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The Writer's Compass » About Writing, The Story Map, Writing Exercises » The Rats Ate My Posts – Ending with a Hook

The Rats Ate My Posts – Ending with a Hook

I apologize for not updating in so long. Last May our lives started going haywire, not the least of which was a rat falling through the open window screen in my bedroom onto my head as I slept in the dark of early morning. Yeah, everyone has that reaction. I woke up feeling like I was in a Stephen King novel. Let me just say, it got worse from there. My friends call the events of that time “the plagues” and joke that God wanted us out of Long Beach. So we got the message and moved.

Since that time I have been busy sorting and discarding, moving, working, traveling, and giving presentations to writers’ groups, a conference, and at a dinner event for the LA Public Library Foundation’s “Literary Feasts,” which my friend A.G.S. Johnson and her husband hosted. The library pulled together 44 dinners with authors at noteworthy homes and raised over $600,000 for educational programs focusing on children and teens, technology, and adult literacy, which are provided by the library free of charge. It was an honor to be included at such a prestigious event.

By the way, A.G.S. Johnson has a wonderful book coming out soon titled The Sausage Maker’s Daughters. You can read about her and the book at

Yesterday, I gave a seminar at IWOSC, Independent Writers of Southern California, and the participants were great. I am working with IWOSC to hold a 4-class seminar in upcoming weeks. One of the attendees was a student from my first class at Pepperdine. She has a great blog at In the November 20, 2011 post she talks about the seminar, her experience there, and she posted a picture of the structure chart handout with her notes.

Ending with a Hook
I recently read or heard, and unfortunately I don’t remember who said it or where (in the turmoil of the last few months some things are vague), that you should end each chapter with a hook. I think that is a great way to describe how to keep the reader engaged. A hook is where you start your story with the most interesting event that will capture the reader’s attention. Every hook should include the dramatic question the reader wants to learn the answer to, which will drive them to engage with the story. Will Mary lose the love of her life to her arch enemy? Was the fire that scarred Mark started by his own incompetence or set by an arsonist?

By ending every chapter with a hook, you continue pulling your reader through the story. The question should include the mystery of “What will happen next?” letting your audience know that there is more to come. Give your audience part of the answer, or reveal bits of information that will keep them going until you finally answer that initial question from the beginning, in the end of the story.

Placing a question in the story does not mean it has to be a literal question, although it can be. It means giving the readers or viewers the sense that something more is going to happen and they have to continue to find out what that is. Will the protagonist get out of this dilemma? How will this event impact the lives of your characters? Will the story world be changed by the challenge the characters are facing? In other words, the sense there is more to come. The audience becomes engaged with the story in such a way they want to find out what is going to happen next.

Don’t hold back all the answers or your reader will become disconnected from your story and frustrated. By giving reveals to the questions throughout, the reader/viewer feels more “let in” and more a part of the story.


Go through a current story and make sure you have a dramatic question in the hook. Now go through each chapter or scene and try ending with a hook. See if adding those hooks increases the tension and the sense of urgency to your story.

Back to the Rats

They’re gone. We have a new place that is so close to my office, I don’t even get on the freeway. I no longer have a 1-1/2 to 2 hour daily commute. And, we’ve condensed a lot of unnecessary clutter. I’m also looking forward to continuing to teach writing from The Writer’s Compass.

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5 Responses to "The Rats Ate My Posts – Ending with a Hook"

  1. Flo Selfman says:

    Nancy, terrific seminar yesterday! I’ve received a number of enthusiastic comments.
    Hope you can attend our upcoming holiday party at the beautiful downtown Millenium Biltmore on Dec. 7. Details at
    See you soon.

    Flo Selfman
    President, IWOSC

    1. Nancy Ellen Dodd says:

      That’s always nice to hear. I hope to see you there.

  2. Gary Young says:


    Thanks again for your great seminar. You really do great work.

    I am sure that your subsequent four-week workshop will be exciting for all. I’ll be announcing this tonight, tentatively in February.

    Gary Young (
    Director of Professional Development,
    Independent Writers of Southern California

  3. Ankita says:

    she doesn’t read anyone else’s work eucabse of any potential it might have to affect her voice (my interpretation, not her words). But, as another author put it, that’s like a chef not tasting anyone else’s food. In one instance with one of my current releases, there was another book in the same line released a couple of months earlier that had a similar sensual scene, a sexy voyeur scenario, but each was done differently. Now with the way the publishing industry works, a book is locked months before, so when I read another author’s works at that point, it’s too late for me to go to my editor and say can I add to or change this to make it even more different? But each scene will be different anyway, due to the portrayal, the voice, the style. I’ve changed something in my story in mid-edits, too, to avoid any comparison. By golly if I can change something at the 11th hour, then I will! There is just so much talent out there, and a writer has to work very hard to cultivate their words and voice so that their story will stand out.

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