Advice For Writing Serial Curtains

In my latest post about writing serials, Considering How To Structure Your Serial, I briefly mentioned the all-important serial curtains.

A serial curtain is the name for a scene-ending cliff-hanger. They’re employed to make sure the reader simply can’t wait to read the next instalment.

The term “curtain” refers to the closing of an act in the theatre. And just like in the theatre, the curtain may close on an instalment, but there will be a strong hook to entice the reader back.

So how is this best implemented?

Something as simple as finishing a serial instalment with a question can work to good effect. Especially if it’s a question that probes character behaviour or motive.

A solid, believable curtain doesn’t have to finish with all guns blazing. But it should offer an exciting conclusion.

A curtain often constitutes a number of paragraphs, rather than a dramatic one-liner. That being said, the last line still has a part to play in what happens next.

In the dark

The last line will have a sense of urgency to it.

It’s important to note that this scene should be the starting point for the next instalment. If not, there is a chance the reader will feel cheated, or the burning issue raised in the previous scene is never fully resolved.

Some of my favourite curtains relate to readers already knowing who the baddie is, but the characters are left in the dark.

That can make for some dramatic storytelling — just because the writer has revealed the nemesis or future conflict, doesn’t mean it offers any less excitement.

The readers will already have an idea of how they want something to turn out, and a different outcome can inject sense of intrigue.

For a serial curtain to have lasting impact, the protagonist, or story goals, should be at risk once again.

For more advice from the “Friend” Fiction team, click here.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.