Also known as manipulation.
QUIBBLES & BITS
The dictionary defines manipulate as "to treat with the hands in a skillful manner." A second definition is "to control or play upon by artful or insidious means, especially to one's own advantage."
Although I worked as a masseuse, treating with my hands in a skillful manner, and I like nothing better than being manipulated by another masseuse, 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! Or, since I'm a Dancing With Wolves fan, buffalo dung!
Some readers say they need "obvious stopping places" so they can, like, eat dinner or walk the dog or pee. Or 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.
Why? Because it's bleh.
I'd rather artfully, insidiously lead you by the eyes into the next chapter.
Let's pick, at random, a Dean Koontz chapter ending. Here's one; 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?
Once upon a long time ago, while writing my saga The Rainbow's Foot, I was angsting over the motivation for moving my heroine from Colorado to California. A friend (a non-writer) said, "Why don't you just start your next chapter 'She stepped off the train in California'?"
Wll, yeah, I could do that, but it's the opposite of manipulation.
It's called cheating.
Leading one by the eyes is spot-on. Because 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 light (up). As an editor I'll accept eyes rolling, even though I can't repress a bit of a wince.
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 just ordered 100 copies of The Landlord's Black-Eyed Daughter for Christmas gifts") is: "I couldn't put it down."
Here's the song I sing about chapter breaks when I grab a cup of caffeine abd sit in front of my computer at 7 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 prefer, manipulating my readers -- till the end of time. And If it stresses you out, well, you can always visit a masseuse :-)
So, my friends, how do YOU feel about cliffhangers?