I meet the coolest people on twitter. If you read my blog and have not yet joined twitter…please leave now. I give up. *throws hands in air* LOL. Just kidding. I meet all sorts of people, and one of those people was Dan Dewitt. Lucky me. Dan’s become one of the little avatars I look for when I’m online, and today I get to share him with you. He’s fabulous fun AND he writes horror.<– Right? I’m afraid of my shadow and therefore avoid my shadow. A perfect match for Musings because I’ve never had a horror author on deck. So, I begged him to blog for me about his love of horror and I’m so amped…. he agreed!
Please welcome Dan Dewitt, snark master, 90s rocker, zombie fighter, and the man….
I owe Julie A. Lindsey. Were it not for her obsessive random person following on Twitter, I’d still be a guy with 30 followers who never Tweeted. Now I’m a guy with over 600 who no one listens to, but I owe her nonetheless. Then again, she owes me a pair of Hammer pants, but I’ll do the post anyway.
I consider myself a multi-genre writer, but horror is my first love. I touched on this a while ago on my blog. I’ve also developed a bit of a reputation for being a zombie guy, though I have no idea why. Really, no idea at all.
The question Julie posed to me was, “Why?” Why do I read it? Why do I write it?
Believe it or not, I’ve asked myself that question many times before. What is it about the horror genre that attracts me so much, and has since I was a kid? Why is it that dire circumstances and nefarious monsters make millions of people, including me, shell out their cash?
In one of my blog posts, I wrote: “When compared to other genres, horror can offer the greatest consequences for its characters. Everyone can die. If our heroes fail, the world itself can be at risk. And then their souls can be tormented for eternity. See where I’m going with this? In a well-crafted horror novel, the suffering never has to end.”
I guess that’s a good jumping-off point, but it goes deeper, much deeper, than that. Most, if not all, humans share some fears: death, the unknown, eternal pain…and everyone I’ve ever met gets anxious when the lights unexpectedly go out. We may not be afraid of the dark itself, but what’s hiding in it is a different kettle of fish. Or tentacled, sixty-eyed, flesh-eating monster. One of those.
So why do people flock to horror books? Why have writers like Stephen King made a bazillion dollars scaring the crap out of us?
If I had to guess, I’d say it’s largely a matter of control. For starters, reading a scary book is a form of escape from the everyday horrors that we hope never touch us and we’re powerless to influence or prevent. We choose the author, the book, the place, and the pace.
The reader may be a slave to the author between the covers, but has complete control of when and how to relinquish that control. Consider this scene from Friends:
Rachel: Umm, why do you have a copy of The Shining in your freezer?
Joey: Oh, I was reading it last night, and I got scared, so…
Rachel: But you’re safe from it if it’s in the freezer?
Joey: Well, safer. Y’know, I mean, I never start reading The Shining without making sure we’ve got plenty of room in the freezer.
Something like this has happened to me a grand total of once in my life. At one point during IT, I started to see things out of the corners of my eyes in the completely dark backyard. I closed the book and moved into the brightly-lit living room. That was probably the single greatest moment of my reading life, because an author finally made me “go freezer.” I got to experience a moment that made my heart race and my paranoia kick into high gear, all without leaving the safety of my house. I was free to impose my will on that stupid clown and turn on every light we have.
I believe that we, as readers, tend to become far more emotionally invested in characters who are facing seemingly insurmountable odds. When the monsters have our heroes on the ropes, we want them to dig deep and overcome. We want them to exhibit the qualities that we hope exist within ourselves. Not that any of us ever want to find out for sure how we’d react when faced with a horde of zombies. Unless you’re insane or, you know…me.
I write horror because I can force the action, I can put my characters through the wringer and make them stronger, and I can just let my imagination do what it wants to do. As long as it’s well-written, people will gladly go where I want them to go, regardless of what I may have lurking around any given corner. Horror enables me to tell incredible stories and inspire those same feelings of dread in the reader. In other words, suffer as I have suffered and I will consider my time well-spent.
Cameron Holt is fortunate enough to survive the initial outbreak that turns his New England island community into a hive of the undead. So is his son, Ethan. Now, the only thing keeping Holt going is the determination to rescue his son from the undead…or remove him permanently from their ranks. Unfortunately, zombies aren’t the only thing getting in his way.
Oh, also leave a comment and say Hi!
THANK YOU DAN!!! (but I’m keeping the Hammer pants).