In his well-known and often quoted poem “Musée des Beaux Arts,” W. H. Auden writes about the place of suffering in the world, “how it takes place / While someone else is eating or opening a window or just / walking dully along.”
Writers do well to keep this relationship in mind, not only when writing about suffering, but also when attempting to build and sustain narrative tension.
The relationship between Auden’s poems and the art of building and sustaining tension occurred to me recently while rereading Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road. One scene in particular illustrates the connection. It occurs late in the book, after the boy and his father near the end of their post-apocalyptic journey. They reach the coast and come across a ship lilting 100 feet offshore. The vessel likely holds needed supplies, which means that the father must swim out to investigate while the boy remains on shore. This device. . . .
[Read more at KCeresWright.com.]