Is There a Writer Gene?

Guest Blogger: Donna Galanti

Is there a writer gene and is storytelling genetic?  NY Times Best Selling Author Jonathan Maberry thinks so. As a student in his Write a Novel in 9 Months class he noted that we either have the urge to write or we don’t. I believe this too. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean we will be good at it but just that it’s in us. If the urge is there then we can learn the craft. But first, we need the urge. The urge is what drives us to perfect our craft. We either are storytellers or we aren’t.

I read a piece from my book A HUMAN ELEMENTat a writer’s workshop last year. I thought I picked a piece that would not offend. When the faces stared expressionless at me at the end, I quickly realized I did not quite fit into this nice chick lit group. Especially when the workshop leader, Kathryn Craft, noted the comedy in my reading about heads popping in vices and what not as I peered up with innocent eyes.

This led me to wonder if there are sub categories of the writer gene just like there are sub genres in writing. If there is a “dark” writer gene, well, that fits me perfectly. I like writing from the dark places. To spiral my characters into tragedy – with a dash of hope. On the page I can act out horrific events by evil people and never get arrested. My blood pumps a bit quicker. My fingers fly faster over the keyboard. My husband wants to know how I can write this stuff. Perhaps I’m simply getting my aggressions out.

I see sparks of the writer gene in my son. He writes with colorful passion as I did at his age. He acts out his dreams as well, embellishing on them as he plays. I asked why he did that once. He said he wants to add to his favorite dreams during the waking world, to keep them alive so he can enjoy them over and over again. I understand that. I want my characters to keep acting out new events and live forever through me as well.

Here’s a scene of one dark character in A HUMAN ELEMENTI enjoyed writing:

As X-10 ran under the full moon, leaping over rocks and roots, darting around boulders he could see her in his mind. Laura. You are mine. Then he saw her with her man. Water coursed all around them. Her hair hung wet about her shoulders. X-10 closed off his mind’s eye to the scene. He didn’t want to see her naked. It made him feel strange. And in that strange feeling he couldn’t define, X-10 hated her even more.

Rage surged through him and his blood pulsed fast, throbbing under his white skin in blue rivers. He forced himself to run faster through the night. Why did she get to live a normal life? He would make sure her end was not normal. And she would wish she had never been born.

A lonesome dog bayed in the hills above X-10 as if approving his plan. Streaks of moonlight and shadows fell across his face like whip lashes over and over, creating a living painting from darkness and light. He would show Laura darkness like she never experienced, and pain. There would be so much pain. He howled back at the creature that rode alone through the woods like he did. Perhaps they would meet along their journeys.

He hoped so. He was getting hungry again.

Unlike the fictional X-10 here, ancient history was full of inducing real pain. People acted out their aggressions in real life. Many were the unfortunate ones acted upon. Ripped to shreds by lions. Skewered gladiator style. Tortured by medieval stretch-rack.

We’re so much safer today reading and writing about tormented characters. Think about it. I wrote a blog post recently on how in writing dark fiction we’re saving the world one book at a time. If more people lose themselves in dark writing instead of dark action, we’d all be better off.  Plus there is just wicked fun to be had in writing the bad-ass character and the tormented character.

This brings me back around to the question; if the writer gene does exist then are writers pre-disposed to write what they do? Dark fiction, young adult, fantasy, science fiction, romance, memoir. What in our writer gene pre-disposes us for that? If my son writes some day from the dark places I will know why, and probably enjoy it immensely. My husband? Eh, not so much.

So, do you believe there is a writer gene? And what kind of storyteller are you?


One by one, Laura Armstrong’s friends and adoptive family members are being murdered, and despite her unique healing powers, she can do nothing to stop it. The savage killer haunts her dreams, tormenting her with the promise that she is next.

Determined to find the killer, she follows her visions to the site of a crashed meteorite–her hometown. There, she meets Ben Fieldstone, who seeks answers about his parents’ death the night the meteorite struck. In a race to stop a mad man, they unravel a frightening secret that binds them together. But the killer’s desire to destroy Laura face-to-face leads to a showdown that puts Laura and Ben’s emotional relationship and Laura’s pure spirit to the test.

With the killer closing in, Laura discovers her destiny is linked to his and she has two choices–redeem him or kill him.

Readers who devour paranormal books with a smidge of horror and steam will enjoy A HUMAN ELEMENT, the new novel about loss, redemption, and love.



“A HUMAN ELEMENT is an elegant and haunting first novel. Unrelenting, devious but full of heart. Highly recommended.” –Jonathan Maberry, New York Times best-selling author of ASSASSIN’S CODE and DEAD OF NIGHT

“Donna must have picked up on my weakness for Dean Koontz, because A HUMAN ELEMENT echoes the bestselling author in terms of creativity, the supernatural and overall dark allure. Add in a little paranormal romance and you’ve got one delicious literary paranormal mashup.” – Mina Burrows, Blog for the Paranormal & Mystical Minds. See full review.

Donna Galanti is the author of the dark novel A HUMAN ELEMENT(Echelon Press). She won first place for Words on the Wall Fiction at the 2011 Philadelphia Writer’s Conference. Donna has a B.A. in English and a background in marketing. She is a member of International Thriller Writers, The Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group and Pennwriters. She lives with her family in an old farmhouse in PA with lots of nooks, fireplaces, and stinkbugs. Visit her at: and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Like Donna’s Author Facebook  page for news and updates! Her tour runs through April 11th with book giveaways, more guest posts, and interview fun, and a chance to win the big prize giveaway! So pop over to her blog to see the full tour schedule.


  1. Janice, thanks for having me on and talking about writing from the dark places!

  2. Great post. Thanks for sharing about your book, looks like one for my summer reading list. Wish I lived out East to attend Jonathon’s classes. What a master of his craft.

    • Terri, yes Jonathan’s classes in conjunction with The Philly Liars Club are really useful – I have learned to much on the craft and business of writing. They are expanding, and I heard talk that at some point they may offer online classes so I would keep an ear out!

  3. You like dark genes, Donna, I like faded jeans—but we both like the fabric of our suspense stretched nice and tight, hahaha!

    Is there a writer gene? I do believe there’s a gene that makes certain people follow their passions. There was no amount of effort my Dad wouldn’t go to in order to carry a project through to his satisfaction, whether a hand-drawn Christmas card or a costume for a party or a work project. While he wasn’t a writer he wrote great letters, and would take his time choosing just the right words. Maybe I think there is a creativity gene, or an initiative gene. I don’t know. But something that makes you devote time, without promise of extrinsic reward, just in order to express yourself and say to the world, “I’m here, and I care.”

    • Kathryn, beautifully said – as always by you. “I’m here, and I care”. Lovely sentiment about the kind of person your dad was, and we can all inspire to be – with a gene for that or not.

  4. Thanks for sharing your insights!

  5. So sorry about my oops on your blog interview yesterday, Donna. I think after the site forced me to retype my message three times, for some reason your maiden name stuck in my mind and I came up with Becky. 🙂 Congratulations again!

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