Friday, March 30, 2012

The End of the Chapter: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The opening lines of a novel establish tone, mood, voice, and a whole mess of other things, as well as being responsible for pulling the reader into the story. The closing lines of a novel have the job of summing up the story, providing closure, and making readers feel a simultaneous joy at the ending and sorrow that their reading experience is over. But what pulls the reader through their journey from the excitement of a beginning to the bitter sweetness of an ending?

As each chapter ends, the desire to put the book down in order to go to the bathroom, go to sleep, or get going to work may come over the reader. Smart authors avoid this by making the ends of their chapters so fantastic that the reader has no choice but to continue on their literary journey, uninterrupted. Some do this with thrilling cliffhangers, others with painful emotional reveals. Regardless of the technique, the end of the chapter has a certain feel to it, a teasing look that says, “Sure, this part of the story’s over. But don’t you want to find out what happens next?

Today, I am celebrating a shining example of this aspect of the novel: the end of the first chapter in John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (2012. Dutton Books. p. 21). Hazel, the title character, has just met Augustus Waters, a possible love interest, in the teen cancer support group that her mother pushed her to go to even though it would mean missing part of the America’sNext Top Model marathon. In this excerpt, her mother has just pulled up to pick her up from the meeting.

I turned to the car. Tapped the window. It rolled down. “I’m going to a movie with Augustus Waters,” I said. “Please record the next several episodes of the ANTM marathon for me.”

Bam. The ANTM reference calls back the beginning of the chapter, effectively placing a period on this segment of the story, while the movie provides a teaser for the next chapter. What will they see? Will they have fun? Might something exciting and of a romantic nature take place?

Meanwhile, there is also a wonderful bit of unspoken character development. Hazel has agreed to watch the movie with Augustus, which breaks the normal television-alone routine that her mother was hoping to get her out of, but she is still hedging her bets; if this doesn’t work out, she hasn’t missed any ANTM (even though she has already seen this season) because her mother taped it for her.

Mini-ending + hint of future excitement + character development = a truly excellent end to this chapter.

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