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Narrative Tension
Day 5 of the Veins Blog Tour

September 9th, 2014

the-road-cormac-mccarthy1In 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.]

Beyond the Walls of Horror

February 5th, 2012

Horror isn’t a genre. It’s an ingredient. A seasoning. Such things have been pointed out before, most notably by Douglas Winter in Revelations (1997), but a quick look at this year’s Bram Stoker Award™ Preliminary Ballot shows that it bears repeating.

This year the short-fiction jury has selected three strong works from mainstream publications, Ramona Ausubel’s “Atria” (New Yorker, April 4), George Saunders’s “Home” (New Yorker, June 13) and Stephen King’s “Herman Wouk Is Still Alive” (The Atlantic, May).

The past year also saw Zoetrope All-Story Magazine and Granta putting out special Horror Issues, featuring writers not generally associated with the genre, but most turning in work that puts the ingredients to good use.

Beyond these examples, I’m often struck by passages of genuine horror that I frequently encounter in works that have never been marketed or labeled as such. Most notably Augusten Burroughs’s chilling memoir A Wolf at the Table and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (both books from past years that I have only recently gotten around to reading).

The take-away, of course, is that some of the best opportunities for readers and writers of horror lie well beyond the genre walls.

Do you agree? Got a work you’d like to recommend?

As always, the comment box is open.