Chapter Splits, Cliffhangers, and Con Shirt

I’m doing a bit of a push edit on Con Shirt at the same time as I’m trying to take my time so that I don’t miss much. Most days I’m comfortable with my work, but this time I’m left a little unsure about a decision I made.

I have one rather intense scene that starts out almost too perfect, goes through the MC recognizing that fact along with her mom’s almost frantic energy and ends in a big reveal that shakes her world. The whole thing is almost 3k and a little bit much.

In my first draft, I cut the scene in the middle, at the transition point when things go weird. This leaves me with an actual cliffhanger chapter. I don’t usually go for them…I think it’s silly to break on the cliffhanger, have the reader turn the page, and start up the next moment. However, in this case giving the reader a moment to live in Rochelle’s embarrassment, to linger in the moment when she’s going to have to come across as a complete kook to the people who brought her into this world, seems a good moment. This is especially important since the second half of the scene, now in a new chapter, takes her so far from that moment as to realize not only will her parents not think she’s a kook, or at least her mom, but that her parents have been lying to her from the start, that maybe none of this would have happened if they’d just told her the truth. It shatters her perceptions of everything that had provided grounding in her life up to this point.

Am I comfortable with the call? Obviously not or I wouldn’t be mentioning it. Have I considered just leaving them all together as one chapter? Sure. Do I think that would be the best choice? Nope. So I’m left with lingering doubts until someone else reads the book, but when is that ever new.

My stance on this book is much like my stance on many of mine: either it works and is wonderful, or it’s so broken that I just can’t see it and will never be worth the time I put into it. In other words, I have no idea :).

So, any thoughts to share on this chapter split idea? I know it’s hard to tell sight unseen, but…

And stats:
Edited Today: 5,682 words
28 Chapters complete – 71% of the novel
9 Chapters remain
22,019 Remaining word count
53,918 Current Total
77,401 Predicted Total

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2 Responses to Chapter Splits, Cliffhangers, and Con Shirt

  1. Anonymous says:

    >> I don’t usually go for them…I think it’s silly to break on the cliffhanger, have the reader turn the page, and start up the next moment.

    A lot of “experts” encourage the cliffhanger. And I like them myself. I have to turn the page in order to find out how the hero got out of his disaster. That’s what the author wants the reader to do. Keep reading.

    But maybe you think it feels cheesy. ???

    Something I learned from *you* is how you summarize chapters when doing a crit. You point out all the beats within the scene. I find this helpful because I can see what the reader sees in a distilled fashion.

    If you summarized your chapter with the cliffhanger, would you be able to pick out the goal, motivation and conflict? Does it answer one question and leave off with another?

    My philosophy is to complete the “circuit”. The scene should ask a question (or portray a problem), giving the mcs a GMC. Once they accomplish their task or answer the question they should be left with a consequence that creates the next leg of their journey.

    So if your cliffhanger accomplishes this, you probably made the right call in breaking the chapter.


    • marfisk says:

      Maria, how nasty to throw my words back in my face ;).

      But you’re wonderful. That’s exactly my problem. It’s not the cliffhanger, it’s the fact that the question isn’t properly answered.

      The whole beginning of the scene is a little surreal because she moved out that summer and her parents didn’t believe she would until she stomped out the door. This is her first time back and she expects them to balk but instead they invite her in as if nothing had happened. They have a wonderful dinner broken only by her bursting out that she’s not coming back and her dad saying they know that, but then they’re in the livingroom having dessert and her father turns to say, “So why did you come,” and she kinda does a fish mouth. Then the chapter ends.

      I’ll look at maybe having her less fish mouth :). Then that will answer the question of whether she’s actually going to get up the nerve to break this sweetness and ask her question. Now I kinda leave it hanging. She could fish mouth, then start in, but that resolves it a little too much and I want the feeling of her still in transition when the world changes with the beginning of the next.

      But yeah, you’ve nailed what bugs me :D.


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