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Writing Horror: Oh The Cliches

We hear it all the time that we can't exactly control what inspires us on an artistic level, and if you've ever been inspired by something totally unexpected, you know what I mean. In this same sense, there are definitely times when we are inspired to create things that fall into the "cliche" category. Nobody wants their work to be a big-old-bland-walking-cliche, of course, we all strive to be original and unique and reflect that in our stories as writers.

It is for this reason, I believe, that many people who are secretly interested in writing horror ultimately end up holding back.

When you're brainstorming things for horror short stories or novels, it's really easy to be hard on yourself as far as, "oh no, that idea has been done, bleh." And to a point, of course recognizing if your idea/interpretation of a certain subject has indeed been done is very important.

Although, I do think it's equally important to remember that what you're writing about is not exactly what you need to worry about on that is-this-cliche level. On paper, lots of things look cliche, which leads me to re-acknowledge another one of those widely-heard writerly advices: it's all in the execution.

There are so many cliches in every genre out there, and horror is no different. Certain types of mythos, certain types of characters, certain types of settings and villains and beasties and happenings. And after such a fascinating, incredible history in this genre, it can sometimes feel like everything has been done in every way. As it is, it's so very rare to find something exhilaratingly new in horror, so why try to write your own horror story if it will probably just get written off as cliche anyway?

But cliches can be done in a fresh, interesting way. And with horror especially, many artists are striving to show the audience their interpretation of that escaped mental patient, or creepy carnival, or a cemetery were the dead awaken for Halloween only, and how/why their version is unique in its own right.

So, guess what? The fact alone that you are an individual qualifies you for the possibility of churning out something truly different, cliche ideas be damned. Don't be afraid to scare other people with your story. Don't hold back when you are brainstorming because you have that terrible fear of being, well, fearful.

Whatever scary thing it is that inspired you to "maybe" try horror is relevant. And if you feel like your big old cliche of an idea can be accurately translated to show what scares you (never write to scare the audience, always write to scare yourself) and why in a uniquely told story....

DO IT. The genre could use you!
Amy Lukavics

Amy lurks within the forested mountains of Arizona. When she isn't reading or writing creepy stories, she enjoys cooking, crafting, and playing games across many platforms. She is the author of Daughters Unto Devils (Harlequin Teen 2015) and The Women In The Walls (Harlequin Teen 2016).

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  1. Yes! Screw coming off as cliche. You can still have a creepy carnival and then have a Ferris wheel car go all anthropomorphic on a poor protag.

  2. Great post. I'm adding several horror elements to the YA I'm working on now. It is difficult to weed out inspiration from cliche and come up with something fresh.

  3. Beyond horror, this problem applies for writing in all genres and media. It's all been done before. Maybe, but there's Blake Snyder's motto, "Give me the same thing...only different!" Great post!

  4. I agree. I think that this is an issue with most genres, and an author shouldn't completely shelve a project or not try a genre because they feel there's nothing new to write about.

  5. You know I agree, Amy. Great post!


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Item Reviewed: Writing Horror: Oh The Cliches Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Amy Lukavics