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Background


I've found that at the end of a lot of my chapters, the endings feel quite forced and abrupt. This is because I don't know where to go, I've done what I need to do. For example:

  • Excerpt from my own writing:

“Let us see this matter through. None need to know of this; it is a private issue only for the castle to see to.”

“It would be best to seek out the adviser’s” suggested (name removed).

“Very well.”

This seems extremely abrupt. Its almost like 'okay lets do this' 'do this' 'that it is, see you!'. This comes right after the two characters in this scene discovering a 'page without context'. Considering they've just discovered something so vital and important, I feel like there isn't enough of a winding down section at the end of this chapter.


  • Excerpt from my own writing:

A glowing explosion had imploded with embers, knocking warriors away as their clothes were ignited and weapons abandoned.

(name removed) watched one fumble for life as he toppled to the ground.

I just want to make a note that I haven't decided whether I want to use fumble or cling here, so this example will be edited a lot. I haven't edited this work yet. Anyway, I feel like I've gone from the battle scene to the chapter's end extremely fast, its almost like 'fire explosion!' 'see you'. Normally, after a battle you would have a bit of a winding down section where you consolidated. I haven't had this because I thought it would be obvious that the battle was won, however, it still seems a little bit forced. Also, I changed my mind, I'm changing it to cling the second I finish this question. Fumble connotates that someone is fumbling around the place or fumbling to keep his life, whereas cling infers that he is clinging on to his final moments.


Question

  • How can I prevent the ends of chapters feeling abrupt? Is it always good to have a falling action section at the end, after the climax of the chapter?

Thanks.

  • 2
    The first thing I would ask is why you feel you need a winding down at the end of every chapter. Doing so just invites the reader to stop reading. You want the reader to keep reading. To me, chapters are the enemy of this, so I try to do everything I can to ramp the suspense UP at the end of a chapter. That way the reader has to read the next chapter, at which point there is no break and he has to keep reading. This is what the phrase 'unable to put the book down' means. – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Oct 28 '16 at 22:04
  • duplicate? If not then very closely related: writers.stackexchange.com/questions/1806/… – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Oct 28 '16 at 22:34
  • @what This isn't the place for this discussion. However I will point out a few things: a reader's attention is something very difficult to get these days, and even easier to lose. I don't want to help it leave. I will do everything in my power to keep him reading. Whether or not he does keep reading is entirely up to him; I'm not forcing him to keep reading into the night. It is a suggestion, yes, but it is up to him. It is very far from 'not allowing readers to function.' – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Oct 29 '16 at 15:54
  • @what As to your second comment: I do not understand why authors today think that they need to 'wind down the action.' In this case I equate action with tension (which I believe is what is really meant). Without tension, the book is boring, and you lose reader interest. Yes. The story arc has come to an end. To me, that means that I need to focus on increasing the tension even more. Until the end of the book, the end of a chapter arc (to me) should be like this: "It's over. Now what?" Versus: "It's over. Now we can rest in peace." – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Oct 29 '16 at 15:59
  • If I knew how to move this conversation to chat, I would. This really isn't the place for it. – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Oct 29 '16 at 16:00
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It is hard to be sure from such small samples, but I would guess that the problem is not really abruptness. All chapter endings are in some sense abrupt. The action simply stops.

The problem is, where should it stop. Every chapter should have a dramatic arc. It should stop at the end of that arc. A dramatic arc generally ends either with the creation or the resolution of tension.

The problem with your first example is that its "'okay lets do this' 'do this' 'that it is, see you!'." structure does not seem to either create tension or resolve it. It is the end of a scene only in the sense that it is the end of a conversation, after which the characters presumably walk off in different directions. But it ends on what is essentially an administrative decision. No grave matter has come to a head. No grave matter has been resolved. The end of the conversation is not the end of a dramatic arc. The problem is not a lack of winding down but a lack of winding up.

Similarly in your second example, although it is a battle scene, there is no apparent arc ending. (By the way, explosions don't implode. The terms are opposites.) There was an explosion. Some people died. Okay, but do those deaths create tension? Do they resolve tension? What is at stake for our hero in this battle? Love? Honor? A moral dilemma? The fate of a loved one? Does this explosion create or resolve tension relative to what is at stake to our hero?

If not, the explosion is just a random bit of violence that no more creates dramatic tension than an administrative requirement to get advice from the castle. It is not the end of the chapter because it is not the end of a dramatic arc.

A chapter end should be a point of flexion in the overall shape of your story. The fate of the characters should change in some material way -- or at least be in peril of changing. If a chapter ending feels abrupt, it is probably because it has not reached that point. (Or possibly because it as run on past it, or the chapter contains no such point.)

  • Ah, I see, thanks for your suggestions and especially your notes on the word implode. I left out a lot of important details on the arcs, and now I can see some of the chapters which appear more abrupt than some others. They do tend to be the ones with the structure I used in the first one, I'll go through and fix that. – Daniel Cann Oct 29 '16 at 6:31
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None of these endings feel forced to me.

In the second example the viewpoint character looses consciousness. That in itself may be abrupt, but for the chapter it is a natural end. In fact it would be odd to have the narration continue after the protagonist falls to the ground, unconscious.

In the first example, a decision has been made and the decision process has been brought to an end. Again that is natural. As the viewpoint characters are still conscious, in the first example something more might follow the decision. I would not pick up the action that follows from the decision. That is a new substory arch and belongs to the next chapter. But you might have the viewpoint character reflect on the decision or feel something in anticipation of what they are now about to do. In fact the whole example is just dialog and feels very bare bones. I would add some description of what the characters do while they speak, or indicate their emotions or relationship.

Here is an example. It will not fit your story and characters, which I don't know, and only serves to illustrate what I mean:

[stuff happens, things are said] ...

“Let us see this matter through,” Lord Brome interrupted impatiently, cutting Sir Falgor's rambling short. “None need to know of this; it is a private issue only for the castle to see to.”

Lady Shardley gently touched Lord Brome's shoulder. “It would be best to seek out the advisers,” she suggested quietly, careful not to anger the irritable Lord.

Lord Brome stiffened, then caught himself. “Very well,” he said, then shook the Lady's hand off and turned to gaze out the window and to the distant castle.

Seek out the advisers he would. But not to ask them for advice.

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Depends on the story you are telling "and in the telling how the story is told."

Traditionally the end of a chapter provides a "forewarning" that more is to come...though maybe not exactly in the next chapter certainly in the coming ones.

The "boring" or trite way this is done is to literally repeat the last sentence of the last Chapter as the first sentence of your next Chapter...which sounds goofy today but does have literary merit actually.

For example "And he thought 'I think therefore I am' because of what had happened." End of Chapter followed by

Chapter 2: not in quotes I think therefore I am. What the heck does that mean?

And then you go from there...

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