Okay, maybe that’s a bit extreme. Grab your readers by the front of their shirt instead. You don’t want to kill them. You just want to yank them from their present day life into your world and keep them there until you’re good and ready to let go. And when will that moment be? After the very last word of your book.
I started reading NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. I’m not finished with it yet, and it’s a good story. The one problem is that the author keeps kicking me out of his story world.
It started at the end of chapter two. The last sentence of the chapter is like this:
She walked around the corner on unsteady legs and looked at the walk-up window of
(No, I didn’t forget any words.) I had flown through the first and second chapter of the novel pretty quickly. The characters were interesting. The story world was a nice, albeit freaky, place to be. But then I was thrown out of the world as I searched for the last words of that sentence. Was the book faulty? Had the words been mistakenly left off? Surely the editor or copy editor would’ve seen the error and had the author fix it. I re-read the last sentence twice just to make sure I hadn’t read it incorrectly, then reached the conclusion it was a printing error. So I shrugged and went on to the third chapter titled
Terry’s Primo Subs
Hampton Beach, New Hampshire
I paused. Re-read the last sentence of the second chapter then read the title of the third chapter and finally understood. It wasn’t a book error, the author had done this on purpose. He ended the second chapter’s last sentence with the third chapter’s title.
In a way this is a great idea. I’ve read many articles on hooking readers. It’s a writer’s job to find ways to make their readers yearn to read from one chapter to the next. “Writers should end the chapter on a cliff hanger so readers have no choice but to keep on going.”
Well, I guess not completing the end of the last sentence will make the reader keep reading to find out what it is. (I’m a quarter of the way through the novel and the author does this many times.) But at what cost? Each time it happens, I’m thrown out of the story world. One time I became aware that Husband was watching Modern Family on TV and stopped reading to watch it. (I love that show.) Another time, I, thankfully, learned that Bubbles was painting her nails ON THE COUCH. A third time, I, unfortunately, heard the dryer buzzing at me to fold clothes.
When I did my initial read through of own WIP, Callie’s Story, I made sure to mark down every instance I was thrown out of her world. During edits, I will go back and figure out why. Was it a word I used? Was a POV rule broken? Had I written something I would say, but Callie would not? Whatever it is, I have to fix it.
If you are able to grab your reader within the first sentence or paragraph of your story, for Godsake, KEEP THEM THERE! You won’t have to create cliffhanging scenes or unfinished sentences to get them going to the next page. Your world, your characters, and their choices will do that for you.