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Learning More About Gothic Literature.

by Yalin Tsikun

Halloween is right around the corner. Every house is already decorated with carved pumpkins, skeletons, and cobwebs, and the people around are ready to be spooked. There is nothing better than visiting a haunted house, watching a horror movie, or reading gothic literature. But what is the gothic literary movement? Who started it? And how do you come up with your own perfect Gothic story?

Gothic literature is a genre that developed from dark romanticism, which is a literary genre that developed from the romanticism movement.

As the theory of evolution started to take hold around the world, and people started to disconnect from spirituality, romanticism offered an artistic antidote that offered heightened emotions like horror, passion, and awe, mixed with the aesthetic of nature, and dark romanticism expresses horror, gruesomeness, and supernatural elements, in a dark, picturesque setting.

Readers’ fascination with the horror element in dark romanticism helped popularize the Gothic literary movement that includes mystery, suspense, bad omens, curses, inhuman beings, and dark settings.

The first official Gothic novel is “The Castle of Otranto” by Horace Walpole. The novel was first published in 1764, and in the later second edition, Walpole added “A Gothic Story” to the title of the novel.Walpole got the inspiration for his novel from a nightmare he had, and then inspired others to write from the scariest, darkest places in their minds.

But how do you write a memorable Gothic book or a short story?

First of all, the setting and atmosphere:

If you are not familiar with the basics of Gothic literature, try thinking of a place you would be scared to stay alone at. For example: A haunted manor, an isolated hotel in the middle of the forest, a graveyard at night, a gloomy castle, or an abandoned church.

After choosing a setting for your plot, it is time to enrich it with a chilling atmosphere that will keep your readers on their toes, but how do you do that?

Make sure the place you chose for the setting has a life of its own.

Examples: The piano in the manor’s living room starts to play on its own, residents cannot go down stairs at night because the stairs creak so loudly they feel that they might wake someone up, portraits with moving eyes follow the movements of the residents, the walls keep secrets from centuries ago, etc.

Now that you have the perfect Gothic setting, what about the characters?

The main character: In classic gothic literature the main character is usually an isolated, witty man that has to save the damsel in distress, but nowaday, the main character can be whoever you want. For example: In the trilogy “House of Furies” by Madeleine Roux the main character is a young woman.

Also, the main character can be morally gray and twisted. The beauty in gothic literature is that the main character does not need to be the saint or the hero, they can be a literal or a moral monster. For example: Dorian Gray from “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde.

Side characters: In my WIP even the friendliest side characters act suspiciously, keep secrets, and are cursed. Of course, you can write normal people as side characters, but I think it adds a lot to the atmosphere.

Examples: A friendly maid that always keeps a knife in her apron’s pocket, a grandma that everyone believes that she is not in her right mind but she actually speaks the truth and reveals secrets, etc.

The villain: Turn men into monsters and monsters into men, or in other words, go wild with your imagination. It can be a corrupting man that enjoys the downfall of others, the devil himself, a ghost that looks for revenge, a murderer, an immoral scientist that experiments on humans, etc.

Now that you have the basics you can add bad omens like: Black raven or a cat following the main character around, an upside down cross, a sky full of bats, etc. Do not forget to add nightmares to reflect the mental state of your main character deteriorating and her fears (My WIP is full of nightmares), and do not be shy to include curses and supernatural beings like werewolves, vampires, demons, etc.

If you add romance this is the perfect genre to make the love interest morally grey, or even worse. You can make the love interest a monster, a murderer that pretends to be a good person, a ghost, etc.

If you read this article attentively you are ready to spook your friends this Halloween or write the next best-selling Gothic novel. Don’t forget to explore the scariest parts of humanity and the unknown, and make sure to have fun as you do it this Halloween!