NOR 19 Feature: Manipulating the Reader

Featured Art: Sketch of Church Tower and Roof Top by Arnold William Brunner

We often say that a story, a movie, a song, or even a commercial about sad dogs is “emotionally manipulative.” We use this phrase not only to discount a particular piece, but to condemn it. What, though, constitutes literary emotional manipulation? Is there such a thing as a benign manipulation, a justifiable heart- tugging? And what specific moves can we identify that make the difference between effective and ineffective narrative manipulation, between a moving poem and a mawkish one?

We asked five writers—Rebecca McClanahan, Debra Marquart, A-J Aronstein, C.L. Dallat, and Matthew VanWinkle—to respond to those questions.

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