Tuesday Tropes: “Is somebody there?”

Yes. Someone is there. Someone is always there. And chances are that if you’re asking this question, you’re about to die.

Why this can be bad: This has to be one of my least favorite horror tropes. A character is wandering around by herself when she hears a noise. She calls out to the darkness, and when no one responds, she offers a “stop kidding around, guys” or “this isn’t funny.” And we all know exactly what is going to happen – to the point that the tension completely disappears. Why bother getting worked up when we know there’s something coming? Even if it comes off as a false alarm at first, we still know what to expect. Not to mention the characters who do this seem completely unaware of this (mostly horror) trope.

How you can fix it: Obviously, if you hear a weird sound at night, you might try to investigate. You might actually ask, “Is somebody there?” But if you’re in a situation where you know sane people aren’t going to mess with you and you don’t get a reply, you probably aren’t going to be tempted to call again. This really depends on the character, though. There are the more bold who will call out a few times, but since we already see them so much, I think it’d be fun to see the ones who don’t ask again, the ones who turn tail immediately and start fleeing the scene. If a character hears a mysterious noise, they could even try to sneak up on it themselves, or otherwise do something that isn’t so trite as calling into the darkness.

Bottom Line: The use of “Is somebody there?” can ruin tension just because of its overuse, so be careful.

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