Breaking Cliches

Simply put, tropes are clichés. Usually they are in the form of characters or circumstances. Probably no other genre lends itself to clichés quite like fantasy does, and the real trick is to find a way to turn them into something original. Sometimes I envy writers from the past. They had fewer clichés to overcome. When Dante wrote about the 7 levels of hell, it was pretty damned original. Now there are a whole lot of stories dealing with what hell is like in an of itself. So, when I got the idea to write Hell’s Own, I was faced with a lot of past works to overcome. In some ways, those past works can help inspire. I didn’t want demons and the devil to be the stereotypical beasts, but we’ve seen–especially the devil–in some pretty interesting ways in modern stories. Just in the movies, Al Pacino played a pretty compelling devil in “The Devil’s Advocate”, demons got a boost of personality in “Constantine.” In fact, Constantine may have been the impetus for my vision of hell where demons weren’t just gruesome beasts, all the same, all — well, stupid, mean and vile.

My trope was hell, and of course the devil and demons more specifically. My leading character is a demon. Not usually your most loveable sort, but in Hell’s Own, Alexander has all of the angst of a teenager and all of the compassion of a saint…. But he’s still a demon. Some of the things he does are a little less than loveable, but seen from a new perspective, they’re understandable. He doesn’t know they’re ‘bad’ things. They are natural to him. Where he comes from — hell — demons many different things, there are dozens of species all with a specific purpose. They look different, have cliques, have varying amounts of intelligence, and have specific jobs to do.

A lot of the dealings with tropes in fantasy has to do with the mission. For Hell’s Own, there was more than just defining the vision of hell and its inhabitants; it had to do with Alexander’s mission. In this case the trope was small town boy wants to make it in the big city. Well, in a manner of speaking. In Alexander’s case, he didn’t hate where he was
born, grew up and lived. He had some issues, like all of us do, he was a bit of an outsider, but nothing overly different from the average ‘person. However, he had seen a vision of a spectacular place and he had to get there and find out if it really was as wonderful as it looked… oh, by the way, that was earth’s surface. So even the idea of heaven being some cavernous location beneath earth’s surface is a bit of a trope in Hell’s Own, but one that is a little different, and like Dante’s Inferno–has many layers to explore.


Tami Parrington is a freelance writer and author of seven novels including Hell’s Own. Check out Hell’s Own on at


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