chapter ending... agree or disagree? Any examples of good chapter-ending hooks that you've read lately?

Krista is a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mother, and a contemporary romance author. She recognizes that life can be frustrating and just plain not fun sometimes, but believes that laughter and smiles can make the not-so-fun a little better! She blogs about the amazing things God has been doing and her journey as a busy momma of 4 and caregiver to a daughter with a rare congenital heart defect at She is also a contributor at She is represented by the fab agent, Rachelle Gardner, and her debut novel, Sandwich, With a Side of Romance, releases in September 2012.


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Hahahaha! LOVE this post! Seriously, girl, you've got some awesome wisdom flowing through your veins. Your first one...about leaving them on an inhale...that was brilliant and so true. How many times has Castle ended a scene and I've gasped...sucked in that breath of air...only to be taken to a commercial break. Aaarrrgghghh! They do a great job of building tension. That's exactly how we want our readers!

I have to say that I missed you Monday night on Twitter. There must have been alot going on that night, because NO ONE was chatting during Castle time. I was rather sad. Part of the beauty of Castle has been the camaraderie of my twitter friends gasping and ooooing about #castle!

(for the record, I have NOT jumped on the couch, but I HAVE moved to the edge of my seat before...ready to jump up if need be!)

Krista Phillips said...

Oh, don't ruin the funny picture in my head, Sherrinda!!! :-)

I watched it Monday night... but my inlaws are in town so I refrained from my usual computer/TV combination to be more sociable. HA!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Krista, this is a great post. As I read, I began thinking of my question for you and other readers, about HOW we bring readers to that point.

I haven't had a ton of practice at creating hooks at the end of my chapters. One thing I did was have my character walk out of the room in the middle of a tense conversation. I am thinking that I need to figure out some unexpected events/words that can occur at the very end of the scene.....

I hope others will post specific ways they've written hooks or things they've read that left the reader gasping.

I'm saving this post. It's so practical!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I'm kind of sad I don't watch Castle anymore. I just got to overwhelmed with life, I guess, and had to stop watching because I didn't have enough time.

Anyway, when I DID watch it, they did great with hooks. I love hooks in books and know that's one of my weaknesses, so I'm working on it. I use some of the tricks you mentioned above and have a few more I planned on mentioning in my post next week. We must be on the same page - great minds think alike! :) Have a good weekend.

Keli Gwyn said...

What a fun post, Krista, as usual.

I've learned oodles about chapter-ending hooks from my two talented critique partners. Jody Hedlund refers to them as Read-on Prompts (ROPs), and she's a master of them. When I get a manuscript from her to critique, I know I'm in for some late nights because I want to edit "one more chapter." I can't bear to be left hanging, which she does to me all the time. I know her readers feel the same when they devour her stories in just a few sittings.

Sarah Forgrave said...

"Leave the reader on an inhale." What a cool way to explain it, Krista! Now we just need to make sure they exhale before they turn out the lights for the night, lol.

Casey said...

Oh the post, and like Sarah said, "leave the reader on an inhale." I love those kind of books. :)

And I really, really want to know how to get your little pictures, so small! Mine looks huge and assuming...

Casey said...

That is supposed to be "love" the post. I need an editor.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Case, I like OH THE POST! Sooo cute of you! As always! ;)