The Whine of Worry


How to grip your reader. 

Back in 2005, my mother was seriously ill in hospital. I used to drive the 45 minute journey from my home two or three times a week to see her. It just so happened that my departure coincided with the broadcast of the afternoon play on radio 4. I’m ashamed to admit, that despite my anxiety about my mother, there were times when I was so gripped by the drama spooling out of my car radio, that I would sit in the hospital car park until it was finished. Perhaps it was a way of postponing the real life drama I was facing.

A good story can have a huge hold over us. Sometimes I can’t wait to get back to a book I’m reading: the events of the day are just irritations to be overcome until I can return to the fictional world. And I don’t think I’m alone in this!

What is it about a powerful plot that can cause us to put reality on hold in order to discover what happens? Someone – I’m afraid I can’t track down who – once said there should be a ‘whine of worry’ running through a book. (When I looked this up I just found endless sites telling you how to calm your fretful dog!) A good story contains characters we are concerned for who encounter obstacles that trouble us. If we want to grip our readers we need to cause our characters stress, to put them in danger or conflict in order to ensure that page-turning quality.

If we create a ‘whine of worry’, our writing will be irresistible!

AdviceGill ThompsonComment