Little things mean a lot in writing horror

Kate Luce Angell writes an entertaining feature on my next-door officemate and his work in Seton Hill’s Writing Popular Fiction MA program.

Award-winning author and Seton Hill University professor Michael Arnzen demonstrates that in horror, as in life, it’s often the little things that matter most.

Take his short-short piece “Nightmare Job #3,” which begins “Wanted: Town Sewage Treatment is now hiring expert diver.”

It’s only 100 words, so brief you could almost miss the part where he adds that job benefits include “free diving suit with harpoon gun.”


Part of Mr. Arnzen’s success has been the result of his use of new
technology to distribute his work. He came up with the mini-poems he
calls “gorelets” as a literary form that could be downloaded and read
easily on the screen of a computer or personal digital assistant.

“I’m interested in potent nuggets of narrative, and horror has
always been a shorter genre,” he said. “Look at Edgar Allen Poe’s
stories and poems.”

The little things also loom large in the subjects of his work, in
which he finds the frightening in minutely observed, everyday details,
like a janitor’s glove (or IS it a glove?) and a pair of too-real bunny

“I’d like to think I’m doing the same thing comedians are, exploring
our hypocrisies through observational humor,” he said, adding that
horror is often funny as well as fear-inducing. “I crack myself up all
the time when I’m writing.”