Why Do I Write Horror?
By Rami Ungar
Why do I write horror? Well…because I can.
Cue dramatic music! The shadow of a knife in an upheld arm appears before swinging down and out of sight. At the same time, the shadow appears there’s a scream, which is cut off as the arm swings downward. Someone has died off-screen.
Okay, maybe that’s not what you’re looking for. It does fit within the horror aesthetic, though. A creepy statement followed by something terrible happening. You can’t get any more horror than that.
But you want something that gives you a view into the working mind of your average horror author, don’t you? My friends, that is a dangerous proposition. The mind of a horror author is, as you’d expect, not a playground. It’s full of sharp objects and snarling beasts and depraved individuals with sick fantasies and more terrible, unnamable things you don’t want to cross. Also, why would you think any of us are average? However you define that term, no artist is normal or average, horror authors especially.
To the point, though, why do I write horror? Well, I could go into how two teenagers played a scary prank on me when I was six years old, and how I went back to the place they pranked me just to show myself that I wasn’t going to die going there, thereby giving me an insatiable psychological need to conquer what fears me and then transfer my fears into others. I could tell you about how I discovered Stephen King at age twelve and my world was totally rocked by the plight of the Losers Club and their fight against Pennywise the Dancing Clown. And there are tales galore of the days when I would sneak up on people and shout “Boo!” just for the thrill of terrifying someone, so perhaps now that I’m too old for those kinds of shenanigans, I can say that I get that same thrill just as well from writing scary stories. I might as well even mention that I don’t consider myself fully human, but half-human and half Lovecraftian entity come to this world to spread terror among the populace through the written word.
All those reasons and many more are true, and any one of them could be the basis for this essay. But none of them would be enough for me. Over the years, I’ve pointed to each one as to why I enjoy horror and writing horror, but alone they’ve felt hollow. And even when I take them all together and say they’re a perfect storm of factors to create a horror author, it’s still not completely right.
But pointing to the simple phrase, “Because I can,” says everything and more. I write horror because I can. And if the fact that I’ve grown an audience and gotten a few acceptances here and there, including from a professional publishing house, are anything to go by, I’m at least somewhat skilled at it, though I’m by no means a master.
Understand, writing horror is not something anyone can do like anyone can breathe or make a joke at someone’s expense or daydream of a perfect life. For millennia, since humanity has been in caves, we’ve all feared the darkness that approaches when the sun goes down. Could the crack of wood be the sound of a prowling sabre-toothed tiger? Or maybe it’s some dark spirit, something with horns and teeth and a shifting number of limbs that will leave you dead if you so much as look at it the wrong way. And these fears have not only stayed with us, they’ve evolved with us. Spirits become vampires and werewolves, jiangshi and witches, wendigos and asuras, among others.
Even in our so-called enlightened age of science and technology, we still fear what’s in the dark. Many people across the planet fear the Devil, demons, witchcraft, dark spirits and many more. Plenty of people believe spirits inhabit places that have seen death and horror and avoid them like the plague. Hell, there are people who will swear up and down that the stories told in creepypasta forums are the gospel truth, even the strangest and least credible stories and rituals, so they’ll caution you heavily before you dive into them.
And the people who don’t fear those things? They fear something much closer to home: their fellow humans. Perhaps the person checking out your groceries is an unidentified serial killer responsible for the number of children that have gone missing over the years in your community. Maybe the coworker you like so much got a little too possessive of their last lover, and they may set their sights on you next. Or maybe people wonder the same things about you. Have you said anything lately that might be misconstrued as, well…sinister?
Point is, we all fear the darkness, whether that be the darkness outside our homes at night or the darkness in our souls. But among us are those who not only fear the darkness, but they also kind of enjoy it in their way. Nay, they embrace that darkness they fear. Those people are horror fans. And among those, there are those who not only embrace the darkness, but they wear it like a cloak or a uniform and use it like a conductor’s baton, turning the darkness into their own personal symphony.
Those are the horror creators. For whatever reasons, we are predisposed to be attracted to that darkness humanity fears and to learn how to harness it in each our own way. Perhaps it’s genetics, or maybe life events conspired to make us this way, or perhaps we keep reincarnating into this world so we can keep making scary stories. Whatever the reason, we are. We get exposed to it, and we know this is the craft we wish to pursue. And each of us makes it our own. Some of us direct films, others make games, or compose music or conjure artwork. One or two of us even design haunted attractions for a living.
And of course, some of us write. I write. I take the written word and use it as an instrument to take this storm of ideas in my head and pass them on like a virus to the minds of others. Along the way, I spread my favorite types of characters, some of my ideas about the world, and perhaps a little bit of my weird side. And when I receive the responses of my readers, either that of sheer delight or sheer terror, it’s the greatest feeling in the world. Better than fame or money (though those are nice too).
So why do I write horror? Because I can. Because I was exposed to it at the right time and it awakened something in me that I’ve been both feeding and pursuing over the years. And thankfully, as of recently, it seems all that chasing and feeding has paid off. I’m getting to feed other people’s love of the dark.
And that makes doing what I do all the worthwhile.
“Rami Ungar knew he wanted to be a writer from the age of five, when he first became exposed to the world of Harry Potter and wanted to create imaginative worlds like Harry’s. As a tween, he fell in love with the works of Anne Rice and Stephen King and, as he was getting too old to sneak up on people and shout “Boo!’ (not that that ever stopped him), he decided to merge his two loves and become a horror writer.
Today, Rami lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio. He’s self-published three novels and one collection of short stories, and his stories have appeared in other publications here and there. Rose, his first novel with Castrum Press, will be released June 21st, 2019.
When he’s not writing your nightmares or coming up with those, he’s enjoying anything from the latest horror novel or movie to anime and manga to ballet, collecting anything that catches his fancy, and giving you the impression he may not be entirely human.”
You can find out more about Rami by visiting his official website www.ramiungarthewriter.com
You can follow Rami on Twitter @RamiUngarWriter
When Rose Taggert wakes up in a greenhouse, the past two years missing from her memory, she has no idea what is in store for her. Her body changes, transfigured into a new, plant-like form by Paris Kuyper, a student and her self-proclaimed lover who used an ancient family grimoire to save Rose’s life. While Rose is at first willing to trust Paris and work with him to recover her memories and the supposed love they shared, it soon becomes clear her lover is not all he seems. In a short time, she decides to put love and memories aside in favor of survival.
But a rose may be defenceless when a storm surrounds it. And Rose may only be able to stand for so long against the forces swirling around her.
You can buy Rami’s books from Amazon US & Amazon UK
Fab essay. I wasn’t pranked by teens when I was a little kid, but I was exposed to horror novels at a young age. Weren’t grown up horror novels SOOO much better than the children’s book shelves at the school library?:-)