Mark Allan Gunnells, Why Do You Write Horror?
Why do I write horror? Because I love to tell stories.
I know, that answer is too simplistic and doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. It begs the follow-up questions, why do I love to tell stories and why stories of the dark and bizarre? Because honestly that desire is more of a need, akin to the need for oxygen, for food and water. So let’s examine it a little further, shall we?
The first stories that ever really captured my attention were not on the page but on the small screen. The Twilight Zone, both the original and 80s incarnation. When I was a kid, they were always playing on one channel or another, and I devoured them. I found them enthralling and exciting, and something about the surreal nature of them spoke to me. It was our world, a world I recognized, but things were just slightly off-kilter. It made me feel that reality was thin and the mundane could slide into the magical at any moment. This thrilled me.
The first books I remember reading were Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. While most would not call these works “horror,” they were full of imagery and situations that did terrify me as a child. Cats that faded away to a teasing smile, queens calling for beheadings, relentless witches with armies of flying monkeys, dark forests and deceptive wizards. These works introduced me to greater fantastical elements in fiction, which both scared and enlightened me.
Soon after that, I became a regular fixture at my local library, and this is where the storyteller in me was truly born. At a certain point, I realized the stories I enjoyed didn’t simply come spontaneously into being, fully formed, but they were actually created by someone. A person just like me thought them up and then wrote them down on paper. If they could do that, why couldn’t I?
The first stories I wrote were about one-page long and read like Twilight Zone knockoffs. Not surprising since that show as my first influence. I started writing a lot of poetry and vignettes in junior high and high school, but in my teens when I turned seriously to fiction, horror was the genre I naturally fell into.
Why? That question is harder to answer, as sometimes it seems almost ingrained in me, a part of my makeup. As I got older, I could analyze it a little more and I think what appealed to me so strongly about the horror genre was its limitlessness, the idea that there were no hard-and-fast rules and literally anything could happen. I liked to take the grand fantastical elements of those early childhood classics and combine them with the recognizable real-world feel of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes. I found something fun about grounding my stories so that they felt like they could be happening on my street but then blowing that apart by introducing some nasty beast or twisted killer.
I also discovered how well horror works as metaphor and symbol. In horror, we can deal with our biggest real life fears and worries and problems but in an oblique way that makes it easier to face. Monsters stand in for poverty or abuse or alcoholism or warm, and monsters can be defeated with a cross or a silver bullet. Sometimes. Social commentary can be presented in horror without it seeming preachy because it’s all done on the sly.
So to this day, I find myself coming back to horror again and again when I sit down at my computer. And every time, every page, makes me feel like that kid settling in front of the TV for the next thrilling episode of The Twilight Zone.
KR: If you are a writer regardless of standing, published or not, I’d love to hear Why Do You Write Horror? Please get in touch via my email and together let’s promote horror.
“When your ex wants you dead, they will take you to the grave with them!”
When two passionate lovers fall out, the results can be deadly.
“Berkley Simmons died … for five minutes.
Berkley woke up to find himself in the hospital. He discovered that his ex is dead after a failed murder/ suicide attempt. With nowhere else to go, Berkley must return to the apartment where it all happened. It doesn’t take long for Berkley to begin to suspect that his ex never left the apartment, and still wants him dead.”
Mark Allan Gunnells
Mark Allan Gunnells loves to tell stories. He has since he was a kid, penning one-page tales that were Twilight Zone knockoffs. He likes to think he has gotten a little better since then. He loves reader feedback, and above all he loves telling stories. He lives in Greer, SC, with his husband Craig A. Metcalf.