Chapter endings not meshing in The Champion's Cadenza

The first ten or so chapters of my WIP The Champion’s Cadenza happen in rapid succession, often moving from one chapter to the next in the same setting. Most of them are good, but a few end awkwardly. Here are two examples of the problem, with the start of the next chapter:

5 & 6

As she walked, Izatha ran her hand along the wall, feeling the living creature under her skin. It felt so nice, and she was amazed by it all.

She looked quickly to see Leonard looking at her as if she just ate a bug. Wondering what he was thinking of, she pretended to ignore him as if she didn’t care about him. After all, he seemed very clear as to how he felt about her.

Except he isn’t, now is he? Just a few hours ago, he was being polite and respectful to me. He still is, in a way, but he is giving off a completely different aura from before. What does he want?

The silence of the passageways was replaced by the buzz of the packed dining hall. The raven stopped just before they could see inside the doors.

“Wait here until you are called,” he stated.

~

Leonard disappeared inside, leaving her with the doormen. Well, that was rude.

She could just imagine him grinning at the thought of making her wait awkwardly. After a few minutes, a group of servants exited the Hall carrying empty trays. They looked in no hurry to return to the kitchen to do more work preparing refills for when the dishes empty.

10 & 11

As she sat resting, Izatha watching the soldiers passing by. Some crests she was able to identify with their Houses… Suddenly, she sensed a presence behind her coming right for her. She couldn’t hear them or see them, but she felt their movements through the air.

Her battle instinct kicked in, making her jump and twirl around to catch her attacker by surprise.

Not today, punk!

~

It was a good thing she waited to see who it was before lashing out, for Izatha would have hit Zina right in the face. Dropping her stance, she crouched down to see her more eye-to-eye.

“You really shouldn’t sneak up on someone like that. You almost became fish food,” she remarked.

I want the chapter closing to tie into the start of the next chapter so the readers know that the next chapter is immediately afterward. Yet these cliffhangers feel weak as endings, sorta like, “Is that all there is?”

Any thoughts or tips on making them better?

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So, I’m not Nick, but I can give you some feedback based on what you’re looking for.

The ending here isn’t really an issue to me, but the beginning of the next chapter is what seems weird. Originally, I thought that the doorman told them both to wait, so when Leonard strolls on in to whatever it is he’s strolling into, that’s where it gives me the whiplash. I think you should have the doorman specify who exactly is being told to wait, or state the Leonard can proceed before ending the chapter. That will made the transition between chapters make more sense as to why he just waltzes in to where ever it is.

For this, the ending of the previous chapter is fine, but it’s the beginning paragraph I’m the next that should be worked. This one is written as if a chapter break didn’t occur which is where the weirdness is stemming from. Instead of beginning with “it’s a good thing she waited,” you should consider skipping a few seconds to where the MC is staring this Zina person in the face, probably her hand is on their should and a fist raised in the air poised to strike. Both characters are probably in shock, and if it weren’t for that split second were the MC realized who they were about to strike, they would’ve punched Zina.

Maybe begin it like,

Zina threw his/her arms in front of her face. Izatha held her breath. Her hand was still firm on Zina’s shoulder, fist balled, poised in the air to strike. If it weren’t for her decision to identify her assailant first, Zina would’ve been bloodied. She dropped her fist and took Zina’s other shoulder, crouching to his/her eye level. Etc.

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It’s really tricky to come up with general rules for ending or beginnings with scene breaks, it can be a very finnicky art. Generally speaking you shouldn’t end a scene as a fight opens (someone doing a kick) but you could do it literally right before that (flipping not today punk and the kick) or if the initial act was large but merited a pause, such as them shooting one of the many people they were facing as signifier this was about to start. And so on.

Part of your issue is your over focus, I think, on this notion of continuity. A reader will assume limited time has passed between two pages unless you indicate otherwise. Since you’re so focused on making sure it feels like the next chapter is still within the immediate timeline, you’re not making sure the scenes close or open properly and have instead sort of split them in the middle to get that feeling. The feeling is achieved but more than anything it’s just very confusing to the reader.

Why did the chapter break if the scene was going to continue? Why did we need a chapter ending?

Imagine your reader as someone lying in bed. They have 30 minutes before they plan to sleep and they’d like to feel a miniature version of closure, a spot a few chapters from now where they can comfortably put down the book and feel okay about it. They will feel satisfied knowing they got the answer to the micro problem they opened with and look forward to the larger problem that still needs to be solved. Do your chapter endings allow for that? Could they close the book here.

Like I said though, this is otherwise very difficult and is more about feel and flow, making it tricky to explain exactly how you get it right, just that you have it or not. To illustrate:

5/6

As she walked, Izatha ran her hand along the wall, feeling the living creature under her skin. It felt so nice, and she was amazed by it all.

She looked quickly to see Leonard looking at her as if she just ate a bug. Wondering what he was thinking of, she pretended to ignore him as if she didn’t care about him. After all, he seemed very clear as to how he felt about her.

Except he isn’t, now is he? Just a few hours ago, he was being polite and respectful to me. He still is, in a way, but he is giving off a completely different aura from before. What does he want?

The silence of the passageways was replaced by the buzz of the packed dining hall. Izatha felt it reverberating through her body, distracting her from the sound of her beating heart. The raven stopped just before they could see inside the doors.

“Wait here until you are called,” he stated.

Then, he was gone.

~

Izatha was steaming. She could feel the excitement through the walls, but this is where he decided she had to stay. He could vanish into a party, and she had to watch a doorman stare at her. She tried to calm herself with thoughts of smacking Leonard in the head but then her imagination drifted into an image of him, stupid grin plastered across his stupid face, giggling about how he left her outside.

Part of the issue currently in the 5/6 break is that it lacks an emotional or reactive throughline. Your character is excited and the writing should build to that. I don’t want to override your style or choices but added in something small about her heart beating to help emphasize the feeling.

Then, she’s abandoned. And you need to emphasize that something has happened and that it is meaningful. It has just caused a tonal shift and it is a major action that will require a reaction (in the next chapter).

Then, in Chapter 6, you need to pay off this set up with that equal reaction. If it opens with him disappearing, you don’t get the reaction, you still have the action from previously. You also have to make sure the reaction pays off. A snide “Well that was rude” isn’t paying off the prior excitement and tension. Descriptions of people coming in and out are kind of boring and, again, distract from that immediate punch you want. So instead, she’s mad and it’s all that you experience. The doorman is now reframed as something she is experiencing through her anger as opposed to something that is an incidental description. Set up and pay off.

10/11

As she sat resting, Izatha watched the soldiers passing by. Some crests she was able to identify with their Houses, others would remain unknown to her. As she watched, she sensed a presence, behind her, approaching. She felt the tendons flex in her fingers as she squeezed them into fists, her body bracing itself for the inevitable. She couldn’t yet hear them but she could feel their movements through the air. Closer. Closer. She took in a deep breath, her battle instinct taking over.

But first, she would want to get good look at the person she was about to savagely beat down.

~

Izatha leaped up into the air on reflex, spinning around to flip the tables, her leg swinging with her so she could bring it crashing down on her enemy’s head. Her eyes glanced down, caught sight of the delicate details of a familiar face, and her body seized midair. She managed to recover in time to land, coming face-to-face with Zina.

“Thanks for making me waste my energy. Why are you even sneaking up on someone like me?”

This is again a case of action and reaction, tension and pay off. If the scene ends with her twirling around into a surprise attack, I will want to see that happen right there. That is, once again, the beginning of the reaction. The action was “unknown person approaching” and the reaction is “fight.”

Again, I chose to try and pump up the anticipation of this person coming in because that’s the emotion and feeling of the scene. When it’s relegated to a single sentence, it’s a bit tough to get into the building tension. And when they immediately respond to it within another sentence, there wasn’t really a chance for me to hype things up while I turned the page.

Then, in the next scene, you actually entirely break what just happened in the prior scene. There was tension and build up around this unknown attacker but it is entirely diffused by them saying “good thing I checked before we got an accidental semi-action scene pay off, that would’ve been fun” which is obviously not rewarding as a reader (it also makes no sense since she’s mid-air twirling last we saw her).

Hopefully this helps it make a little more sense. Again, this becomes a sort of feel thing. If you aren’t fully certain on the exact mechanics of scene/story flow in the sense of tension-payoff or action-reaction and exactly how they go from a technical level, you can default into your own reader flow experience. You know those passages were wrong because you can intuitively feel it. Something feels off. So you have to make sure you’re delivering on that satisfying reader experience, sitting in bed, looking to get a little closure by reading 3 chapters before falling asleep.

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Oh, Leonard had told her to wait, if that clears things up.

That does sound more natural.

I find this funny cause the best places to put the book down would be after chapters 4 and 9, actually. But this is an important thing to consider, too.

I see, I see! Normally I put in too much feelings, but here I didn’t put in enough. So it should be something more like this:

5/6

As she walked, Izatha ran her hand along the wall, feeling the living creature under her skin. It felt so nice, and she was amazed by it all.

She looked quickly to see Leonard looking at her as if she just ate a bug. Wondering what he was thinking of, she pretended to ignore him as if she didn’t care about him. After all, he seemed very clear as to how he cared about her.

Except he isn’t, now is he? Just a few hours ago, he was being polite and respectful to me. He still is, in a way, but he is giving off a completely different aura from before. What does he want?

The silence of the passageways was replaced by the buzz of the packed dining hall. Her thoughts were replaced by anticipation as she grinned. The raven stopped just before they could see inside the doors.

“Wait here until you are called,” he stated.

Then he disappeared inside.

~

Izatha blinked, still starting at the same spot where Leonard had vanished.

Did he–did he just ditch me?

Huffing, she looked to the doorman who was her only companion in the hall. Of course he would just leave her alone to wait for his invitation inside. Some escort he was.

She tried to shake away the image of his grin from having left her outside. He was getting farther ahead of her, now three points to her one.

Her for tapped impatiently as the minutes pulled by. A group of servants exited the Hall carrying empty trays. They looked in no hurry to return to the kitchen to do more work preparing refills for when the dishes empty.

So they get to come and go, but I’m stuck here waiting. Some way to treat a princess.

Wouldn’t you normally not want something so long in an action scene? While the tension is there, it sorta feels like the scene slowed down because of how long it was. But I do see the need for the reaction:

10/11

As she sat resting, Izatha watching the soldiers passing by. Some crests she was able to identify with their Houses… Suddenly, she sensed a presence behind her coming right for her. Pulling her feet onto the wall, she crouched like a spring waiting to bounce. The person was silent, yet she could feel their movements through the air. She tightened her muscles in anticipation.

She smiled. They were in range.

~

Izatha leaped, a kick lashing out to knock down the attacker with one strike. A flash of brown curls made her halt halfway. She strained to stop the motion before it smashed into the defenseless face.

Zina moved too late to have saved herself. Her eyes were wide as stepped back. She had not flinched, yet her shoulders were stiff. A low breath eased from her chest as Izatha returned to her crouch.

“You really shouldn’t sneak up on someone like that, " she remarked. She frowned as they stared at each other. “You don’t know me.”

It’s still a bit slower of an action than what I’m comfortable with, but it does feel smoother.

Thank you for your help!

That’s not an action scene that’s pre action, which means it needs to be significantly longer, slower, and more tense than the action that is coming. The build up is what makes it fun, it can’t be short.

Even if it were an action scene though, a single sentence is not a short scene. It’s not a scene at all, and is way too short even by action sequences.

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Ah, so that’s how it is. I’m not really used to writing in that style, but I shall try it.

I agree. I cringe at my attempts to write a scene in one sentence :see_no_evil: Your way is better.

That would make more sense. I assumed the raven was someone else, but I don’t have the context of reading the story, sooo… :stuck_out_tongue:

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Yeah, it’s a fair confusion :grin: