Writing Tips: Pacing & Cliffhangers

Welcome to today's post about pacing and cliffhangers!

Anyone who follows my writing on Wattpad knows I am a big fan of writing cliffhangers. If you've read The CEO & The Christian Girl, you know many chapters end on very dramatic, life-or-death cliffhangers (cough, gunshots, cough). However, that might not be the right pacing for every story, especially every genre of story.

A suspense will have different pacing from a romance or a chick lit story. Obviously, these genres have different readers and different reader expectations. When you read a suspense, you expect your heart to be racing, and to jump from one high-stakes situation to another. With a romance, well, your heart may still race, but you will expect the plot to unfold more slowly with a stronger focus on the characters.

After years of trial and error, I've discovered a simple trick to pacing: make sure every scene and chapter has a point.

Now, this may sound overly simplistic. But as someone who has written entire chapters that were simply a character's thoughts with almost no plot (in a sci-fi YA story, to boot) I recommend using this tip if you are someone like me.

Each scene and chapter should contribute to the character development and/or plot. Any seemingly minor details (Chekhov's gun, in which a gun that is hanging on the wall in the first chapter should be smoking by the second or third chapter) may also have a purpose.

For example, don't just write a first chapter that's entirely exposition. It should blend exposition together rwith throwing the reader into the action. Things should start to go badly for the protagonist, or they can be drawn into the plot. For example, in a romance, they might meet their love interest in the first chapter. In a thriller, someone might get killed or a find a dead body in the first chapter.

Meanwhile, you can interweave threads of the main character's personality and background as the chapter unfolds, instead of opening the chapter as many (in)famous Wattpad novels do: "I have brown hair and brown eyes. I'm 17 years old. My name is Mary Sue. I attend XYZ high school where I get bullied constantly by the popular bad boy."

Another idea for showing a character's background could be through flashbacks. Perhaps when your characters are in peril, or when your romance leads are about to kiss, you could insert a relevant flashback to draw out the suspense.

For example, if your MC has a fear of intimacy, right before she agrees to go on a date with the love interest or at some other pivotal moment, you could insert a flashback about her fear. Or, in a thriller, you could open the story in medias res, in the middle of things, and have a murder happen right away, then spend the rest of the book rewinding until the murder happens.

I also think cliffhangers can keep a reader's interest. I like to end on dialogue questions, such as "who are you?" or "what are you doing here?" The cliffhangers don't need to be very big; they can just be figuring out who picked up the other end of the phone, or finding out what's in a gift box. For thrillers, murder mysteries, and darker genres, of course larger cliffhangers can be employed and used more sparingly to keep from being boring.

I hope this was a useful post! Make sure to subscribe for more writing tips and tricks, and sneak peeks of my work.

Until next time,

Love, Nicole

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