A trope or allegory is any recurring story element that helps shape, structure, and define a genre. It is impossible to have a  crime fiction without a crime taking place in the story. You can’t have a fantasy story without fantastical happenings and/or creatures.

Not all horror fiction is allegorical. When there is symbolism a deeper message embedded in the narrative. That is when the story becomes something else, something meaningful.

It takes more than a few symbolic elements to make a story allegorical. Both plot and characters need to work in conjunction to create an allegory. Remember that an allegory is not the theme although the theme is usually included in the allegory.

Terror is about a sense of dread. Horror is about revulsion and disgust. The best allegories are subtle, not hit you over the head. They present the situation and characters and leave the reader to draw their conclusions. There is never a need to hammer the point.

When a monster is a stand-in for something bigger, our characters are struggling with some issue we can relate to, and the reader is left thinking after the last page about the events…you have a winning story.

17 horror tropes:

  1. Summon evil. An old book that claims to summon a powerful spirit if you perform a certain ritual.
  2. Open windows and doors. Open doors make it easy for evil to enter.
  3. Nightmare that may have been real. Freddy Krueger built an entire franchise off this concept.
  4. Death to the fornicators. In the world of horror…a death certificate is inevitable for the participants.
  5. Cursed artifact. It may be a toy, diary, VHS tape, jewelry, or something else that catches the eye of a character. You can time when the curse begins.
  6. Finding old footage. A video, audio, diary entries, tape cassettes helps the characters understand more about the evil they’re potentially facing. Double the effect with a cursed artifact.
  7. Splitting up. Divide and conquer makes it that much easier for characters to get picked off.
  8. Secretive laboratory or base. A government or private testing facility that is up to who knows what.
  9. Inclement weather. Thick fog. Whiteout conditions. Dark and stormy night. Make it hard to see what’s coming right at you.

Houses and monsters:

  1. Alone in a dark house or building. It could be the abandoned place, but it could also be their own house, when the electricity goes out.
  2. An abandoned place. It could be an old, spooky, haunted house, library, school, hospital, asylum, grocery store, prop shop, or cabin. Empty of everything but fear.
  3. Mysterious neighbor. The mysterious neighbor or a long-standing neighbor who keeps to themselves.
  4. Bad guy that won’t die. Kill them and they keep coming back for more horror.
  5. Feeling of being watched. Character knows they’re being watched, even hear or catch little glimpses of things from their periphery.
  6. Everywhere monsters. Vampires, werewolves, creatures from the deep.
  7. No communication. Downed phone lines before cell towers and the dropped signals and zero bars since cell towers.
  8. “I’ll be right back.” If you say you’ll be right back in horror, well, it was nice knowing you.

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“Linda has published sixteen books. She blogs about the publishing world, posts useful tips on the challenges a writer faces, including marketing and promoting your work, how to build your online platform, how to get reviews and how to self-publish. She has mentored many authors and edited their work.” 

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