Photo: Google Images

As we approach the end of the year and the beginning of another, a theme inspires me: endings.

We’re writers/poets, so we must be (better be) readers, first and foremost. How often do you succumb to a late night reading marathon and regret it the next morning when you have to drag your weary bones out of bed and face the day? Chances are, the author of a book that keeps you turning pages into the wee hours of the morning has mastered the art of chapter/scene endings.

I learned a bit about this from my good friend and writing buddy, Judy. She’s written a medical thriller and my first novel was literary/women’s fiction. During one of our critique sessions, she told me there was nothing at the end of the chapter that made her want to read on. I had pretty well wrapped up an event without any inducement to the reader to want to know more. I countered that literary fiction is different from genre fiction, but as I thought about it, I had to refute my own argument. True, the conflict might be internal rather than action-oriented, but it’s still critical to leave the scene and/or the protagonist hanging off the proverbial cliff.

We can achieve this in a number of ways, but here are a few that I have found helpful.

Interrupt the action.  Avoid allowing a scene to come to a logical conclusion. Set up the narrative so that the reader knows something important is about to happen, but leave her dangling. Here’s an example from that recently-published first novel, “Winter is Past” in which Claire has to make a phone call that she dreads facing:

I punched in the numbers and held my hand on my chest as though to slow down my racing heart. Maybe she won’t be home, I hoped. She answered on the second ring.

By leaving the call incomplete, I invited the reader into the next scene. If I had continued through to its conclusion, that would allow her to close the book, turn off the light and go to sleep–maybe never to return.

Close the scene with a question. I find this works well in literary fiction where, as you know, the protagonist is plowing her way through a series of internal conflicts. Let’s look at another example from “Winter is Past.” Claire’s mother is on the verge of disclosing a family secret:

“I’ll do better now, I promise. It’s just that . . .” she fell back into silence. “Oh, never mind. It’s not important right now—we’ll talk another time.”

When? I wondered. And about what?

Complete the chapter scene with a promise. In this example, one of the characters is withholding information from another:

The dogs nabbed milk bones from the floor as I released control and eased into my husband’s embrace. “What do you have planned?”

“I’ll tell you in the morning. Just get a good night’s rest, okay? Come on, dogs; last call to go outside.”

Interrupt a scene in the middle of an unresolved emotional climax. Raise the question, What is she going to do about it?

By the time I met Josh downstairs, that dull ache had returned to the back of my head. I faked a smile that made me feel like a clown hidden behind makeup. “Let’s go,” I said, trying to squash the emotions still raging inside.

Those of us who write fiction may want to browse the work of our favorite authors and take a look at the chapter endings. What techniques have they used to keep us moving through the book? Now, lets look at one of our own manuscripts and see if there’s anything we can apply to our work to keep the reader turning the page.

While this post seems to apply more to fiction than poetry, take a look at some poems that offer endings that surprise. I ran across one today by Sheila Moore, posted for dVerse OLN on Tuesday that meets the bill. Endings offer poets fertile ground for ideas: death, ending of a relationship, meeting a life goal.

For today’s writing prompt consider one of the following:

  • Write a poem or a piece of short fiction about an ending. You may want to reflect on the ending of 2011.
  • Share a chapter or piece of short fiction with an ending that induces the reader to want to know more.
  • Write a poem with a surprise ending.
  • If anyone takes the challenge to review your own work in progress and revise it based on the idea of tantalizing the reader, you may want to share the result with us. Include both the first write and the revision if you like.

To participate:

    • Post your poem or story on your blog.
    • Copy and paste the URL into the Mr. Linky at the bottom of this post. Be sure to include your name.
    • Visit other participants and offer your comments.
    • Enjoy.

I wish everyone a blessed and peaceful New Year. That is what I wish for our poor world, as well. If I’m absent next week, it’s because I will be in the midst of travel. While I plan on posting, timing and Internet connections will be the bosses.

29 thoughts on “Write2Day–Endings

  1. dani says:

    not a great poem from me but i couldn’t resist playing. wonderful post, Victoria! ♥


  2. […] Endings   at   liv2write2day’s Blog prompt:    Endings […]


  3. That sounds like wonderful advice!

    I look forward to your 2012 posts.

    Happy new year!


  4. This interests me because on our site, we write 100-word pieces only. So we usually think of the challenge as: “Leap into the action and pull a conclusion out super-quickly”. But sometimes our endings hang on purpose and that’s the kind I posted. (Don’t anybody worry, my test results came out good!)


  5. Caty says:

    thanks for the well wishes and stopping by. Hope you’ve had a fabulous new year’s day…and may it continue all year 🙂


  6. Happy new year! I hope next year’s a good one!


  7. Hello Victoria: I have nominated you for the Candle Lighter Award:


    Your poems and stories are always enjoyable!! 🙂

    Happy 2012!!



  8. ManicDdaily says:

    Hi Victoria–all your prompts for fiction writing are great and I was tempted to post a bit of my new novel to see if it would fit, but instead went for an old poem that is truly about an ending. (It’s quite sad.) But the new year is not! Hope yours is terrific. K.


  9. […] poem is in response to Victoria’s Blog Live to Write Today in which she offers the writing prompt […]


  10. I’ve got the perfect poem for this theme. It came to me decades ago.


  11. zongrik says:

    i hope there are enough endings embedded in endings with the theme of an ending. 🙂 and it’s prose!


  12. […] today’s liv2write2day’s Blog Fiction, Poetry and Writing Prompts, Victoria wrote, “As we approach the end of the year and the beginning of another, a theme […]


  13. Chris G. says:

    Good post, Victoria – plenty of good examples to help people sort out some key writing tips, too. So many different methods one can use to catch the attention – to grip the reader right there, at the very end…

    A happy New Year to you as well, my friend! May it treat you wonderfully.


  14. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    I’ve never been to a late night reading marathon – it sounds great!!

    Great tips – thank you. I’ve never cut writing apart like that, planned etc. But what you wrote made sense. A beaut post.

    Happy new year!


  15. MISH says:

    Such a great post Victoria.
    Hope you have a blessed New Year. Thanks for your friendship & support during 2011.
    See you in 2012.


  16. […] A couplet, not my favorite form to be sure. That much rhyming against my nature. So, I tried to have fun with it. Posted to the dVerse Poets Pub and to Vitoria Slotto’s Write2Day. […]


  17. Barb says:

    Well…because I’m a fix-it person, it’s hard to leave loose ends, but I agree, keep the reader moving forward with unsolved problems. Sometimes I watch daytime soaps just to see how they do it. Nice tip.


  18. Morning says:

    Happy Birthday…

    safe traveling…


  19. Bodhirose says:

    I always find the information you offer to be so helpful…thank you, Victoria. This was a fun one for me. Have a safe trip and see you back here when we can.


  20. […]  https://liv2write2day.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/write2day-endings/#comments GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); […]


  21. claudia says:

    a great article victoria… was smiling about the late night reading sessions…oh i know them so well…the eyes already getting red and close to a break down but you just HAVE to finish the next chapter..and then the next chapter… love the writing tips.. and hope you’re having a lovely birthday celebration..


  22. Laurie Kolp says:

    Thanks for sharing the writing tips, Victoria… love how you tied the post into poetry by featuring Sheila’s poem. Hope your 2012 is filled with joy.


  23. jmgoyder says:

    Fantastic advice – not time to put it into practice at the moments but thanks!


  24. vivinfrance says:

    This is a great tutorial – an excellent reminder of what I learned and then forgot!


  25. Mary says:

    Such great advice here. And as for endings, I will have to see if I can come up with anything. A good prompt!


  26. brian says:

    this is some really good writing advice…i especially like interrupting the action and not letting it lead to a logical conclusion or the one assumed…


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