Page-Burning Success: Where Should You Stop Your Scenes?

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Readers who have reviewed my novels often make the comment that they couldn’t put the book down, that they finished the book in a day or two, or that it kept them up all night. I LOVE those reviews because it makes me think that I did something right, that I kept the suspense alive.

Some authors know instinctively how to write their novels with suspense without analyzing what makes them gripping. I’m one of those who likes to analyze fiction. I want to know what makes a book a page-burner. I really, really enjoy analyzing fiction–almost to the point where I bore people.

Tracy Higley,  mega-author and world-traveler, taught a page-burning series at the Montrose Christian Writer’s Conference last week. I couldn’t wait to hear her presentation. (If you haven’t read Tracy’s books please check them out. She has a guarantee–if you’re not completely satisfied you get your money back. Visit her website for more details HERE.)

Here’s a part of what Tracy taught us:

Chapters typically consist of several scenes. Some scenes might be from a different point-of-view, but to make your fiction a page-burning experience for your readers, you need to make sure you stop every scene in the right place.

But where?

At the end of every chapter authors need to raise a question in the reader’s mind and show unresolved tension. Readers don’t want to hear the end of the sneeze. As authors, we want readers to be pushed to read on. One. More. Page. Let them hear the sneeze in the next chapter.

Three places to stop a scene:

When you’re considering where or how to end a scene consider these:

  1. Mid-conflict. Classic cliff-hanger. No time or space has passed. Not in a different pov. Cut it at point of danger. Character is in a bad spot. This is the STRONGEST place to stop. Make sure your character is in emotional, physical, or psychological danger. Don’t use this every single time though. Save this ending for the best places. Use it in less than one half of your scenes.
  2. When the character realizes the disaster. This is the place where the disaster happens. It’s clear. No reactions have been given yet. Cut. Then start the next scene with their thoughts/emotions. What’s she going to do next? The reader needs to turn the page to see what the character will do. Don’t use this one all the time either. Scatter this scene ending and alternate it with #1 above.
  3. After the reaction. End the chapter when the character emotionally makes a new decision and establishes a new goal. Right after they create a new goal, cut. It’s where, “There’s nothing to do but THIS one thing.” Strong, doomed impossible new goal. End here because reader will think, “How can that possibly work?”


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Tracy Higley’s bio:

I’ve been writing adventure stories since the time I first picked up a pencil. I still have my first “real” novel–the story I began at the age of eight during a family trip to New York City.

Through my childhood I wrote short stories, plays for my friends to perform (sometimes I had to bribe them), and even started a school newspaper (OK, I was the editor, journalist and photographer since no one took that bribe to join me). Then there were the “drama years” of junior high, when I filled a blank journal with romance and poetry. Sigh.

In my adult years I finally got serious about publishing suspense fiction, and have since authored twelve novels in twelve years.

When I’m not writing, life is full of other adventures–running a business, raising kids, and my favorite pastime: traveling the world.

I started traveling to research my novels and fell in love with experiencing other cultures. It’s my greatest hope that you’ll feel like you’ve gotten to travel to the settings of my books, through the sights, sounds, smells, colors, and textures I try to bring back from my travels and weave into my stories.

To experience my travel journals and see the romantic settings of my books, I hope you’ll visit my website at or meet up with me on Facebook at

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  1. Great post. Would have loved to sat in on Tracey’s seminar. I rarely analyze, just seem to know when to stop. 🙂 But I do believe it is something that can be learned and also improved on.

  2. Jerry Walch says:

    Interesting post. Took me back in time to when I took my first course in creative writing forty years ago. I too, like Patricia, would have loved to sit in on Tracey’s seminar. I rarely analyze what I write anymore as far as where I end one scene and begin the next, but I do analyze my characters and their development. As important as finding the right place to end a scene or chapter is in keeping readers reading, I personally feel the characters play a bigger role in the process, developing characters that your readers either love or hate with a passion will keep them reading because they want to see those that they hate get their comeuppance, just as they want to see those that they love win the day.

Please share your random thoughts.


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