Beginnings and Endings

I came to the sort of end of a chapter in my book today and realized I hadn’t a clue how to really end it. As a matter of fact, endings of chapters have always been a problem for me. How to write a pithy sentence or two that would lead to the next chapter. Then I thought about feedback I’d gotten from my Early Birds critique group and realized that sometimes the beginnings of chapters were also difficult.

So I’ve been looking critically at a couple of mystery writers I love – Craig Johnson and David Baldacci – to see what they do. The beginnings are generally a simple declarative sentence or a bit of dialogue, written to grab the attention of the reader.  The endings are generally something  brief, a thought or a bit of dialogue presaging things to come or commenting on a previous event.

I need to work on this, clearly, with the emphasis on the endings.  More rewriting.

BTW, Craig Johnson has a new book out:  A Serpent’s Tooth.  For those of you who have never read his books, try one. He is the author of the Longmire series, which has recently been filmed for A&E.  His books are so much better, but the person playing  Longmire, the sheriff  of the large Wyoming county of Absaroka, is an Australian Actor named Robert Taylor who is a perfect fit.  What is so great about Johnson’s books is his descriptive narrative of the beauty of Wyoming and its powerful weather, as well as the complicated relationships Longmire has with Henry Standing Bear, his best friend and member of the Cheyenne Nation, his daughter Cady, and the members of his small police department. The dialogue is crisp, interesting and more than occasionally smartly amusing and intelligent.  If you want to start with some oddly wonderful short Longmire stories, read Christmas in Absaroka County.

So what do you all do to create a good chapter beginning and a better ending?



4 thoughts on “Beginnings and Endings”

  1. To me, it needs to read as organic as possible. If it feels unnatural, something the writer forced in order to come up with a hook, I’m not happy. 🙂 I’m only saying this because I find these types of EOCs in too many books — all of a sudden a long lost relative shows up or something never before mentioned happens, just so the writer can manufacture an ‘explosive’ EOC. Best ‘hooks’ are grown from the story itself, so yes, the chapter beginnings are important in that regard. And not every EOC needs to ‘grab’ me in a ‘turn the page immediately’ kind of way. Sometimes I appreciate a short mental break, so I can go wash the dishes and think about what just happened in the book — how the main character gave forgiveness he’s long been denying, or some such.
    Great post, Noelle. As you can see, it got me going. 🙂

  2. Good! Great to hear it turned on your little gray cells, and your comments give me confidence not to overwork an EOC trying to make it catchy or pithy or whatever.

  3. Beginnings and endings are tough. I really felt like Margie Lawson’s editing self study guides helped me with them. Not just book but chapter and scene beginning and endings.

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