First, I’d like to thank all the lovely people who responded to last week’s Qibbles & Bits; the one my sister Eileen likes to call "the ego blog." I was gobsmacked at the response, but I sure did enjoy and appreciate the comments and private emails, especially the one with the subject header: "I HAVE heard of you." Thanks Julia Buckley.
When I was asked to join my incredibly talented fellow bloggers, Murderati was only a wee seed in the fallow field of my mind. I had to nurture it, add enough but not too much water, and, of course, add manure (llama manure works best, I’ve found). Then I had to decide what to write about.
Aye, there was the rub (with apologies to Will Shakespeare and Stephen King for the "was"). I thought maybe I’d blog relevant subjects, like how to self-edit, how to deal with rejection, editors’ pet peeves, etc.
But I soon found that, for me, it’s much more fun to be un-relevant [de-relevant? non-relevant?]. Just like my Denise Dietz crime fiction novels, my blogs have no socially redeeming values whatsoever. Just like my crime fiction novels, my blogs are written to entertain.
So this week my subject is: LEADING YOU BY THE EYES
Also known as "manipulation."
The dictionary defines manipulate as "to treat with the hands in a skillful manner" ["Ooh, awesome," says Beatrice]. A second definition is "to control or play upon by artful or insidious means esp. to one’s own advantage."
Although I worked as a masseuse and like nothing better than being manipulated by another masseuse (and/or chiropractor), I’m going to deal with the second definition.
Some reader say they don’t like an author using "cliffhangers" at the end of chapters. Some readers say it’s manipulative.
I say "cow patties!"
Some readers say they need "obvious stopping places" to, like, eat dinner or walk the dog or pee. Or even sleep.
I say, "Then read somebody else’s books, not mine."
While I agree that ending one of my chapters "He hung up the phone and went to bed" gives a reader the perfect respite, that’s not how I write. To use a popular expression, it’s bleh.
I’d rather artfully, insidiously lead you by the eyes into the next chapter."
I love that. Lead you by the eyes. I didn’t make it up. Del Tinsley did.
Let’s pick, at random, a Dean Koontz chapter ending . . . Chapter 3 of Intensity: "She wondered if the angle of his approach would give her a warning or if he would just be a sudden silhouette popping up from the booth as he opened fire on her."
The page before: "With a final sigh of air brakes, the vehicle stopped."
Which one keeps you reading?
Several years ago, while writing my saga The Rainbow’s Foot, I was angsting over the motivation for moving my heroine from Colorado to California. One of my husbands (# 3, I think) said, "Why don’t you just start your next chapter, ‘She stepped off the train in California’?" That, IMO, is the opposite of manipulation. That’s called "cheating."
Lead one by the eyes. How perfectly spot-on. Those who know me know I have a "thing" about eye actions in a book. I hate it when eyes sweep the room, when eyes drop to the floor, when eyes are glued to somebody or something, when eyes follow or trail a person, when eyes get lit (up).
But leading one by the eyes into the next chapter is a whole ‘nother story. That’s what I strive for in every single book I write.
And the very best words I can hear from a reader [other than "I ordered 100 Chain a Lamb Chop to the Bed hardcovers for Christmas gifts" or "Oh, look, an MLT sandwich") is:
"I couldn’t put it down."
Here’s the song I sing about chapter breaks when I sit in front of my computer at 6 a.m. (sung to "She’ll be Comin’ Round the Mountain"):
Oh, I’ll be adding a twisty ending at the break
<at the break>
I’ll be adding a twisty ending at the break
<at the break>
I’ll be adding a twisty ending, so no one knows what’s pending,
I’ll be adding a twisty ending at the break.
Bottom line: I plan to continue cliffhanging my chapters — or if you insist, "manipulating" my readers — till the end of time. And If it stresses you out, well, you can always visit a masseuse.
Over and out,
Great, and timely, post Deni The chapter debate is raging on the lists. This is good advice for everyone — leave them hanging, not bored.
Yep, Deni,I always try to end the chapter so that the reader will keep reading . . . that’s one of the final things I edit to make sure the book snaps.
BTW: It was simply lovely to see you at MITG. Thank you so much. We’ll always have Boise . . .
Isn’t it the goal to be entertaining? And isn’t a break that keeps you wanting to read more doing just that?
If I finish a chapter and the reader sighs, closes the book and goes to bed content with where I ended the scene, then I’m NOT DOING MY JOB. I want the reader to have to force themselves to put my book down. Hell, I want someone to have to rip the damn thing from their hands to make them go to sleep.
Leading readers by the eyes…excellent post, Deni.
Thanks for the song. I think I’ll sing it on a regular schedule.