Saturday, October 13, 2012

Always end on a hook

I don't know where I heard this, but someone said once, "Always end your chapter with a hook. Make the reader want to turn the page."

So often I'll write the opening scene in a chapter, and the ending scene. Then I figure out how to get from point A to point B.

Here's the ending of the 2nd chapter of Candy, Corpses, & Classified Ads, one of the first books I wrote (25 or so ago). I think this has a nice hook ....


Setup: Molly Lawson's thought-to-be-vanished husband, Sam, has turned up buried under a rosebush in her side yard, dug up by a neighbor's marauding pig. Molly's ex-lover, JT McCord, is the cop investigating the case. Molly, her mother, Yolanda, and JT are talking while the police dig up Sam's body.

Oh, and Molly sorts her M&Ms by color, to provide a 'boost' -- yellow for happiness, blue for honesty, etc.

"I saw Sam at the Ottertail County Flower Show five years ago. He and Bobbi Jo were in the potting shed, having sex. I read him the riot act in front of God and everybody then I went back to judge the dahlias." I recognized the unbelieving look in JT's eyes. "It wasn't the first time I'd caught him and Bobbi Jo doing the tango. I told him if I ever caught him again, he was out. I caught him. He was out."

"And you're a woman of your word, aren't you, Molly?" JT said softly.

My face got hot with embarrassment. I'd said almost exactly the same thing to him twenty years ago when I'd seen him and Shirley coming out of the Tangle Butte Palace Theater, their arms around each other. My stomach clenched at the memory of pain and humiliation. "Yes, I am." I met his eyes. I was surprised to see no hint of anger, just an expression of perplexed sadness that suddenly made me melancholy.

The look vanished and the hard cop was back. "What did you see when you returned to the house from the show?"

“Shit, JT, it was five years ago." I tugged off my other mitten and fumbled in my pocket for my emergency stash of M&Ms. These were all my brown rejects, which didn't provide me with any psychic boost but the chocolate would help.

"Well, did you see a body?" he prodded, watching me extract four candies from the round zipped pocket dispenser I'd gotten at M&M World in Las Vegas.

"Of course I didn't see a body. The hole was filled in when I got home. I remember because the crew had told me they'd fill it in while I was gone and I was surprised to find they'd really done it when I got back." I glanced at Mark. "It was Jimmy Hunt's crew."

He nodded. "They're not the sharpest tacks in the box."

"You don't have to be sharp to dig a septic hole." I tucked my stash away then tugged my mitten back on. I jumped when the door slammed on the ambulance. "Where are they taking him? Am I supposed to identify him or something?"

JT put a hand on my arm and pulled me aside as the ambulance began a stately crawl down my drive. "That won't be necessary."

"How did he die, John?" Yolanda asked. I'd almost forgotten she was there, which was surprising given her propensity to dominate any conversation within a city block. I looked closer at her. She was a bit pale.

JT noticed, too. "You ladies should go in the house. I promise we won't dig up anything without asking you first, Molly."

I watched the ambulance carrying Sam away. "You're sure?"

JT nodded. "Go inside. I'll check with you before we start digging."

Mark put a hand under Yolanda's arm. They started toward the side steps that led into the kitchen. I followed then paused to glance back at JT. "How did he die? You didn't say."

JT was watching the ambulance trundle down my lane. Then he swung his gaze to me, his expression unreadable. "Looks like somebody stabbed him with a pitchfork. Did one go missing, Molly?"

I gulped and took a step back, almost landing on my ass as I hit an icy patch. I'd been missing my favorite pitchfork since the day Sam disappeared. I considered lying then knew I had no choice. I nodded dumbly, feeling as though I was choking.

JT turned to stare at the gaping hole where Sam had lain. "Looks like we found it."



Jannine Gallant said...

Great hook! Like your m&m's, too. The brown ones are definitely boring. LOL

Margo Hoornstra said...

Love your writing style. I thoroughly enjoyed the excerpt. Brown m&m's may be boring, but taste the best.