Saturday, 24 May 2014

The Devil's Cliché

Rayne Hall's next Ten Tales anthology, Cogwheels, is soon to be released and since accepting my "Hole in the Sky" story she's now after another. This time she's requested a dark story involving a demon.

Two things I already know, and I've not yet scribbled any ideas:
  • This story will give you a peek into the world of my novel, The Shadow Fabric, just as "Ten Minutes Till Deadtime" (featured in Hell's Garden anthology) and also "Seeing is Believing" (featured in Sirens Call eZine).
  • I intend to avoid every cliché there is.

Below, I've listed several of my personal grievances when it comes to demon and supernatural stories, both in literature and on screen.


Yeah, this is first on the list. I am not having a dribbling, white-eyed levitation scene anywhere in my story. 

Freaky children.

How many times have we seen, especially in film, weird children, floppy arms and vacant stares? Oh, and long, dark hair over the eyes.

Toy/Music box.

Again, especially on screen, the music box plays an important role twinned with a haunting soundtrack.


Don't even get me started on this.


If someone's pissed someone else off, what better way than to put a hex on them?


I don't want any priest or holy man near my demon.


As above. May the power of Christ compel me...not to.


No church will be seen in or around wherever the hell my story takes place.

Black-cowled sects.

Similar to the last item, no one will wander around wearing cowls either. Indeed, there'll be no chanting, naked-dancing, or virgin sacrifice.

Moving home.

So, let's have a pair of characters (husband and wife perhaps?) move in to a new home...and ohhhhhh, there are weird noises. Um, no. Thanks. But no.

Finding something.

Almost as bad as the moving home thing... Let's have a character who goes to a charity shop or a garage sale and finds something. Something old. Yeah, let's make it a music box. No, better still, how about a doll?


A possessed car? I believe Stephen King was one of the first to do this with Christine and that was a fantastic story. No one else should bother.


Anything to do with a demon behind the mirror is too much the metaphor for personal demons.

Pet dies first.

Let's begin the story with a happy family unit. First there's something broken in the house. And then the next step on the freaky-level is the pet butchered by some kind of evil. No. Just don't do it.

Divorced couple.

Yep, cliché right there! Oh how those two hate each other, and one character is troubled by that evil presence. Do they still love each other? Who's the annoying new man/woman on the scene? Yeah, let's kill the lover who broke up the marriage in the first place. That won't shock the reader.

Two children.

Similar to the freaky children, but this one features a pair of siblings. And one of them is possessed, or taken ill, or maybe taken into the nether world.

The main character kills.

Reading a story, often in first person POV, and they're actually possessed by an evil demon. We follow them on their journey and yeah, it's the demon's point of view. Of course.

And, on a last note...

Whilst writing this blog post, I tweeted:

"What are you sick of when it comes to demon and devil clichés? #amwriting a dark story and want to avoid every hackneyed plot out there."

Replies include:

"...Devil-worshipping cults..."
"...random discoveries of magical books..."
"...possessed items...houses..."
"...the Devil as a stranger who 'visits'..."
"...scary-eyed demons...maniacal laughter...putrid smell..."
"...creepy children..."
"...stereo-typical demons, all scary-looking..."

One tweeter even suggested instead of a scary demon, how about one straight from an Armani ad? Another mentioned a misunderstood Devil who's perhaps less evil than most think, and is in fact somewhat hospitable... Both, worthy ideas.

Thanks to all those who helped out there.

"Fast car...on the highway. On the byway, Mr. Robotron."
-Will Ferrell

So I've begun

As I often do before beginning a story, I scribbled as many word associations as possible before going cross-eyed. With demons, devils and darkness in mind, this is what I came up with:

Demons, Devils and Devices
The Devil’s Toy
Untouchable Device
Another Fire
Born of Smoke
Unholy, Unsmoked
One More Round
Just One More Round
A Piece of Mind
How it Ends
Beneath it all
Untroubled, Unholy
Unloved, Unholy
Unholy, Unchartered
Haunted Bullet
Screaming Demons
Dancer in the Dark Light
Midnight Eyes
The Midnight Stare
Shadow Soldiers
A Demon’s Shadow
Demon’s Shadow
Belief in Darkness
Darker than a Demon’s Shadow
Forgotten Demon
Demon Field
Demon Memories
Darker than the Devil’s Shadows
The Devil’s Shadow
Devil Box
Devil to Promise
Spend the Evening with a Demon
Crystal Clear Shadow
Shadows of Another
Other Fiendish Qualities
Good Sense
Sixth Stench
Looking for the Darkness
Leaking Darkness
Liquid Darkness
The Buried Still Bleed
Strangers Clock the Sorrow
Mighty Shadow
Played a Game of Death
Death’s Delight
Ploughed Field
Devils and Demons
Best of Fiends
His Master’s Voice
Taken for a Demon
Demon Monopoly
The Devil’s Puzzle
Puzzles in the Dark
Dark Pieces
The Shroud
Devil’s Shroud
Shrouded in the Demon’s Fabric
Shrouded in Fabric
Dark Demise
Troubled Devil
The Devil’s Shirt
Hounded by Darkness
Proud Father
Proud to be a Demon’s Son
Demon’s Son
Demon’s Father
Demon Father
Scar Trek
Devil Scarred
The Devil’s Scar
Forty Demons
Haunt of Demons
Players in the Field
Sliced Oath
Forgotten Wheels
Lost in the Shadows
Lost in the Darkness
Forgotten Walls
Founded Fathers
Tethers of Wonder
Buried in the Wood
Blasted in the Dark
Spore of Satan
Satan Spore
Hunger, Misery
Unforgiving Gesture
Player in the Dark
Dark River
Bleak Stone
Black Stone
Stone Cold Demon
Demon in the Rye

Somewhere among that lot will be my demon story. Whichever I choose won't necessarily be the title, but it'll give me a seed that will grow. This is already proving to be a challenge, and I think I've made it difficult by compiling a list of what not to write. Damn.

Damn it all to Hell...

If you have anything you'd like to add to my cliché list
please let me know and I'll be sure to do my best in avoiding it.

Author photo (c)Christopher Shoebridge
Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, fantasy, and SF stories have featured in several anthologies and ezines.

His debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, is a supernatural story and is available from Amazon.

Twitter: @Mark_Cassell Facebook: