I need precede this with some context. I have challenged myself to write a lot in March. Mostly, it's stream of conscious babble, but I found myself diving into why horror is an effective cliché. That explanation is mostly to justify the beginning of the meat of this write up.
I’ve been in strangely good moods this week too, despite work somewhat blowing up like a dumpster fire, mom having a rough week, and my spouse being stressed to the max. I’m not sure what changed. Maybe it was the body work my massage therapist did? Maybe cupping sucked out the negative energy? Maybe I really was attacked by the Kraken, and I’m really just a remnant of myself manifesting enough that people don’t know I’m gone. There is a story somewhere there, but I think it’s already been done… repeatedly. Speaking of, I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoy writing horror. You can write clichés, but there are so many directions you can go with it, in ways many other genres don’t allow, that you can still come up with vaguely original, and certainly engaging, work. Vampires, for example. On the whole, it’s an over-done theme. However - there are a million factors you can change to create your own thing. Are they creepy or sensual? Sensually creepy? Good guys? Bad guys? Somewhere in the middle? Using their powers for good, evil, simply existing and neither good nor evil? What are their powers? Do they have the usual? Do they scoff at what people THINK their powers are, but really they enjoy eating roasted garlic on the beach while sunning themselves? Does it have to be human blood? Painless? Painful? Do they create more? All of this barely scratches the surface of the possibilities. It’s also only one small aspect of horror.
Some creatures are a little harder to vary- Zombies, for example, are pretty hard to mess with. Though even with Zombies the method of creation can vary, whether or not they are slow and dumb or fast and powerful, or some combination. I admittedly have a real problem with the latter. If your muscle, bones, tendons, etc. are decaying or gone, it is impossible to move fast unless there are supernatural forces involved. One of the things that make zombies effectively scary is that they are frequently created by some mutated virus - not supernatural forces- therefore could potentially be a reality someday. Theoretically, cordyceps in the fungi world do this to bugs already. When the Zombies are fast, strong, and strategize; it’s harder to suspend disbelief, at least if you’re the type of person who thinks about such things.
Ghosts have a whole host of variety too. They can defy all sorts of “normal” laws of nature, allowing for any direction to be explored. This can also border on the realm of demons and possession too, which then in turn opens up the world of different worlds and dimensions. Again, the possibilities are limitless.
Werewolves, witches, monsters - all of these have the ability to mutate infinitely, and still be interesting. Original cliché, even. Yes, that should be an oxymoron, but it’s not when you think about it.
I will only briefly touch on the world of human vs human horror. This is another genre that is limited on variety. There are a ton of ways to maim, torture, and kill, but it’s still human violence limited by what the body can handle. This is NOT a section of horror I enjoy. There is enough real-life awful violence that it seems redundant and stupid to intentionally create stories about more. If you take out the gore (or the extreme gore, anyways), you now have entered the crime-fiction world. I like my horror to be less possible in reality.
I also am going to take this opportunity to express how much I despise, DESPISE women’s bodies being used as weapons and gimmicks. Sure, it is super effective using sexual assault and rape as an effective way to elicit a horror response. But that is because probably every single female bodied and female identified person can relate to the experience, or near experience, in their real life. So is it effective in being horrible? Yes. But if you, as a writer, feel the need to resort to using rape/sexual assault as a weapon, it is my not-so-humble opinion that you lack imagination. Rarely, you will see a writer use men’s orifices as a tool for terror, but not so often. I don’t approve of this either, but I do respect it a little more - i think - simply because it tips the scale in a scarce used direction, AND it’s also something the majority of men don’t constantly think about in their daily life. They can get gas, walk down the street, go shopping, piss in public, without being hyper-aware that they may be violated if they let their guard down for even a moment. THIS IS A FEMALE BODIED/FEMALE PRESENTING PERSON’S REALITY. Prove me wrong.