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How to Write a Gothic Short-Story

Gothic literature can be great fun to read, but truly – even more fun to write.

Bilde av maleriet "Fantasy Castle in Moonlight".

Fear, physical and psychological horror, mystery, supernatural beings/phenomena, ghosts, haunted buildings, architectural traditions from the Middle Ages, castles, darkness, death, doppelgangers, insanity, secrets, graveyards, gothic doubles and curses... Literature including some of these elements is often referred to as Gothic literature.

The following Gothic short story was written by Stine Erstad when she was a junior at Sotra videregåande skole. Read the story and study which Gothic elements she includes. Afterwards it is your turn to try your hand at writing a short story, creating a gothic and dark atmosphere. See the guidelines following the story.

Everything Will Be Allright – plain text

Tasks and Activities

Understanding Gothic

  1. Which gothic elements are used in this short story? See Elements of the Gothic Novel and discuss with a partner.
  2. Look at the pictures illustrating this story. How would you describe them? Consider the actual images as well as the atmosphere they convey. Find at least two pictures on the Internet which you consider typically gothic and explain why you think so. See, for instance, FlickrCC and Free Photo Bank.
  3. The use of appropriate vocabulary is important to create a gothic atmosphere in a story. Study the vocabulary listed in #10 here. Choose at least ten of these words and make a Wordle Compare with a fellow student. Did you choose the same words? Print the wordles and make your classroom gothic.

Write a Gothic Short Story

Use your knowledge about gothic fiction and write a short story. When writing a short story, you also need to take the following into consideration:

Element

Explanation

Title

Needs to be relevant, original and captivating

Plot Elements Your story needs to have the following five plot elements:
  1. Orientation or presentation of the setting, the characters etc.
  2. Rising Action or a Conflict. There needs to be a central conflict which leads to a growing excitement in the reader indicating that something is about to happen.
  3. Climax or Confrontation or Turning Point of the story: This is what the story builds up to. There is usually a confrontation.
  4. Falling action: What happens after the Climax. Do things become worse or better for the protagonist?
  5. Resolution: The final paragraph where you explain how the story ends and what happens to the character. You can try to surprise your reader with a twist. You can also leave the ending open so that there are many different readings of the same story.
Characterization

Your characters need to be well developed and should have thoughts, feeling and actions.

Use of Gothic Elements

You need to try and include as many elements as possible to create a gothic and dark atmosphere. Some elements are: Fear, physical and psychological horror, mystery, supernatural beings/phenomena, ghosts, haunted buildings, architectural traditions from the Middle Ages, castles, darkness, death, doppelgangers, insanity (especially in females), secrets, graveyards, gothic doubles and curses. See also Elements of the Gothic Novel.

Narration Styles

You need to use different narrative modes like descriptive, stage scenes (if required), direct speech when the characters talk directly to each other, reported speech when retelling something a character has said, chronology, retrospection, flashback etc.

Use of Literary Devices Foreshadowing, Similes, Metaphors, Symbols, repetition etc.
Point of View

Make sure you use the same point of view consistently.

Language Use: Use of Adjectives

Use adjectives extensively to create an interesting and entertaining reading experience.

Language Use: Grammar, Usage, Sentence Structure and Use of Linking Words
  • You need to use the correct rules of grammar.
  • Make sure you avoid making Usage Errors (i.e. sentences which are grammatically correct, but a native speaker would not speak like that. For example: I became in love vs. I fell in love.
  • You need to vary your sentence structure and try to use both Simple, Compound and Complex sentences.
  • Use of Linking Words: Use linking words to combine sentences and create cohesion so that the sentences flow better.

Make an Animation

Make an animation based on Erstad's short story or an animation of the story you have written yourself. Use GoAnimate.com or similar.

Further Reading

The Gothic Novel
The Tell-Tale Heart (short story)

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