Michael A. Arnzen

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Born
in Amityville, NY, The United States
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Influences
Lance Olsen, Robert Bloch, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Bentley Little, ...more

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December 2007

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Michael Arnzen has won multiple awards for his fiction and poetry, including four Bram Stoker Awards and the International Horror Guild Award. He teaches horror and suspense writing at Seton Hill University, as faculty in their unique MFA degree program in Writing Popular Fiction.

To catch up with Arnzen or hunt down collectable editions, visit the author's website, GORELETS.COM Join him on your favorite social network via http://michaelarnzen.com

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Michael A. Arnzen Great question, Sara, and it's hard to really answer in any simple way because a writer can make any number of choices, and one of them includes not u…moreGreat question, Sara, and it's hard to really answer in any simple way because a writer can make any number of choices, and one of them includes not using the tropes and cliches whatsoever. Horror is fantasy, horror is violence, horror is absurd nightmare, and horror is evil. Those are abstractions, feelings, and actions, not tropes or cliches or even conventions, really, so much as human qualities. So as long as a writer is being honest to those elements, they're probably doing it right.

So my first answer is itself a cliche among writers: "write what you know." Be genuine about what scares you, what disturbs you, what freaks you the hell out. Sometimes writers use cliches or overly familiar character types because they are more infatuated with them than they find them frightening.

Being inventive with these things is precisely what a horror reader wants -- surprise is everything when it comes to the "unknown" and originality is everything in the fantastic -- so writers also work hard to undermine expectations. I have a list of techniques for "Making Modern Monsters" in the book Many Genres, One Craft, that might work as a cheat sheet for brainstorming new ways of representing fear, but truth be told sometimes the originality comes in the way something is written and represented, rather than content (it's not the vampire that's scary, it's the way its fangs puncture the skin). One technique is to spend time zooming in and detailing concretely the stuff people would normally want to look away from. Writing a prose scene of terror as if it were poetry, for instance, could also make it fresh and original. I think readers want to see us work the words in a clever way that no one else has done before, and appreciate our uniqueness as much as the standard archetypes of dread.(less)
Michael A. Arnzen I feel like a hypocrite saying this -- because I've abandoned novels halfway through them, having "cut my losses" -- but I feel one should take a "nev…moreI feel like a hypocrite saying this -- because I've abandoned novels halfway through them, having "cut my losses" -- but I feel one should take a "never say die!" attitude to a project. Finish it, and if it doesn't sell, so be it. You will learn more from reaching the end of a journey than never taking the full trip.

However, I know the frustration. I think if the story has really gone off off the rails and rattled your confidence in what you're pursuing, then you should set the work aside for awhile and do something different and new to "clear the slate" before you start over again -- from a new novel to a short story or a poem. Anything to reset the creative engines. Otherwise, you'll begin to feel that frustration akin to struggling to untie a tight knot that just can't be opened up, fraying the ends of the rope but getting nowhere. Projects I've dropped and return to -- as a reader rather than a writer -- sometimes reveal themselves to be works of garbage that I laugh at in that "what was I thinking?" sort of way -- or otherwise works of genius in utero -- and the solutions begin to reveal themselves as I read and take notes about how to revise.

Another trick is to throw a wrench into the works and try to make it worse... this sometimes can lead to original ideas and magic solutions, too. Try my creative triggers at http://diaboliquestrategies.com or my ebook, Instigation: Creative Prompts on the Dark Side for some "spurs" if you haven't seen them yet. Best wishes, Andrew! You're not alone! -- Mike Arnzen(less)
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Instigating with Brain Squalls Podcast

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Over the holidays, I appeared on the Brain Squalls podcast as their first guest. Every episode of the podcast — run by horror author EV Knight and her partner Matt Daigh — is a creativity experiment, in which the two of them come up with prompts for story or art ideas and then create story lines and structures “live” as they pursue the possibilities. It’s a lot of fun. And when I was in the mi

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Published on January 13, 2020 08:03

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Proverbs for Monsters (Horror)
2 chapters   —   updated Mar 29, 2010 04:33PM
Description: Dark Humor. Excerpt from PROVERBS FOR MONSTERS (Dark Regions Press, 2007). First appeared in The Goreletter -- subscribe at http://www.gorelets.com
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“Can you imagine life without the horror genre? There would be no monsters. Only a**holes.”
Michael A. Arnzen

“Goodreads.com is actually about fiction not dreading goo. But I have a profile there, anyway...”
Michael A. Arnzen

“Wouldn't it be surprising if a 911 caller actually did begin to describe the tragedy in alarming detail? And dwell on the details, swooning in their splendor?”
Michael A. Arnzen, Instigation: Creative Prompts on the Dark Side

Topics Mentioning This Author

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Goodreads Librari...: This topic has been closed to new comments. Goodreads Author profiles needing merging BY GR STAFF pt. 7 925 688 Feb 05, 2014 11:51AM  
Literary Horror: Abyss Books 61 54 Jun 24, 2020 11:14AM  
“There are only two things in life that make it worth living: the love of art and the art of love.” I had divided my human duration between the two. I had been wise enough to be a fool; I could die content.”
Edmond Haraucourt, Illusions of Immortality

“Yet, at the same time, as the Eastern sages also knew, man is a worm and food for worms. This is the paradox: he is out of nature and hopelessly in it; he is dual, up in the stars and yet housed in a heart-pumping, breath-gasping body that once belonged to a fish and still carries the gill-marks to prove it. His body is a material fleshy casing that is alien to him in many ways—the strangest and most repugnant way being that it aches and bleeds and will decay and die. Man is literally split in two: he has an awareness of his own splendid uniqueness in that he sticks out of nature with a towering majesty, and yet he goes back into the ground a few feet in order to blindly and dumbly rot and disappear forever. It is a terrifying dilemma to be in and to have to live with. The lower animals are, of course, spared this painful contradiction, as they lack a symbolic identity and the self-consciousness that goes with it. They merely act and move reflexively as they are driven by their instincts. If they pause at all, it is only a physical pause; inside they are anonymous, and even their faces have no name. They live in a world without time, pulsating, as it were, in a state of dumb being. This is what has made it so simple to shoot down whole herds of buffalo or elephants. The animals don't know that death is happening and continue grazing placidly while others drop alongside them. The knowledge of death is reflective and conceptual, and animals are spared it. They live and they disappear with the same thoughtlessness: a few minutes of fear, a few seconds of anguish, and it is over. But to live a whole lifetime with the fate of death haunting one's dreams and even the most sun-filled days—that's something else.”
Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death

“A stopped clock is correct twice a day, but a sundial can be used to stab someone, even at nighttime.”
John Hodgman, More Information Than You Require

“Sometimes I wish I were a cannibal – less for the pleasure of eating someone than for the pleasure of vomiting him.”
Emil Cioran, The Trouble with Being Born

“Weren't we all crazy in our sleep? What was sleep, after all, but the process by which we dumped our insanity into a dark subconscious pit and came out on the other side ready to eat cereal instead of our neighbor's children?”
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Comments (showing 1-11)    post a comment »
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message 11: by Majenta

Majenta Hello, Michael! Thank you for contacting me! Happy Monday, have a great week. Goodreads=dreading goo...goo'd one! LOL! Happy reading, writing, and everything else. Blessings!

Best wishes from Majenta


message 10: by A.R.

A.R. Thanks for the friendship, Michael.


message 9: by Rusty

Rusty Nugent Thanks for your friendship. Come by and leave a comment.

Until next time . . .


Michelle Thank you for the friend request.


message 7: by Fox

Fox Thank you kindly for the add! It's always great getting to know a fellow horror enthusiast.


message 6: by Steve

Steve Thanks man, just starting out on this site so hopefully more to follow. I had mainly only done film reviews before.


message 5: by Celia

Celia Hey, Michael! Nice to "meet" you. My husband is the big horror fan in the family, and he goes to IAFA all the time. He teaches horror, literature. Although he doesn't keep up his Goodreads site much, I will ask him to contact you (his name is Rafael Miguel Montes). I can't believe you get to teach pop CRW. I was just thinking the other day that someone REALLY needed to do that!


message 4: by K.K.

K.K. Hot Damn! Michael ARmaggeddon HIMSELF on GOOD READS! Thanks for the add! I look forward to reading more of your work!
Beast Witches, K.K.


Louise Hello Michael,

Thank you for friending me. :)

Best Wishes,

Louise


Jeremy Hi Michael!

Here’s wishing you a yippee-filled Yuletime overflowing with yard-long yams, yapping yoyo-yanking yetis, yak-milk yeast-cakes, and yellow yarn-yielding year-end yard-gnomes.

-Jeremy :)


Jeremy Howdy Michael!

Here’s wishing you a fantastic day filled with fabulous fates, fanciful festivities, and frolicking phantom footstools.

-Jeremy :)


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