7 Tips to Using Curses in Fiction: Eye of Newt Can Expire

Curses can have a lot of pitfalls when you use them.  Have they been done already and in the same fashion?  Do they have a purpose in the story beyond window dressing or a comical reaction?  Is it really a hindrance?  Plenty of questions to consider, so let’s see if we can clear any of those up.

  1. Curses need to have a downside even if the character has figured out a way to use it in a positive way.  These are supposed to be the opposite of helpful spells, which means harm was intended.  It could be the threat of a social incident or a physical malady under certain situations, but you need it to be bad for the curse to have any type of impact.  Otherwise, it comes off as a blessing and there is no reason to have it removed or complain about it at all.  Why even call it a curse?
  2. You don’t have to show the curse being cast for it to have an impact.  Many times, a hero might not even realize they’ve been cursed.  So, there’s a level of discovery if it happens during the story.  You can have people talk about the possibility at first to create foreshadowing and establish that curses are a thing.  Yet, you need to put more focus on the effects than the delivery.
  3. Removing the curse cannot be easy or there really isn’t a point.  Keeping your eyes closed for an eye to be free of the Noxious Farts curse means everything connected to the spell falls apart.  The characters need to hunt for the answer or at least keep an ear out for a solution.  Make it worth the time and words you are spending to make it part of the story.
  4. On the other end of the spectrum, you need to be careful when making a curse impossible to remove.  This isn’t a bad thing because people who cast it will want it to last forever.  So, you’re more likely to have a permanent one.  You could have it be that the removal has been lost to history.  If you do this then you need the character to act accordingly.  There needs to be a learning curve to living with this thing and maybe the go through the stages of grief.  If the character takes the curse so well that they don’t grow then you again find yourself in a wasted situation.
  5. Try your best to be creative with your curse.  It doesn’t have to be a direct challenge to the plot, but it has be a hindrance of some kind.  Consider what would be a problem for you or someone you know.  Maybe a fear that you have trouble facing such as arachnophobia or loss of a sense.  Don’t be afraid to take a traditional curse and give it a twist too.  Familiarity helps more than we’d like to admit.
  6. Cursed items are a viable method of transference.  The trick is to make them hard to escape once they have latched on.  Clothing is fairly easy, but anything that is held can be dropped.  Ways to counter this is to have part of the curse be that the item teleports back into the person’s possession or can’t be tossed away.  Maybe there is an addiction factor, so they can’t bring themselves to get rid of the object.  This goes back to curses needing a level of difficulty to remove.
  7. Almost forgot this one.  If you are using a curse that doesn’t really exist then you need to show why it’s important.  This happens in horror where a curse is mentioned and nobody believes it.  Then, something occurs to make it seem like a possibility.  It gets gradually amped up until the characters swear it’s true, which can get the audience thinking that it may be true as well.  Curses are a great source of tension and fear, so use them psychologically if you can.

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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23 Responses to 7 Tips to Using Curses in Fiction: Eye of Newt Can Expire

  1. L. Marie says:

    Great tips! Makes me want to write something that involves a curse.
    I can’t help thinking of the Harry Potter books and how curses were used as weapons. In The Trials of Morrigan Crow, the main character was believed to be cursed.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I liked these. My humor based mind went to a character trying to shake a curse like trying to get rid of flypaper. He finally gets rid of it only to have the wind pick it up and hit him in the face with it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Curses tips to swear by 😃

    Like

  4. V.M.Sang says:

    Great ideas. I’ve not used curses, but might in the future. You’ve whetted my imagination.

    Like

  5. More great information. I’m keeping notes.

    Like

  6. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Check out this great post from Charles Yallowitz from his Legends Of Windemere blog with 7 Tips to Using Curses in Fiction: Eye of Newt Can Expire

    Like

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