cliches, Horror Writing

Clichés: 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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