End Paragraphs With a Meaningful Punch

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“Your goal is to entice your reader to read the next paragraph. The worst way for your reader to leave each paragraph is reading a vague word, such as his, it, with, there, or was. These words leave the reader with no gist of the paragraph’s meaning or how he should feel as he starts the next paragraph. A paragraph backloaded with an evocative word excites readers subconsciously to move forward in the story.” Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days by Zoe M. McCarthy (releasing in 2018)

See if you can revise and end the example paragraphs with a meaningful word.

Paragraphs With Weak Endings 

1. Jack was never home. Liza’s friends had their own lives. They couldn’t babysit her every day of the week. Jack needed to find another job, one in which he could be with her.

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2. Graham entered Grandmother’s dark room. Why hadn’t Daisy opened the curtains this morning? He took several steps closer to the bed. Grandmother lay on her back with her hands folded over her chest. Her face looked gray. Oh heavens. Death had come for Grandmother, and she no longer was.

3. Mona spied Aunt Saundra’s emerald ring on the table. The diamonds surrounding the emerald sparkled in the sunlight shining through the window. If she scooped the ring into her purse, and only wore it in the city, no one would ever know she took it.

4. Cecelia abhorred gardening. Oh, she enjoyed the beauty of the flowerbeds and the arrangements of cut flowers in vases inside. But the sun drilling into her back, the sweat pouring from her body, and the blisters on her hands were too much to ask.

The Gist of the Paragraphs

Paragraph 1 is about Liza being left alone. Her leaves us dry.

Paragraph 2 is about discovering Grandmother’s death. Was means existing.

Paragraph 3 is about Mona’s stealing. We’re sent away with boring it.

Paragraph 4 is about Cecelia’s belief that gardening benefits aren’t worth the pains. Ask suggests a question.

Improved Backloaded Paragraphs

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1. Jack was never home. Liza’s friends had their own lives. They couldn’t babysit her every day of the week. Jack needed to find another job whose evening and weekend requirements never left her alone.

2. Graham entered Grandmother’s dark room. Why hadn’t Daisy opened the curtains this morning? He took several steps closer to the bed. Grandmother lay on her back with her hands folded over her chest. Her face looked gray. Oh heavens. Grandmother was dead.

3. Mona spied Aunt Saundra’s ring on the table. The diamonds surrounding the emerald sparkled in the sunlight shining through the window. If she scooped the ring into her purse and wore it only in the city, no one would ever know she was the thief.

4. Cecelia abhorred gardening. Oh, she enjoyed the beauty of the flowerbeds and the arrangements of cut flowers in vases inside. But she hated the sun drilling into her back, the sweat pouring from her body, and the blisters on her hands. The beauty wasn’t worth the suffering.

An exercise to end paragraphs with words that lure readers to the next paragraph. Click to tweet.

I invite you to include your ending words in the comments.

How to Discover the Expected Elements of Your Genre’s Book Endings

“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” —Orson Welles

by Quozio
by Quozio

 In an earlier post, I talked about backloading sentences, paragraphs, and scenes. Meaningful words at the end of these leave the reader with what’s important. And backloading leads the reader to continue reading.

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  • Do we need to backload a novel’s ending with specific elements?
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We want the reader to read our next book, right? But how do we discover what elements are expected in the ending of a novel in our genre?

Because I write inspirational romances, I researched that genre. I also took a look at non-inspirational legal thrillers. You can do the same for your genre.

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  • How to Discover the Expected Elements of Book Endings for a Genre
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♥ I gathered 50 inspirational romances. These included: historical, suspense, contemporary, prairie, regency, and humorous romances. Forty-seven unique authors were represented. I used 10 novels by different authors for a quick look at inspirational legal thrillers.

♥ I read the last 2 pages of the last chapters—not of the epilogues, which many included. I considered epilogues extra explanations and not the ends of the romances. The last 2 pages proved sufficient in showing what the novels left us with in the backloading sense.

♥ I noted the repetitions of elements among the novels.

Inspirational Romances

id-10075211.jpgRepeated elements from 50 novels:

♥ 100% had happy endings. Almost always a given in this genre.

♥ 76% spoke of God. This ran from a mention of God to praising God. Overwhelmingly, though, the element was characters praising God for changes in their character, in their lives, or in the person they’ve grown to love.

♥ 56% had the hero and heroine share a real kiss.

♥ 40% included a marriage proposal or a wedding. Some couples are married from the beginning. Or the story continues after the wedding or the proposal. Or we’re left with the assurance the relationship will grow.

♥ 36% issued noble last words. Although several summarize realized growth in the last 2 pages, this percentage applies to the last few words. Words about how the character is prepared to face the future or about new beginnings.

♥ 32% had at least one character say, “I love you.” Several mulled over or spoke of love, but in this percentage, the actual “I love you” words were spoken.

♥ 18% worked the title of the novel into the ending.

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  • Consider these elements for effective book endings in inspirational romances.
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Remember, though, how well we write these elements determines how good they are.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Non-inspirational Legal Thrillers

For my sample of 10 novels, the emerging elements were:

  • Discussion of the outcome. This could be wrap-up explanations or talk of appeals or of additional legal actions. (7)
  • Discussions with or about the victim, the guilty person, or the innocent defendant. (6)
  • Hope for the future or hint of spiritual recognition. (5)
  • Moments of the main character’s personal life. Opposed to his legal life. (4)
  • New action, post-case development, or a gotcha. (4)
  • Discussion of the verdict’s accuracy. (3)

Readers or writers, what elements do you expect in the last pages of your preferred genres?

How to Entice Your Readers to Read the Next Sentence…and the Next

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”  — Albert Einstein

skunkbackload.jpgDo many of your sentences and paragraphs end with words, such as “his,” “it,” “with,” or “was”? If yes, you’ve left your reader with a dull word. It gives him little motivation to move on to the next sentence.

This doesn’t mean your reader won’t read on, but wouldn’t you like to entice your reader into reading your next sentence?

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  • Entice your reader to read on by ending each sentence with a power word. 
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A power word:

  • Is tied to the meaning of a sentence or paragraph.
  • Leaves the reader with what you want him to feel.
  • Leads the reader to the next sentence.

file0001338460061.jpgExample 1:

Unloaded

Barbara clamped her mouth shut, unwilling to rile a man who carried a rifle under his arm and a hunting knife strapped to his leg.

Backloaded:

Barbara clamped her mouth shut, unwilling to rile a man armed with a rifle and a hunting knife with a twelve-inch blade.

The first version leaves the reader with the man’s leg. If the sentence was about his wounded leg, “leg” might be appropriate to backload. But it’s about Barbara’s fear of his dangerous look. A knife scares me more than a rifle does. And the blade of a big knife is even scarier. So, I chose blade over leg, rifle, or knife.

Example 2:

Unloaded:

He was still dead, no matter how long she stared at him.

Backloaded:

No matter how long she stared at him, he was still dead.

The first sentence leaves the reader with a boring pronoun. “Him” tells us nothing about the sentence. The second version’s “dead” gives us the finality of the situation. Hopefully, the reader will want to know what she’s going to do now.

file00063104814.jpgExample 3:

Backloaded (first this time):

“She splayed her arms over her paper-covered desk and knocked her head on the piles. This was all Jason’s fault. Jason needed space? Right. What he needed was freedom to date that woman with a waist the size of his muscular neck.” (From Calculated Risk by Zoe M. McCarthy)

See how each last word tells something about the heroine, Cisney, or her ex-boyfriend, Jason?

  • “Piles” points to Cisney’s disordered desk and life.
  • “Fault” points to how she feels about Jason in her predicament.
  • “Space” points to the excuse of someone who’s at fault.
  • “Muscular neck” leaves the reader with the feeling of a powerful person hurting vulnerable Cisney. Hopefully, the reader will want to know what Nick, who’s on his way to her office, is like in contrast.

Suppose I’d written the paragraph this way:

She splayed her arms over her paper-covered desk and knocked her head on it. The fault was Jason’s. Space was what Jason wanted? Right. What he needed was freedom to date that woman with the small waist.

“It,” “Jason’s,” “wanted,” and “waist” don’t link to Cisney’s life, how she’s feeling, or anything about Jason.

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  • End each sentence with a power word, leaving the reader with a sense of its message.
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How might using backloading improve a sentence in your work?