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Digital Subscriptions > Psychologies > No. 144 Screw work break free > The words

The words

Is there anything better than reading a good book on a long summer’s day? Hour upon hour to escape into a story, or even the time to allow our imaginations to create a story of our own…

Keeping up the tension

Award-winning novelist Lucy Atkins explains the importance of drip-feeding information to your reader so that they never stop turning the pages

MONTH 7:

How to write a novel

This month we’re going to get a bit tense. I don’t mean you should all start writing suspenseful spy thrillers, or shoehorn into your novel a serial killer peering through the kitchen window. All great novels are powered by tension, whatever their genre. In fact, one of the most gripping scenes in the whole of English literature, for me, comes in Jane Austen’s Persuasion when Wentworth slips Anne a passionate, confessional love note after overhearing her talking to a mutual friend. This scene brings me out in goosebumps every time I think about it, but it is a scene in which almost nothing actually ‘happens’. The ability to captivate us seems e ortless in great novels, almost magical. But what’s behind this magic?

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