Cliches, Horror Writing

Cliche: The senses

Monster Cliches

Today I am writing to talk to you about monster cliches.

These three cliches can apply to almost any kind of monster, or a protagonist having to circumvent the monster in question. They are sensory cliches, and they pop up in a lot of horror stories.

Now, like with all cliches I can understand why they are used. Like, character cliches which are used to establish character traits quickly these are used as short cuts. But like character cliches which can work well for background or side characters that you don’t want to spend tons of time developing because you’re basically using them to make a point or be cannon fodder, sensory cliches can work well in small doses.

The sensory cliches are a bit different to character cliches though, while they are used as a short cut the same way character cliches are their shortcut is a shortcut to stakes not personality.

Sensory cliches attached to the protagonist will be used as a way to raise stakes and sensory cliches attached to the monster will be used to lower stakes. As they will always be used to establish a weakness for either the protagonist or the monster to exploit.

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Cliches: Characters

Lazy writing?

Do you remember when I used to write to you about cliches? I’d like to do that again, in part because it’s a lot of fun, in part because you seemed to enjoy it (and I crave positive feedback) and in part because I enjoy having a good bitch about things.

Not all cliches are lazy writing, they can actually be bloody useful when used properly (and sparingly), they are a good way to set audience expectations when you don’t have the time or space to dedicate to establishing something.

However, as I said above, this should be used sparingly and in specific circumstances, such as for low screen time side characters who serve a singular purpose and are there and gone again quickly. After all no one wants to spend ages establishing a character when they are only going to do what the creator needs them to then disappear.

Clichés become lazy writing when they are used for main or significant characters, places, plot points etc.

Previously I’ve focused my rants on specific topics, but today I want to cast a wider net, so where previously I did a blog about male characters, female characters etc today I want to touch on three clichés that affect characters as a whole.

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Cliches, Horror Writing

Clichés: Ghosts

Spooky Scary Ghosts

It should go without saying really that ghosts pop up a lot in horror stories. Traditionally when a lot of people think horror they will think of ghosts and ghost stories.

This isn’t a bad thing, as ghosts can work amazingly in stories when they are done well.

A good example of ghosts being done well is the Haunting of Hill House television series that came out recently. The ghosts here were very well crafted and it was clear from the first episode that a lot of thought had gone into their conception and creation.

However, despite ghosts being excellent narrative tools they can, and often are, the victims of excessive clichés. All of which, I believe, stems from the same issue, a simple lack of thought.

A recent example of this being when I went to see a play that I will not name here (it wasn’t the woman in black, I feel the need to point that out). The story clearly established the ghost character, her motivations were crystal clear and her abilities firmly shown early on. It was pretty good if a little overdone. But right at the end everything about the ghost changed, her motivations changed completely, it went from “find me” to “join me forever” and her abilities went from “dick around with small technology within the house” to “being able to cause traffic accidents miles away”.

I remember sitting in the theatre and thinking to myself “Well, the writer clearly wanted a twist ending and just couldn’t come up with one.” I was disappointed and frustrated, to say the least. But this leads nicely into the main cliché that ghost characters suffer from.

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Cliches, Horror Writing

Clichés: Heroes

Here he comes to say the day!

Today I am writing you you to talk about some of the clichés that befall protagonists, mostly in fantasy stories. I am, of course, talking about the ‘Hero’. Fiction and fantasy have come a long way over the years, and our character development has come along with them, we now have multifaceted heroes, flawed heroes, and anti-heroes (my personal favourite). But while we’ve come along way in some respects, there are still a lot of hero clichés out there and I’m going to rant about my most hated three.

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Cliches, Horror Writing

Clichés: Male Characters

Man up…

As I said in my letter about female character clichés, one cannot avoid talking about gender when considering clichés. Male characters have just as many cliché’s as female characters and today we will be exploring some of the clichés that irritate me the absolute most.

Secret badass 

Photo by Anna Shvets on

Usually, this type of character will be the perfectly normal nice chap on the surface, the guy next door type of character. He’s happy with his idyllic life, usually with his family and doesn’t seek anything else. Everyone thinks he’s just boring old Bob from number 22. But then something or usually someone, from Bob’s super-secret past that he never talks about will turn up.

This person might be a friend in desperate need of help, or they might be an old enemy who murder’s Bob’s family. Either way, Bob is suddenly taken out of his perfect little life (normally by his wife and child being killed or possibly kidnapped) and suddenly it turns out that Bob is a badass! Maybe he used to be the best secret assassin the world has ever known, perhaps he was in MI5 or some super-secret spy service that no one knows about. Either way, Bob will now proceed to kick ass and take names, he’ll be calm (although angry underneath the calm), he’ll be tough and amazing at all weapons. Bonus points if he can fly a plane or helicopter.

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Cliches, Horror Writing

Clichés: Women

Girls, girls, girls

Today I want to talk to you about gender cliches.

When writing about Cliché’s one cannot avoid talking about gender clichés, I plan to write to you about both male clichés and female clichés in turn. Today I am writing to you about the types of female character clichés that occur so often in stories.

I won’t be covering all of them just the ones that irritate me, as there are far to many to cover all of them.

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