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Sticky Endings: Crafting Chapter Closures that Captivate

The ending of a chapter is a critical junction in your novel. It’s the point where readers make a conscious or unconscious decision: to continue reading or to put the book down. To make your chapter endings 'sticky'—so gripping that readers can’t help but turn the page—consider the following strategies:

1. Cliffhangers:
This is the classic page-turner. End the chapter at a moment of high tension or uncertainty, where a character is in a precarious situation or a critical question is raised. Cliffhangers create an immediate need for resolution, compelling readers to continue to the next chapter.

Example: Just as the protagonist reaches for the ancient artifacts, the floor beneath them gives way, plunging them into darkness.

2. Provocative Questions or Statements:
Pose a question or make a statement that intrigues your readers, sparking their curiosity and compelling them to read on to find answers. This technique can be particularly effective in mysteries or thrillers, where the plot revolves around uncovering hidden truths.

Example: “But what if everything we knew about the incident was a lie?”

3. Emotional Resonance:
Conclude with a powerful emotional beat—a surprising revelation, a poignant reflection, or a charged interaction—that leaves readers eager to see what happens next. Emotional hooks are deeply engaging because they connect readers to the characters on a personal level.

Example: As she read the letter, tears streamed down her face; she finally understood why her mother had left.

4. Setting Up a Puzzle:
Introduce a mystery or problem without immediately solving it. This can be plot-related, like a missing object, or character-related, like an inexplicable decision. Puzzles encourage readers to engage actively with the story, trying to piece together clues.

Example: The code on the old map didn’t make any sense—yet every instinct told him it was crucial.

5. Teasers for What’s Next:
Give a small hint or preview of what is coming up in the next chapter, something that sounds so enticing or surprising that the reader is compelled to continue. Teasers are effective because they build anticipation and promise exciting developments.

Example: Little did she know, the next visitor to her door would change everything.

6. Contrast and Counterpoint:
End the chapter with a twist or contrast that disrupts the reader’s expectations, making them eager to understand the shift. This technique keeps the narrative dynamic and surprising, maintaining reader interest.

Example: Just when he thought he was safe, a familiar voice called out his name from the shadows.

7. Unresolved Dialogue:
Concluding with an unfinished or tense conversation encourages readers to move to the next chapter in search of resolution. This approach works well for character-driven stories where relationships and dialogue are central.

Example: “I have something to tell you,” he began, but the words caught in his throat.

Practical Tips for Crafting Sticky Endings

  1. Balance the Techniques: Avoid relying too heavily on any one method, like cliffhangers, as this can lead to fatigue. Mix different strategies to keep the narrative fresh and engaging.

  2. Align with Pacing: Ensure that your chapter endings fit naturally with the overall pacing of your story. A high-tension ending might be perfect for a thriller, while a reflective emotional beat might suit a literary fiction piece.

  3. Build Momentum: Each chapter should build on the last, escalating tension and deepening the plot. Your chapter endings should reflect this momentum, leaving readers eager to see what comes next.

  4. Stay True to the Tone: Make sure the tone of your chapter endings matches the tone of your book. A humorous story should have light, witty chapter endings, while a dark thriller might end chapters on a more ominous note.

Examples of Effective Chapter Endings


  • Cliffhanger: “The detective’s heart raced as the door creaked open, revealing the glint of a knife.”

  • Unresolved Dialogue: “You’ll never guess who I saw last night,” she said, but before he could reply, the line went dead.


  • Emotional Resonance: “For the first time in years, she allowed herself to hope that love was possible.”

  • Teaser for What’s Next: “Tomorrow, she would finally confront him and ask the question that had haunted her for months.”


  • Setting Up a Puzzle: “The prophecy spoke of a chosen one, but all the signs pointed to him—could it be true?”

  • Contrast and Counterpoint: “She had won the battle, but as the smoke cleared, she saw her kingdom in ruins.”


Crafting sticky chapter endings is an art that involves balance. Overusing cliffhangers, for example, may fatigue readers. The goal is to make the ending of each chapter an irresistible invitation to continue the journey, to make putting down the book the harder choice for your readers. This magnetic pull is what keeps them invested and turning pages deep into the night. By employing a variety of strategies such as cliffhangers, provocative questions, emotional resonance, puzzles, teasers, contrasts, and unresolved dialogue, you can create chapter endings that captivate and compel your readers to keep reading.