How to Discover the Expected Elements of Your Genre’s Book Endings

“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” —Orson Welles

 

by Quozio

by Quozio

In an earlier post, I talked about backloading sentences, paragraphs, and scenes. Meaningful words at the end of these leave the reader with what’s important. And backloading leads the reader to continue reading.

Tweetable

  • Do we need to backload a novel’s ending with specific elements?
    click to tweet

We want the reader to read our next book, right? But how do we discover what elements are expected in the ending of a novel in our genre?

Because I write inspirational romances, I researched that genre. I also took a look at non-inspirational legal thrillers. You can do the same for your genre.

Tweetable

  • How to Discover the Expected Elements of Book Endings for a Genre
    click to tweet

♥ I gathered 50 inspirational romances. These included: historical, suspense, contemporary, prairie, regency, and humorous romances. Forty-seven unique authors were represented. I used 10 novels by different authors for a quick look at inspirational legal thrillers.

♥ I read the last 2 pages of the last chapters—not of the epilogues, which many included. I considered epilogues extra explanations and not the ends of the romances. The last 2 pages proved sufficient in showing what the novels left us with in the backloading sense.

♥ I noted the repetitions of elements among the novels.

Inspirational Romances

Image courtesy of pat138241 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of pat138241 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Repeated elements from 50 novels:

♥ 100% had happy endings. Almost always a given in this genre.

♥ 76% spoke of God. This ran from a mention of God to praising God. Overwhelmingly, though, the element was characters praising God for changes in their character, in their lives, or in the person they’ve grown to love.

♥ 56% had the hero and heroine share a real kiss.

♥ 40% included a marriage proposal or a wedding. Some couples are married from the beginning. Or the story continues after the wedding or the proposal. Or we’re left with the assurance the relationship will grow.

♥ 36% issued noble last words. Although several summarize realized growth in the last 2 pages, this percentage applies to the last few words. Words about how the character is prepared to face the future or about new beginnings.

♥ 32% had at least one character say, “I love you.” Several mulled over or spoke of love, but in this percentage, the actual “I love you” words were spoken.

♥ 18% worked the title of the novel into the ending.

Tweetable

  • Consider these elements for effective book endings in inspirational romances.
    click to tweet

Remember, though, how well we write these elements determines how good they are.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Non-inspirational Legal Thrillers

For my sample of 10 novels, the emerging elements were:

  • Discussion of the outcome. This could be wrap-up explanations or talk of appeals or of additional legal actions. (7)
  • Discussions with or about the victim, the guilty person, or the innocent defendant. (6)
  • Hope for the future or hint of spiritual recognition. (5)
  • Moments of the main character’s personal life. Opposed to his legal life. (4)
  • New action, post-case development, or a gotcha. (4)
  • Discussion of the verdict’s accuracy. (3)

Readers or writers, what elements do you expect in the last pages of your preferred genres?

How to Make Your Surly Character Likeable

“Well, the thing about great fictional characters from literature, and the reason that they’re constantly turned into characters in movies, is that they completely speak to what makes people human.” —Keira Knightley

Image courtesy of Rosemary Ratcliff / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Rosemary Ratcliff / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have a surly character in my inspirational contemporary romance. Allie is ill-mannered because people and events have hurt her in the past and she’s had enough. She has much room for growth. How am I going to make readers care enough about her to read her story? 

Tweetable

  • Do you have a character who’s surly and might be disliked by your readers?
    click to tweet

So what am I to do?

  • Be true to my character’s position at the opening of my story. Allie is flawed. She’s quick to misjudge people.
  • Recognize, especially at the beginning, the times Allie is too harsh with little good to balance her disposition.
  • Give indications of the true person who lies beneath Allie’s current tack toward insolence.
  • Show Allie’s fears, hopes, and struggles.
  • Show a moment when Allie is vulnerable. Especially near the beginning.
  • Feed in bits of backstory as necessary to show why she acts as she does. When Allie is brusque, give a memory that makes her fear letting a person see her soft side.
  • Continue to give glimpses of Allie’s internal goodness as the story unfolds.
  • Make her able to do things by the end of the story that she isn’t able to do at the beginning. Allie will be able ask Jesus to come into her life. She’ll strive not to misjudge others. She’ll ask for forgiveness from others and forgive those who’ve hurt her.

Tweetable

  • How do I show my surly character’s internal goodness?
    click to tweet

    by cjhulin85

    by cjhulin85

  • Have Allie do something at the beginning of the story that shows she has redeeming qualities.
  • Give Allie thoughts and physical reactions to her wounds, dreams, hopes, and fears. Other characters may not recognize Allie’s deep emotions but her feelings will come across to the reader.
  • Show Allie what she sounds like to herself when she speaks harshly. At times, show her wanting to be better than a person who speaks like that.
  • Show moments in which Allie is honest about past events, her struggles and fears, and her hopes and dreams.

But what if she’s over-the-top surly for much of the story? I hope I can make Allie more likeable without resorting to these.recite-26912-292788037-188q2fb

  • Give your character a unique flaw that you play up so readers enjoy “hating” the character.
  • Give your character an enemy who is more unlikeable than your main character.

Tweetable

  • What traits are turn-offs that I should avoid giving my main characters?
    click to tweet
  • Bullying
  • Patronizing
  • Picking on weaker people
  • Using violence to get her way
  • Gaining pleasure from ruining others’ lives
  • Moaning about hardships
  • Holding lots of pity parties
  • Making wrong inferences and not allowing others to explain themselves
  • Gossiping to hurt others
  • Lying all the time

What do you use or have seen others use to make surly characters likeable?

3 Tips to Edit Your Writing to Avoid a Reader’s “Huh?”

“It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.”  —Mark Twain

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We know exactly what we mean when we write each sentence of our story. We’re surprised when our critique partner or editor doesn’t.

Tweetable

  • Does your editor often mark your work with “vague,” “awkward,” or “huh?”? click to tweet

Here are 3 tips that will improve the clearness of your writing.

Tip 1. Huh? That Couldn’t Happen.

When we put phrases in the wrong place or leave out words we can say something that’s impossible.

by mensatic

by mensatic

Example: He’d forgotten to tell Alice he’d seen three wild turkeys playing golf the other day.

Turkeys playing golf? Huh?

Be careful in your rewrite or you may create a new problem. For example: He’d forgotten to tell Alice while playing golf the other day he’d seen three wild turkeys.

Golf-hating Alice played golf with him? Huh?

Better Rewrite: Earlier today, he’d forgotten to tell Alice he’d seen three wild turkeys on the golf course the other day.

Watch out for impossible actions in your writing.

Tip 2. Huh? What does “it” or “that” or “her/him” refer to?

Sometimes we use “it” or “that” or a pronoun that could refer to more than one thing or person.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Example: She gaped. Maude had told Alex every detail about her past. Maude’s blabbermouth would someday get her in trouble. That hurt her now.

Huh? What hurt? Maude’s gossip, Maude’s blabbermouth, or Maude’s ending up in trouble? Whose past was it? [She]’s or Maude’s? And Maude’s blabbermouth would get whom in trouble? [She] or Maude? That hurt whom? [She] or maybe Maude through a tarnished reputation?

Better Rewrite: Amy gaped. Maude had told Alex every detail about Amy’s past. Maude’s blabbermouth would someday get Maude in trouble. Now, Maude’s gossip had destroyed Amy’s chances to marry Alex.

A lot of names. But the reader shouldn’t be confused now. We could revamp the paragraph to cut down some of the names.

Tweetable

  • Watch out for the vague “it,” “that,” or pronoun in your writing. click to tweet

Tip 3. Huh? What did that sentence say?

We pack in several pieces of information and end up with a convoluted sentence.

karizbobariz

karizbobariz

Example: By reaching across the cement wall, Ziggy grabbed the Tiki torch Mom had put there with the hand she’d burned in last night’s fire lighting up the area with it to expose thieves climbing over it, snagging her sweater in the process.

Huh? Who had the burned hand? And did the Tiki torch or the fire light up the area to expose thieves? Did thieves climb over the wall, the fire, or the Tiki torch? Who snagged her sweater?

Better Rewrite: Ziggy eyed the Tiki torch Mom had put near the wall to expose thieves entering the yard. She reached the hand she’d burned in last night’s fire across the cement wall and grabbed the torch, snagging her sweater in the process.

Tweetable

  • Watch out for convoluted, awkward sentences in your writing. click to tweet

What other tips do you have to help writers keep their writing clear?

13 Guidelines for When to Start a New Paragraph in Your Story

“Paragraphs help readers make sense of the thousands of pieces of information a writer folds into a story.” —Beth Hill

 

by ardelfin

by ardelfin

Does your editor or critique partner often suggest breaking up your paragraphs?

After researching online articles, I found:

Tweetable

  • One hard-and-fast rule and 12 guidelines as to when to start a new paragraph.
    click to tweet

First, know:

Tweetable

  • Fiction paragraphs are less structured than those in non-fiction.
    click to tweet

For fiction, you’ll construct your paragraphs for setups, punches, and other desired effects. For example, the one-word paragraph.

THE RULE: Always start a new paragraph when you switch speakers in dialog.

GUIDELINES: Start a new paragraph when

by mconnors

by mconnors

  1. a new character reacts or does something,
  2. a new character thinks something,
  3. a new idea enters,
  4. a new event happens,
  5. a new setting occurs,
  6. the reader needs a break from a long paragraph,
  7. the “camera” moves. Ray Bradbury suggested, as in movies, every time the camera angle changes, start a new paragraph,
  8.  a portion of information isn’t closely related to another and needs to be distanced,
  9.  a change in emphasis or tone is needed in a topic,
  10. the time moves forward or backward,
  11. a description of one thing ends and something else is described,
  12. a special effect is needed to add humor or drama.
by mzacha

by mzacha

EXAMPLE USING TIPS (Tip numbers in parentheses)

“How are we going to handle this one?” Jack said. (1, Rule)

Sandy nodded toward him. “You’re the expert.” (2)

When had he dealt with similar situations? How about the Haiti op? (10)

The pompous Haitian general had questioned Jack’s men. Jack had stuck up for his men’s reason for disobeying orders, but he’d conceded the general’s wisdom for questioning them. The general had respected that, and he’d sent Jack’s team away unharmed. (10)

If they were caught today, would that tactic work on the warlord? But Sandy wasn’t one of his men. (1, 7)

Sandy snapped her fingers in his face. “So, what’re we going to do? The warlord knows me.” (2, 7)

He couldn’t take Sandy out of the op. She was the only one who knew what to look for inside the warlord’s files. (3, 8, 11)

Sandy’s mother had told him about Sandy’s photographic memory. If he could get Sandy inside to scan the pertinent files in the warlord’s underground cave, that could give him all the information he needed. (4)

Rat-tat-tat. (9, 12)

The sound was close. (1, Rule)

Sandy grabbed his arm. “Was that gunfire?” (Rule)

“Yeah. We gotta put distance between the warlord’s goons and us.” (4, 7)

They swept up their gear and moved out. (5, 7)

On the other side of the village, Jack scanned the area. They needed a hiding place. (9, 12)

Now.

Do you have other tips for when to start a new paragraph?

When You Should Grace Your Stories with Telling

“A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”  —William Strunk, Jr.

 

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Show, don’t tell, is pounded into the pores of writers. In last week’s post, we observed how showing instead of telling brings the reader into the story. But we mustn’t overdo the showing.

Tweetable

  • Telling instead of showing in stories sometimes gets the job done the best way.
    click to tweet

Would you’ve gone to these lengths to SHOW in these situations?

My Rewrite 1: Marla’s gaze trailed his retreat, her face taking on a more and more puzzled look with each of his steps. When he turned the corner and was gone, she rotated her body around toward me. “What’s he up to?”

Actual Excerpt from Word Gets Around by Lisa Wingate:

Marla watched him disappear down the hall, then swiveled toward me. “What’s he up to?”

Comments:

The “pop-action thriller star” has just told his miffed assistant, Marla, to tell his waiting manger to “chill” and then leaves.

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net (Photo does not depict the actual description of Marla)

My rewrite showing what Marla looks like as she watches the star leave is overdramatic and slows the forward motion of the moment. Wingate’s telling us that Marla watched him is enough.

Wingate’s “disappear down the hall” is good because to me the word disappear is probably what the star wants to do when surrounded by demanding assistants and managers. My mention of his steps in showing Marla’s watching added little.

Wingate’s “swiveled” trumps my showing Marla rotating her body around.

The “What’s he up to?” dialog is enough to show Marla’s curiosity without my repetition of showing her puzzled face.

Wingate “showed” much by choosing her words carefully and using the telling word “watched” to move things along.

Tweetable

  • Readers expect authors to avoid bogging down stories with too many showing details.
    click to tweet

My Rewrite 2: Watterboy crouched over, extended his weapon before him, sweeping it to the left and to the right, and rushed to the man. He patted the man’s body for weapons while Heath scanned the area around them.

Actual Excerpt from TRINITY: Military War Dog by Ronie Kendig:

Watterboy moved in to search the man while Heath kept watch.

Comments: This is a fast-paced prologue. Kendig keeps her sentences short and peppered with “military” words. If she goes into many showing descriptions, the reader will have too much time to rest. That’s a no-no for an action scene like this one.

by beat0092

by beat0092 (Photo does not depict the actual description of Trintiy and Heath)

Kendig chooses her showing moments carefully. In this case, she chooses to use “military-friendly” telling terminology to keep the action going. Her “moved in” is an understood term used in such a military operation that naturally depicts the careful movement I showed. The same goes for “kept watch.”

Kendig keeps her showing concise and uses it on the more important characters, such as Trinity the war dog and her partner, Staff Sergeant Heath Daniels. The man Watterboy approaches is only one stop in the action and not worth trading off moving the action along for showing.

Tweetable

  • Often the moment is too insignificant to show, and telling moves the story along.
    click to tweet

For what other reasons, besides moving the story along by avoiding insignificant showing, do you think telling is appropriate?

SHOW Your Readers Your Love—Don’t Just Tell Them

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” —Anton Chekov

 

by MGDboston

by MGDboston

The most caring thing authors can do for their reader is to give them a great story. This means more than a creative, fresh plot. Authors must do the work to bring the reader into the story.

Tweetables

  • Readers expect an author to give them what they need to live the story.
    click to tweet
  1. Although, scared of what she imagined might happen, she ran into the woods.
  2. Avery disliked Mitch trying to make her admit her feelings for Jackson.

Below are the actual excerpts to the above sentences in which I told what happened. See how each author brings us into the moment of the story.

Excerpt 1: The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen:

by badeendjuh

by badeendjuh

Shivers of fear prickling over her skin, she hurled herself into the outstretched arms of the wood, already dim and shadowy on the chill of autumn evening. Beneath her thin soles, dry leaves crackled. Branches grabbed her like gnarled hands. She stumbled over fallen limbs and underbrush, every snapping twig reminding her that a pursuer might be just behind, just out of sight.

Comment: With the extra work Klassen did in showing me the character’s fear of the scary woods, I don’t have to do any more work than run my gaze over the words. I don’t have to come up with what the character’s fear felt like or what the woods looked like. I’m there with the character, trying to avoid the grabbing branches.

Excerpt 2: Dangerous Passage by Lisa Harris:

Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mitch snapped on his seatbelt. “So how is he?”

She pressed her foot against the brake. “How is who?”

“Jackson Bryant. You can stop pretending. I’ve caught that daydreamy look in your eyes whenever the two of you are in the same room. Or on the phone together.”

Avery frowned. “It’s nothing.”

“Nothing?”

After a quick glance in then rearview mirror, she started for the station. She could always opt for leaving him on the street to find his own way back.

Comment: Harris takes the time to show us how detective Avery North learns partner Mitch’s circumstantial evidence for charging her with budding feelings toward Jackson. Detectives detecting on and off the clock. Clever.

Then Harris shows us how Avery feels about Mitch as she considers kicking him out of the car. We’re right inside her disgruntled thoughts. In Harris’s story, the banter continues.

Tweetable

  • Authors who love their readers show instead of tell what happens in their stories.
    click to tweet

However, sometimes showing is unsuitable. That’s the subject for next week’s post.

Which authors do you think do well at drawing the reader into the story?

Hook Your Reader to Start the Next Chapter NOW!

“That’s what agents and acquisition editors are looking for–something they don’t want to put down.” —Ray Rhamey

 

by phaewilk

by phaewilk

Writers are told to end each chapter with a cliffhanger that keeps the reader from inserting a bookmark and going to sleep.

Tweetable

  • Would a chapter with these endings make you turn the page?
    click to tweet
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

      • Tomorrow was another day.
      • She smiled. “You’ve made me happy today, Mark.”
      • She huddled down in her hiding place and drifted off to sleep.

I imagine you’d be inserting the bookmark. Why?

      • All provide stopping places. Whether the character’s situation is bad or good, each scene ends with quiet closure.
      • Readers are left with no reason to keep reading.

Here are two chapter endings that contain a hook.

Example 1 from Sweet Mercy by Ann Tatlock:

“Well,” I said, “nice to meet you.”

“Yeah, you too. Oh, and welcome to Ohio, I guess. But listen, just watch out for the red-eyed devil.”

“The what?”

“Marlene!”

“I said I’m coming!” She started to go, and then turned back. “But don’t worry. You’re pretty safe as long as it’s daylight. He mostly comes out at night.”

I wanted to ask her what she was talking about, but before I could say another word she had run off, laughing, to join her family.

 

by clarita

This what I pictured. By clarita

Comment: Okay, I want to learn who the red-eyed devil is. I’ll read one more chapter.

Notice how Tatlock winds down the chapter at the end of the day with goodbyes between the main character, Eve, and Marlene. A nice stopping place. EXCEPT Marlene, brings up the danger of a red-eye devil appearing at night—which is fast approaching.

Tatlock didn’t stick the hook in as a gimmick. She ties it to the story and reveals who the red-eyed devil is shortly. These two elements are important.

Tweetable

  • Your end-of-chapter hook must not be a gimmick but part of the story.
    click to tweet

Example 2 from On the Threshold by Sherrie Ashcraft and Christina Berry Tarabochia:

Her cell phone rang.

Not now. She didn’t feel like talking to anyone except her husband…and maybe not even him. She checked the caller ID.

Beth. Okay, make that anyone except Jake or Beth.

She pulled to the side of the road. “Hi, honey.” Suzanne forced a pleasant tone.

“Mom?” Beth sniffed, voice breaking. “I need you.”

 

by DTL

by DTL

Comment: After an awful day, Suzanne considers what to do about dinner. A nice stopping place. BUT the phone rings, and her daughter’s in trouble. Okay. I want to know what Beth’s problem is. I’ll read on.

Again, the hook is tied to the story, and within a few pages we know Beth’s problem.

Here’s the last of my ho-hum chapter endings above transformed into a hook:

She huddled down in her hiding place. Minutes went by while she listened to the drone of cicadas in the darkness. Her eyelids grew heavy.

A loud huffing sounded.

Her lids shot open, and every muscle tensed. Only an angered bull made that kind of sound. Or a monster.

Tweetable

How would you change one of the ho-hum endings to make the reader turn the page?

When Should You Spare the Life of an Innocent -ly adverb?

“I am dead to adverbs; they cannot excite me.” — Mark Twain

recite-13336-1058016930-v8er06

Look at the –ly adverbs in the next paragraph. Which would you axe?

Jason planted his hands firmly on top of the gate, swung his legs over gracefully, hit the ground lightly, and took off after Lily. He couldn’t lose her this time. Lily really needed to hear what Dad had said about her before he quietly died. Maybe she’d finally stop running. And return to the family.

All the –ly adverbs could go, except possibly one.

by RoganJosh

by RoganJosh

Firmly -Jason hasn’t time to make sure his hands are firmly planted on the gate. And adding firmly slows the fast-paced action down. “Gripped” would sum it up in one strong verb.

Gracefully – this says something about Jason’s agility, but it takes the reader away from the urgency Jason is experiencing. And it slows the action.

Lightly – is this possible? It might be better for Jason to scramble a step to regain his balance. More realistic, and shows the urgency. Scramble is a strong verb that describes Jason’s actions. It means using one’s hands and feet while moving over or up terrain.

Really – I don’t think really adds anything, and takes away the punch from “needed.” If really had been used in dialog, it could work. “Lily, you really need to hear what Dad said.” It still weakens “need,” but it shows how Jason might talk in persuading Lily.

Quietly – this, like the others, is telling and forces the reader to imagine what quietly looks like. No last breath? In his sleep? It speed-bumps the flow. And, how Dad passes is not important here.

Finally – It’s probably unnecessary, but finally supports the idea Lily runs every time she sees family members. Finally is much shorter than going on about her constant fleeing.

Tweetables

  • An –ly adverb works when it gives needed information while moving the story along.
    click to tweet
  • An –ly adverb works when a character would use the word in dialog.
    click to tweet

Here’s the paragraph without the –ly adverbs, but tweaking verbs:

Jason gripped the top of the gate, swung his legs over, scrambled a step on the other side, and took off after Lily. He couldn’t lose her this time. Lily needed to hear what Dad had said about her before he died. Maybe she’d stop running. And return to the family.

by taukast

by taukast

Eva Marie Everson uses few –ly adverbs in The Road to Testament. Here are examples where she used them effectively:

  1. He placed the book on the table without fully entering the room, then pulled the door shut.

 

Without fully we wouldn’t have the right picture of what he’s doing.

 <>

  1. On the ground, several dead branches lay haphazardly where thick brambles and brush ran about knee-high. “Careful now,”…
by mparkes

by mparkes

Everson chose succinctness over wordy showing. The description of the branches’ positions isn’t worth more than one word. Haphazardly covers alternatives, such as “lay in a haphazard manner” or “lay this way and that way.”

Tweetable

  • An –ly adverb works when no verb can replace verb+adverb, and showing slows the story.
    click to tweet

What good reasons do you have for using –ly adverbs?

How to Make Your Back Cover Blurb Entice Readers for a Sale

“Writing a short book blurb is not only fun, but great practice for writing promotional copy of any kind.” — Marg McAlister

 

by click

by click

I’ve pulled together information on how to write a back cover blurb.

Tweetable

  • Here’s what’s recommended for a back cover blurb.
    click to tweet

Back Cover Blurb Suggestions:

  1. Give the set-up. Include a headline that gives the big idea. Name and introduce main characters in a way readers will expect to identify with a hero or heroine. Give an idea of setting and a simple hint of plot. For romance, give what tears the hero and heroine apart. Include the external conflict.
  2. Answer the question: What’s in it for me?The blurb’s a sales pitch. It builds curiosity. Promises to deliver something the reader wants. Shows how this book is different.
  3. Use emotive words. Words that evoke the images the genre promises. However, don’t use vague words, such as “amazing,” “life-changing,” or “unbelievable.”
  4. End with a question or suggestion of mystery. But don’t give away how issues are resolved.
  5. Keep it short. Two to four paragraphs. 100-150 words.
by Pennywise

by Pennywise

EXAMPLE: A Deeper Cut by Sheri Wren Haymore (Thriller)

A PRANK GONE HORRIBLY WRONG…

When Hunter Kittrell and his beautiful friend, Miki, arrive in Beauport, North Carolina for their summer stay, they decide to liven up the small town by pulling a harmless prank. That “harmless prank,” however, quickly finds them deeply entangled in a blood bath face-off with a knife-wielding serial killer.

As the usually-peaceful town is dragged into chaos, Hunter and Miki find themselves drawn more deeply into the investigation, and it turns out their connections to the murders may not be as tenuous as they seemed at first. As the investigation continues, burning questions bubble to the surface: Why is Hunter being framed for the murder? And why are there mentions of his long-lost father popping up all over town?

Everything comes crashing down to a startling conclusion on Hunter’s 21st birthday, when he’s finally forced to confront the truths he’s been running from all his life.

COMMENTS:

  • The header piques my curiosity. What was the prank, and how did it go wrong? The first paragraph names and introduces the characters. We’re given the setting: Beaufort, North Carolina. The simple plot and external conflict is the prank and how it puts them in a face-off with a serial killer.
  • What’s in it for the reader? The last sentence of the first paragraph assures me I’ll get a thriller.
  • The emotive words run from lovely images to those of horror: beautiful, harmless, blood bath, face-off, and knife-wielding, to name a few.
  • The blurb is within the suggested length: 150 words long, including the header. And it has three paragraphs.
  • In the second paragraph, we’re given stimulating questions we can’t answer. They’re unlike the tired question for some romances: “Will they rise above their problems and fall in love?” Yes. If it’s a romance, they better.
  • The third paragraph tells us we’ll read toward the hero’s 21st birthday when we’ll learn the truth. It doesn’t give away the resolution.

 

What do you think is the back cover blurb on this book? by niera94

What do you think is the back cover blurb on this book?
by niera94

Tweetable

  • Try these 5 suggestions for an enticing back cover blurb.
    click to tweet

What do you look for in a back cover blurb to decide if you’ll read/buy a book?

(Sheri Haymore’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/SheriWrenHaymore)

How to Ground Your Reader at the Start of Each Scene

“The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.” — Tom Clancy

by dehannte

by dehannte

 

We’ve looked at the importance of the first lines of chapter one, scene one. But how about all the other scenes?

Tweetable

  • Your scene openings must not leave your readers feeling like they’ve just snapped out of a coma.
    click to tweet
by solidphoto

by solidphoto

The first lines of a scene must let the reader know the “who,” “where,” “when,” and “mood” of the scene so the reader is ready for new action and events.

Let’s look at two scene lead-ins that do well in grounding the reader, and see why that is.

EXCERPT 1: The Shadow of Your Smile by Susan May Warren (Chapter 3/Scene 1)

by click

by click

She hurt everywhere – her arms, her legs – her entire body ached, right to her bones. And her head. As if a vise gripped it, pain screwed through her, eliciting a moan from places deep inside.

“I’m right here, Noelle.”

The voice brought her forward, from the webbed blackness, from the place where pain held her prisoner. …

Where’s the grounding? This opening shows me a female is just realizing her pain from an event. In the dialog, Warren quickly lets us know it’s Noelle. Then in the next sentence, we learn she’s been unconscious.

I like this because instead of Warren telling us right up front that Noelle realizes she’s been unconscious, she lets us experience the confusion with Noelle. In this case, the reader experiencing uncertainty about the “where” works.

But Warren soon removes the confusion. In the next paragraph, she uses smells and sights to let us know Noelle is in a hospital. Now we’re ready to roll.

EXCERPT 2: The Narrow Path by Gail Sattler (Chapter 4/Scene 2)

by Alvimann

by Alvimann

Ach, you should not be here in my kitchen getting your own tea. You are a guest.” Susan extended one arm in the direction of the doorway. “You should be showing your pictures and good ideas to the men. I will bring you more tea when it is ready. Go into the living room.”

“Thanks,” Miranda said. Nervously, she ran her hand down her slim skirt. …

Where’s the grounding? From the Ach, I immediately know the speaker is one of the Mennonite characters. Then I know we’re in the kitchen and the speaker is Susan. I know some tension exists. And from information in prior scenes, I’d know the other person’s identity by what Susan says the person should be doing and that she’s a guest. But in case I don’t know, Sattler tells me it’s Miranda in the very next paragraph.

I like this because Sattler used dialog effectively to ground me. And interesting dialog, at that. The foreign expression hints at the speaker’s “who.” Susan’s accusation gets the “where” established. Her advice shows the other person’s identity.

Tweetable

  • Look for interesting techniques to ground readers at the start of a scene.
    click to tweet

What advice and cautions do you have on grounding the reader in a scene?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,021 other followers

%d bloggers like this: