I am going to pass along the best advice I ever got for writing fiction. I don’t know who told me, or where I read it but it is true. It is a simple concept, but a vital one if you expect your fiction to be top notch.
At the end of EVERY chapter, except the last one, if your hero or main character is HAPPY, your readers will not be.
Think about that. What makes a book a page-turner? The more obstacles you can throw into the path of the protagonist the better. What makes a reader not want to stop? “How is this guy (or gal) going to get through this?”
I just saw a finely drawn movie directed by Michael Mann who was a writer before he became a film director. The movie is “Collateral” with Tom Cruise and Jamie Fox. I am not a Tom Cruise fan, but Michael Mann is able to bring out the best in actors. That is to say, he makes them get so involved with their character they play well above their heads. In this movie with a simple plot – a hit man comes to town and uses a cab driver to haul him around LA while he kills people – but every time you think this has to be the end, another obstacle is resolved. And this pattern goes on until the very end of the film.
Writing fiction is just a movie on paper (or Kindle, iPad, etc,) and unless you keep your hero jumping hurdles it is not going to be a satisfying read.
Some writer whose name I have forgotten once said, “When you can’t think of what to write next, have a guy come through the door with a gun.” Good advice.
Just remember, if you want your reader to go on to the next chapter, make your protagonist UNHAPPY at the end of every chapter except the last one where you can have your happy ending. Until then, keep that sucker jumping through hoops, dodging bullets and fists, and fighting a nervous breakdown. After all, what good is a character if life is easy for him?