How To Write Better Stories: Loose Ends


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Using Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as a guide, we learn secrets of surprisingly great writing.

Loose Ends (Chapters 14, 15, & 16)

The start of chapter 14 looks like it’s going to be another Quidditch match but another attack has occurred.

And since Hermione departed from the boys to go to the library, we are not surprised that she is one now of the victims.

They keep talking about the monster, but I think it’s a spider. And Ron has already earlier in this book talked about his great fear of spiders. But when they described it, they described as a low slung hairy and with lots of entertained when legs or something like that. That’s about how I would describe a spider.

And again Harry decides to break school rules because he has a greater calling. This cause will typically not work out the first time through, and he will be in the headmaster’s office awaiting a possible expulsion.

This time, though, it’s the headmaster to gets expelled – along with Hagrid.

So we have an unexpected twist, and some pretty main characters – beloved ones – in danger. We like Dumbledore and Hagrid. We want Harry to rescue them. It’s another layer to our story.

Look at all the stuff we have going on! And while there’s a lot of it, it’s not confusing.

Do your stories do that?

At the start of chapter 15, and with about 50 or so pages to go before the end of the book, I have to start wondering which of these various characters in clues are now going to fall into place to wrap up the mystery.

Loose Ends

  • What’s the deal with Dobby? Kept warning Harry Potter not to go back to school because something terrible was waiting for him there. We can assume that terrible thing was the monster of Slitherin. Are we going to see Dobby again or is he done?
  • I guess if they send Hagrid off to prison, then he is probably the prisoner of Azkaban. Sucks to be him.
  • Rowling has brought in too many new and irritating characters to not have one of them play an important role, so I’m just going to have to assume that this goofball Lockhart, who doesn’t really seem to possess any magical talent, is the one who somehow accidentally opened up the chamber of secrets. That would be my guess right now.
  • That Phoenix in Dumbledore’s office, that still had to play a role. They said it was able to lift heavy weights so I’m sure that little detail will be important.
  • There are more, but…

That’s a lot of questions to tie up in 50 pages!

And in the forbidden forest, Harry and Ron find: a wall of spiders! (Jenny won’t like that.)

Somehow, I think they are not killed. Seems as though I heard something about a book 3 in this series… So now I’m just wondering about how they survive, and since they are wizards, it shouldn’t be too hard for them to pull out a magic wand and disappear. (Although Rowling was pretty direct in making sure we knew Harry had left the invisibility cloak at Hagrid’s house.)

Oh. The flying car rescues them. That will work, too.

I think there could’ve been a lot more tension and emotion in the spider scene, because earlier Ron is deathly afraid of spiders, his skin crawls just seeing them inside Hogwarts castle. Here, he is being carried around in a giant spider’s mouth and we readers aren’t getting the full impact of that situation. He should be sh!tting himself. (I would be.)

That may have been a missed opportunity, and in your book you should do it. In a children’s book, maybe not. But more could have and should have probably been there. More emotion, more of  hating every bit of what was happening.

Near the end of the chapter, we see the two diverse personalities of Ron and Harry: Harry says Hagrid was shown to be innocent. Ron explains that Hagrid always makes the mistake of thinking monsters aren’t as bad as they are. Both are correct, but both viewpoints are needed. It balances your story. Little conversation like that are a great way to round out your characters – the ones doing the talking and the one they are talking about.

More loose ends

It’s an interesting technique to have a character reminisce about all the problems going on, as Harry does at the end of this chapter, as a way to remind the reader of all the different stories and sub stories going on, and to rekindle some of the tension the character and reader should be feeling.

Chapter 16

My musings

It’s got to be Lockhart, right?

Anybody the author is pushing at us to be the bad guy can’t probably be the bad guy. None of this trouble starting until Lockharts showed up and they hired the teachers before the term started and Dobby showed up before the term started – but how would Dobbie know Lockhart was a problem?


Doesn’t really matter but Lockhart appears to be inept at magic and therefore what Filch said earlier, that the book on how to do magic tricks wasn’t his wasn’t his (Filch’s), which is probably true. It was Lockhart’s, I think. And since so far Lockhart hasn’t been able to pull off any magic without a mistake, that tends to ring true.

As for his exploits, that could all be made up.

So then he might be thinking the chamber of secrets would be some way for him to gain magical power – and it might.

Double doors no idiot so Dumbledore wouldn’t of hired Lockhart unless Lockharts resume looks good and withstood scrutiny, so my guess is he some kind of legacy – his parents or father or grandfather or somebody probably went to the school. And so he’s one of the people who come from magical parents who can’t do magic. And probably figured the chamber of secrets would help him to do it. That’s my guess.

And that’s why people like reading mystery. It’s a constant puzzle that they are trying to solve along with the protagonist.

It’s a mental roller coaster ride.

It’s a competition. Will they be right? Will they be wrong? They get the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat – and can see graciously that they were fooled if they were.

That’s better than a video game because it’s just as engaging without giving you carpal tunnel syndrome.

Here’s another editing mistake. Ron and Harry are trying to get a piece of paper out of the petrified Hermione’s hand.

Hermione’s hand was clamped so tightly around the paper that Harry was sure he was going to tear it. While Ron kept watch he tug in twisted, and at last, after several tense minutes, the paper came free.

The he in question is Harry, not Ron, but the way it is written “he” refers to Ron.


Then we have a really neat way of tying up Harry’s ability to understand snakes, first seen in book 1, when no one else could.

Of course, Hermione’s note just happens to be the key to solving whole mystery, but oh well. We’re running out of pages here!

Now, of course, Harry told Ron – Rowling tells the reader – how all these different attacks all fit together. It’s one of those big speeches Charlie Chan used to give at the end of those black-and-white movies, but it’s okay. Because after waiting through almost 300 pages, we are all kind of wanting to figure out how this all works. Again, Rowling might be able to get away with it but I don’t know if you could.

But if you have to do it, the conversation is the way to go.

One of your characters doesn’t understand how it all fits, and the other one does, so one explained it to the other. And in doing so, you explain it to the reader – if the reader hasn’t already figured it all out.

This bit with the spiders is a bit of a stretch. Everybody can understand spiders talking, and unicorns, and centaurs – but not snakes? But, what the heck. It’s a kids story. If it wasn’t a kid’s story, I actually might sit there and say wait a minute, what the hell. And I still kind of him saying that obviously. But we’re not done so I’ll know reserve judgment. Grudgingly.

And in great storytelling fashion, as soon as we wrap up one mystery – or several in this case – we start another one.

There has to be somebody else who can talk to the snake, the heir of Slitherin must be able to talk to the snake. Probably. It makes sense but it doesn’t necessarily have to be true.

So, let’s see where this new mystery leads!

And as I suspected, Lockhart is a phony. Now called upon to save the day, he is found in his office by Harry and Ron and he is packing his stuff as quick as he can to get out of there.

This is a great line and hopefully not a spoiler:

“You mean you’re running away?” Said Harry disbelievingly. “After all that stuff you did in your books –”

“Books can be misleading.” Said Lockhart delicately.

“You wrote them!” Harry shouted.

That made me chuckle out loud. Books can be misleading. Words to live by. Especially mysteries. That’s kind of the point.

And then Lockhart gives us a lesson in marketing:

“…My books wouldn’t have sold half as well if people didn’t think I’d done all those things. No one wants to read about some ugly old Armenian warlock even if he did say the village where it was… He’d look dreadful on the front cover.”

That’s awesome.

A great lesson on fame follows. I knew Lockhart was a phony but I didn’t know he was a thief, too. Boo.

Loose end?

So here Harry figures out how to open the chamber of secrets, and he makes Lockhart go with him. Typically, Harry and Ron would go face the demon themselves so they must need Lockhart for some reason. There really isn’t a good explanation for as to why they’re dragging him along. It seems like it’s spite, and my original thought would’ve been maybe if they need a physical person a big person, but they’re wizards so they don’t need that.

So maybe Lockhart is going to come in handy somehow. Or not.

But if he does – how?

That’s how you make a page turner people can’t put down. Answer a question and raise another one, and do it right before the chapter ends.

Published by Dan Alatorre AUTHOR

USA Today bestselling author Dan Alatorre has 50+ titles published in more than 120 countries and over a dozen languages.

4 thoughts on “How To Write Better Stories: Loose Ends

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