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Horror Plot Cliches

February 4, 2010

In the wonderful world of horror, it’s easy to creep in to many done-to-death plots. I’m sure this is a problem with any genre but especially horror. It’s becoming increasingly harder to develop that original idea. One that no one has ever thought of. At this point, a lot of writers are trying to put a new spin to an old idea. Below are a few done-to-death plots:

1. Main character gets eaten/dies in the end – How many times have you gone on this scary roller coaster ride with a main character just to have him die in the end. It’s frustrating and sometimes insulting to a reader. No body wants to see the hero die.

2. Experiments go terribly wrong – this one was highlighted in books such as Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But why does the experiment have to go wrong. Can’t it be a success for once? Playing God always comes with some kind of consequence. So, maybe the scientist should just drop the experiments.

3. Character ignores warnings – Most often it’s the girl telling the guy not to do something and he does it anyways. On occasion, it’s the other way around. Doing something you’re not suppose to will lead to trouble. So why do it? The one second of adrenaline rush is not worth the chaos later.

4. Let’s split up – This may sound like a good idea especially if there is only one killer on the rampage. Supposedly increases the odds of survival. The problem is the killer will probably know the surroundings better than the characters. Isolation is never good. Safe in numbers.

5. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, etc – When it comes to these creatures, some authors write as if the rules are set in stone. For example, vampires are often portrayed as handsome/beautiful, seductive, drinks blood, and can only be killed by stake in the heart or decapitation. Truth is there are a lot of folklore about vampires and most don’t follow these rules. It’s sometimes hard to change the mainstream perception of such popular mythical creatures, but writers don’t stop trying.

This purpose of this article isn’t to force you away from cliches. You have to recognize them in order to spin them in your favor. Which cliche are you guilty of writing about?

Andrea is guilty of falling in to the “it was all a dream/not real” cliche. Although she has tried hard to not fall in to the pit again.
8 Comments
  1. February 4, 2010 1:41 am

    Two of my major projects are a zombie novella and a vampire short.

    I think the spin on the zombie one is fine, but I am struggling to make my vampire tale new and interesting without betraying the original trope.

  2. February 4, 2010 4:32 am

    I guess I am guilty of both- main character dies in the end and experiment goes wrong. I also like vengence in the end….

  3. February 4, 2010 10:19 am

    I’m guilty of wanting to kill my character off but I get upset when I read a book and the MC dies so I try to avoid it.

    But some of the reasons why I love horror so much is that it is sometimes horribly predictable. Although, I prefer to have a little of both…extremely predictable situations with a very original plot.

    You know they shouldn’t go down that dark corridor by themselves but you are completely surprised by what happens when they do…

  4. February 4, 2010 11:44 am

    My vampires always have a seductive beauty about them. It’s hard to not write them like that in a romance. P.C. Cast did a good job writing a romance that went beyond physical beauty in Elphame’s Choice. I’ll have to think about that.

  5. February 4, 2010 8:17 pm

    I agree with Hannah, though I would take the expectation a bit further down that scary road. Remove the instructions and “done-to-death” comments and I would think your list could just as well be titled “Rules of Horror”. They’ve been working for a “horror-ably” long time😀 Sorry, couldn’t resist. Slapstick is in the same boat:/

  6. February 4, 2010 8:19 pm

    I agree with Hannah and would take the expectation a bit further down that scary road. Remove the instructions and “done-to-death” comments and I would think your list could just as well be titled “Rules of Horror.” They’ve been working for a “horror-ably” long time😀 Sorry, couldn’t resist. Slapstick is in the same boat:/

  7. February 5, 2010 3:12 am

    I personally don’t like the “Hollywood” endings. So when the MC gets killed off I’m okay with that. If the villain has ANY redeeming qualities, then that’s even better.

  8. February 5, 2010 6:18 am

    I LOVE the “lets spilt up’ line……

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