Tink...tink...tink...anyone out there? Hi! I'm Barbara Donlon Bradley - Author - editor and slightly crazy - ask anyone in my family. I hope to use this blog to talk about writing, editing and whatever pops in my head. Hope you enjoy.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Writing Down the Bones: Chapter Hooks

I remember sitting in my local RWA chapter meetings talking about when and where to end a chapter. New writers want a formula. Some guideline they can follow. I knew authors who believed that they have to have so many pages per chapter, or having so many scenes in a chapter. But there is no right answer or perfect formula. The best way to end a chapter is with a strong hook.

A good hook will make your reader move on to the next chapter instead of using that as a place to put your book down. Having a strong hook at the end of each scene as well as each chapter isn't always easy but with practice you can work on your hooks. The worst scene break or chapter ending is where your characters are going to sleep. What is going to compel your reader to pick that book back up?

When I first started writing I wrote everything chapter by chapter. Each one was about ten pages long. Not real sure why I did that. It seemed to happen naturally, but I wrote in a way that when I ended my chapters there was a hook. It compelled me to write more and I found out it also compelled my reader to read on.

Now my writing style has changed with my new series the Vespian Way. I think it's because I can't seem to write fast enough on some of these books so I don't have the time to try to figure out where I want my chapter breaks. I now just write the scenes, one after another, then when I go to edit I look for good spots to end a chapter.

This makes it easier for me to look for a cliff hanger to end my chapter. A comment or idea that hints at more to come. Something to make my reader move onto the next chapter. I seem to be pretty good at it too. I do see comments from my fans saying they couldn't stop reading. That makes me feel good because I know I have done my job.

Here's a scene from my newest work in progress. No title yet, and like I said earlier I haven't set it in chapters yet, but I'm hoping this will show how I can take a scene and break it to give me that hook. I'm using this because I realized I needed to add a scene in this one section and the best place is going to be in the middle of a scene I had already written. It might not be the best cliff hanger but I hope it is enough make you want to read more.

So to the scene - understand this is the rough draft. Right now I'm just writing. There could be missing words, or the wrong word but right spelling. You might also see the same word a lot too - that is a writing habit I have My goal during this draft is to get the words on the page. I can fix any major flaws later.

This is from my eight book. To set the scene up Heather and Storm, my main characters for this series, have had to go into hiding from their enemy and are in disguise and working with a group from Vespian security. Their goal is to picked for an elite team but they learn there is a small contingent in their area they need to avoid.


She held up her fist and everyone stopped moving. Using the suit's camouflage, one by one they disappeared from sight. Heather talked to them through the helmet system. “There is a pond and a clearing about five clicks back. You need to make for that clearing and set everything up.”
“What about you?”
“I am the leader and need to make sure they don’t detect you. Power down your suits as much as you can.” She held out the gear she carried. That would remain invisible as long as someone held it. Loli took it from her so she could be free to lead their unwanted guests away. “I will catch up with you. Understand I probably won’t be alone.”
She was already peeling her uniform off as she dashed to the pond that had been detected. Once the suit was off she powered it down as low as she could and hid it near some roots of a large tree. The suit was still in camouflage but this made it easier on the system to hide and not use too much power. Next she ran to the pond and dove in. Keeping below the surface she unplatted her hair, slipping the small decorative clasp that held her hair over one ear. When she came up for air she wasn’t alone.
A sultry smile spread across her lips. “Hello. Have you come to play with me?”
Three of the men just stared at her. One made a strange gurgling noise, another said something incomprehensible, but the one in control spoke loudly. “No. What are you doing here? You’re too far from any village or town.”
“Ah, you think I’m some sort of spy?” She climbed out of the water. Droplets glistened on her skin. The humaniod men gawked at her nakedness. “I assure you I am not.”
“Where are you from?” asked the reptile.
“I am traveling with a few friends. Would you like to meet them?”
“No one has permission to travel in this area.”
“Not being able to travel would kill our business. We have our permits.” She started walking toward where she told her team to set up. Heather hoped she had given them enough time.
“Where are you clothes?”
“Didn’t bring any.” She continued to led them to the group.
“Or did you ditch your clothes to try to remain undetected.”
Heather turned to face him. He was so close to the truth is was scary. “You keep trying to make me into some sort of evil person. I am a pleasurer, sir. In my line of work clothing is very optional and I didn’t feel like worrying about clothing.”
“Or a drying cloth?”
“I love the feel of the suns on my skin. Like a kiss, it warms me.” She smiled as she turned and continued toward where the tent should be set up. Her heart fluttered when she spotted the bright blue of the tent between the trees they were walking beside. They were ready.
Her feet weren’t as tough as she pretended, but she ignored the pain she was feeling from stepping on a sharp rock. Their medic could look at it later, once they were safe. As long as she didn’t leave any blood behind they shouldn’t suspect she was lying. Pleasurers were known for their nudity, and for traveling the planet to offer their trade.
Storm was standing outside the tent when she came into view. She gave him a sexy smile as she walked up to him and put her arms around his neck.

Now I have redid it so I could insert the scene I wanted to. You'll notice I stared this scene a little later since you have already read it once:


A sultry smile spread across her lips. “Hello. Have you come to play with me?”
Three of the men just stared at her. One made a strange gurgling noise, another said something incomprehensible, but the one in control spoke loudly. “No. What are you doing here? You’re too far from any village or town.”
“Ah, you think I’m some sort of spy?” She climbed out of the water. Droplets glistened on her skin. The humanoid men gawked at her nakedness. “I assure you I am not.”
“Where are you from?” asked the reptile.
“I am traveling with a few friends.” She tucked a few strands of hair behind her ear. “Would you like to meet them?”
“No one has permission to travel in this area.”
“Not being able to travel would kill our business. We have our permits.” She started walking toward where she told her team to set up. Ideas popped into her head. She needed help to pull this off and there was only one person who could help her.
****
“Sir? We’re being contacted.” The communication specialist turned to look at Fridon.
“By who?”
“Nuri, the one who scored highest yesterday.”
“I know who she is.” He found it interesting that she broke protocol. The insert Heather and Storm had gotten from the ancient computer had been given when they first found the complex had now been utilized with all security. Now he had someone using the system to contact them when they were told not to use the system unless it was an emergency. The main purpose was to give them the ability to speak to each person if something went terribly wrong. “Why is she contacting us?”
“She says it’s an emergency.”
“Put her on.”
Her thoughts were converted to dialog for them to hear. “Sir.”
“Why are you breaking protocol?”
“We have an opportunity, sir.” She paused for a moment as she spoke to someone near her. “We have a chance to put tracking devices on one of Reasta’s people and three of her soldiers.”
Fridon turned to the person tracking each group. “Show me.”
Data filled the screen as her location loaded as well as her team and their company. “How do you plan on deploying this idea?”
“We need tracking devices to implant. Something that Reasta can’t detect. I know I have a very good tech, but she doesn’t have the time to create something we can use.”
Fridon pulled up information on the new trackers they had created. This would be a perfect place to test them. “Does your team know your plan?”
“No sir.”
We will make them aware.” Fridon paused for a moment. “You realize this will cost you points.”
“This is bigger than trying to make it into the elite squad, sir.”
****
Heather was grateful that they were going along with her idea. Now she just needed to be sure they could pull off what she just promised head of security.
“Where are your clothes?”
“Didn’t bring any.” She continued to led them to the group.
“Or did you ditch your clothes to try to remain undetected.”
Heather turned to face him. He was so close to the truth is was scary. “You keep trying to make me into some sort of evil person. I am a pleasurer, sir. In my line of work clothing is very optional and I didn’t feel like worrying about clothing.”
“Or a drying cloth?”

Hooks do come in all shapes and sizes. I hope my example gives you an idea on how I do mine and helps you with yours. 

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