Curses! Not the Censored Kind

Skeletor

I don’t think I’ve touched on this topic outside of a casual mention, so I’m going to attempt to go below the surface.  Curses show up in a lot of genres even when magic isn’t a main component.  Some are real and others are legends that don’t actually work.  The key point with a curse is that it triggers a sensation of fear and tension.  That is the literary usage of such a thing.  I’m going to get more into this on Wednesday with a 7 Tip list.

The reason I began thinking about this is because somebody asked me:

Do you think curses are cliches?

This honest question brings up a good point.  Many people tend to point at anything they have seen before as cliche and stale.  Evil curses have been around since mythology days if not longer.  From punishments by the gods to witch hexes to Egyptian tomb curses, humans have clung to this concept that magic can be used to inflict a negative effect on others.  Sometimes it’s a specific target while other times it strikes whoever is unlucky enough to wander into the area.  We see them in movies, shows, books, and video games, so I can see how one can see them as cliche.  Yet, can we really say that about curses when we take a step back to examine their purpose?

My personal opinion is that curses are more literary device than anything else.  They are obstacles that have to be overcome through thinking, luck, and/or magic.  You can’t swing your sword or shoot a bullet at a curse to get rid of it.  This means you get a variety of ways to remove it.  Even more so, you have an unlimited amount of curses to choose from.  Yes, some have been overdone such as werewolves, vampires, and amnesia.  You can do those with some twists, but they are rather widespread.  This doesn’t mean curses in general are cliche.  It means you need to be more creative.  Maybe a man turns invisible and unable to be heard whenever he gets close to his family, so they think he abandoned them when he’s right there.  Could be a curse that bestows a terrible allergy or weakness.  The only limit is your imagination.

There is a story down the road that I was going to include curses as a main point.  It would be a group of monster hunters who individually ran into a mystery beast that left them with a different curse.  They want to find it, kill it, and return to normal.  I haven’t done much beyond wanting the main character to switch between male and female through a trigger.  Unfortunately, that’s also Ranma 1/2, so I might have to junk it.  Unless I can get away with the character being 2 in 1, so it’s actually switching to an entirely different person since they were merged.  As you can see, there are a tons of curses that you can come up with, but you need to give many of them twists because the juicier ones have all been taken.

So, what do you think about curses?  Have you used any before?  Do you think they’re a cliche?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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13 Responses to Curses! Not the Censored Kind

  1. What great timing. I’m working one out for a character about two books down the road for Lizzie & The Hat. Basically, a cocky attitude about magic when he was young led him to try something beyond his means. Now he is “owned” by an entity from elsewhere. His life is lived knowing that one day, he will become the property of this entity.

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  2. L. Marie says:

    You have the most intriguing posts. I don’t think they are cliche. They’re used well in Harry Potter and a YA series by Holly Black called the Curse Workers. And coldhandboyack’s story sounds like another good one. Maybe what seems cliche at times is the fact that specific curses occur a lot (Egyptian mummy curses, for instance).

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  3. I like stories where the character is cursed. I remember reading Thinner by (Richard Bachman) Stephen King. The guy was cursed by a gypsy to get thinner every day. It made a great story.

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  4. Interesting — when I think curses, it’s either being turned into a frog/toad after offending a witch, or the Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb after intruding into somewhere better left alone.

    The thing that makes curses dramatic is that they follow you, and they are unrelenting. There’s a struggle to escape the curse. Or to somehow make amends so the curse will be lifted. But in some tales the curse itself seems to outlive both the caster and the original victim.

    Interestingly, in my book The Grimhold Wolf, there was a creature that came into being because a curse had been cast on someone who didn’t deserve it. The curse couldn’t take hold, yet it lived on as a malicious spirit, the willy-wisp.

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