Writing Beginner

30 Words To Use In Gothic Fiction (Gothic Word Guide)

When I first encountered gothic fiction years ago, I was instantly bewitched by the dark allure and emotional intensity that it offered.

The genre, with its moody landscapes and complex characters, spoke to me.

However, it wasn’t until I started writing my own gothic tales that I realized the true power of language in crafting these narratives.

Here are words to use in Gothic Fiction :

30 Best Words to Use in Your Gothic Fiction

Cartoon of gothic woman in gothic town - Words to use in Gothic Fiction

This guide is a collection of 30 powerful words to invigorate your gothic fiction writing and cast an eerie spell on your readers.

1. Desolate

One can hardly imagine gothic fiction without a sense of emptiness and abandonment.

“Desolate” perfectly captures this feeling. Use this word when you want to evoke feelings of loneliness and isolation.

  • The castle stood desolate on the foggy hill.
  • His desolate gaze added to the chilling atmosphere.
  • The desolate landscape spread out before her, devoid of life.

“Eerie” is a quintessential gothic word that implies something uncanny or weird that causes fear.

Use “eerie” to establish an unsettling and mysterious environment.

  • The eerie silence of the room sent chills down her spine.
  • An eerie light emanated from the tomb.
  • The forest had an eerie beauty, with its gnarled trees and misty air.

Use “morose” to describe a character’s gloomy or sullen mood.

This word is handy when you want to convey deep-seated sorrow or melancholy.

  • The morose figure of the butler haunted the long, shadowy corridors.
  • Her morose demeanor hinted at a tragic past.
  • He sat in his chair, morose and lost in thought.

“Lurid” pertains to something that is glaringly vivid, often in a crude or unpleasant way.

It’s perfect for describing vivid and shocking scenes or events.

  • The lurid details of the murder were too much for her to handle.
  • The lurid glare of the neon sign added an unsettling note to the scene.
  • His lurid imagination conjured monstrous creatures from the shadows.

5. Foreboding

“Foreboding” is a fearful apprehension or a sense that something bad is going to happen.

Use it to build tension and suspense in your narrative.

  • A sense of foreboding washed over her as she approached the house.
  • The dark clouds in the sky filled him with foreboding.
  • His foreboding dreams often came true.

“Macabre” signifies something that is disturbing because it’s associated with death or injury.

It’s an excellent choice when you want to add a sense of dread and horror to your story.

  • The macabre painting sent shivers down her spine.
  • He was fascinated by the macabre and collected oddities related to death.
  • She found the macabre spectacle of the graveyard strangely comforting.

A “specter” is a ghost or something widely feared as a possible unpleasant or dangerous occurrence.

This word can heighten the supernatural and chilling aspects of your narrative.

  • The specter of the old woman roamed the corridors at night.
  • The old mansion was said to be haunted by a malevolent specter.
  • The specter of poverty loomed over the impoverished village.

“Ominous” is used to suggest that something bad is going to happen.

It’s a handy tool for building tension and a sense of impending doom.

  • The ominous music grew louder as she approached the door.
  • The ominous storm clouds gathered on the horizon.
  • His ominous warning left her feeling uneasy.

9. Sepulchral

“Sepulchral” refers to something that is gloomy and dismal or pertaining to a tomb or interment.

It’s effective in creating a grim and somber atmosphere.

I really like this word.

  • The sepulchral silence in the chapel was deafening.
  • He was as solemn as a sepulchral statue.
  • The sepulchral city was a shadow of its former self.

10. Ghastly

“Ghastly” means something that is shockingly frightful or dreadful.

This word helps convey scenes of horror and terror.

  • The ghastly apparition appeared at midnight.
  • His ghastly pallor suggested he had seen a ghost.
  • The ghastly scene of the car crash was etched into her memory.

“Bleak” refers to a lack of warmth, life, or kindliness.

It’s perfect for portraying a dismal, gloomy, or hopeless situation.

  • The landscape was bleak and barren, with no sign of life.
  • His future seemed as bleak as the storm-ridden sky.
  • Her bleak expression mirrored the emptiness she felt inside.

12. Dolorous

“Dolorous” is indicative of great sorrow or distress.

Use it to describe a character’s emotional pain or a sad event.

  • His dolorous sigh echoed in the silent room.
  • The dolorous melody of the violin filled the air.
  • The news of her death brought a dolorous atmosphere to the household.

13. Sinister

“Sinister” suggests an ominous aspect which seems to threaten evil or disaster.

This word can help instill a sense of danger and suspense in your narrative.

  • The sinister figure in the corner was barely visible.
  • His sinister smile made her skin crawl.
  • The shadows danced a sinister Waltz on the wall.

14. Cryptic

“Cryptic” refers to something that is mysterious or obscure.

This word is useful in creating enigmatic characters or situations that add intrigue to your story.

  • His cryptic message left her puzzled.
  • The cryptic symbols on the wall were the only clue.
  • The old woman gave her a cryptic warning before disappearing into the crowd.

15. Charnel

“Charnel” is associated with death, specifically relating to the place where dead bodies or bones are placed.

It can be used to establish a grim and morbid atmosphere.

  • The charnel house was filled with the smell of decay.
  • The battlefield became a charnel ground after the fierce battle.
  • She recoiled at the sight of the charnel artifacts on display.

“Grim” refers to something that is harshly uninviting or unnerving in aspect.

This word can portray a harsh, severe, or stern reality.

  • The grim reality of his situation finally hit him.
  • The grim landscape was a testament to the desolation caused by the war.
  • Her grim determination was the only thing that kept her going.

17. Melancholy

“Melancholy” is a feeling of thoughtful or gentle sadness.

Use it to evoke a sense of sadness, reflection, or solemnity.

  • A wave of melancholy washed over her as she thought of home.
  • The melancholy tune of the piano filled the room.
  • His melancholy eyes reflected years of solitude.

18. Mysterious

“Mysterious” indicates something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain.

It’s ideal for creating an air of mystery and suspense.

  • The mysterious woman in black always sat in the same corner.
  • The circumstances of his death remained unsolved and mysterious.
  • The mysterious artifact was said to possess immense power.

19. Cadaverous

“Cadaverous” pertains to looking thin, pale, and like a corpse.

Use it to describe characters who are unwell or to create a chilling effect.

  • His cadaverous complexion sent a shiver down her spine.
  • The cadaverous figure seemed to stare at her from the painting.
  • The cadaverous inmates were evidence of the harsh conditions in the prison.

20. Labyrinthine

“Labyrinthine” means complicated and irregular.

It’s perfect for describing complex mazes, whether literal or metaphorical.

  • The labyrinthine corridors of the old mansion were confusing.
  • His labyrinthine mind was full of twisted thoughts and ideas.
  • The labyrinthine bureaucracy of the organization frustrated her.

21. Terrifying

“Terrifyin” indicates that something causes extreme fear or dread.

Use it to create intense moments of horror or suspense in your story.

  • The terrifying creature emerged from the shadows.
  • She heard a terrifying sound from the basement.
  • The terrifying ordeal left him in a state of shock.

22. Apparition

An “apparition” is a ghost or ghostlike image of a person.

This word adds an element of the supernatural and can create a chilling effect.

  • The apparition appeared at the foot of her bed each night.
  • The ghostly apparition vanished as quickly as it had appeared.
  • He was haunted by the apparition of his deceased wife.

23. Phantasmagorical

“Phantasmagorical” pertains to a sequence of real or imaginary images like those seen in a dream.

This term is useful in describing vivid and bizarre sequences.

  • The phantasmagorical landscape seemed to shift and change with each step.
  • The phantasmagorical figures in his dreams were terrifyingly real.
  • The phantasmagorical art installation captivated and disturbed the viewers.

24. Cataclysmic

“Cataclysmic” signifies a sudden and violent event that causes substantial change.

Use it to emphasize major upheavals or disasters in your narrative.

  • The cataclysmic event left the city in ruins.
  • Her departure had a cataclysmic impact on his life.
  • The cataclysmic storm raged, showing no signs of letting up.

25. Abhorrent

“Abhorrent” means inspiring disgust or hatred.

It’s perfect for describing repugnant characters or situations.

  • The abhorrent behavior of the villain was a stark contrast to the hero’s virtue.
  • She found his views on women abhorrent.
  • The abhorrent conditions of the slums moved her to action.

26. Nocturnal

“Nocturnal” relates to or occurs in the night. It’s ideal for establishing the time frame and setting the stage for events that take place at night.

  • The nocturnal creatures came alive as the sun set.
  • The old man led a nocturnal existence, shunning the light of day.
  • The nocturnal landscape held an eerie beauty under the moonlight.

27. Haunted

“Haunted” means visited by a ghost or influenced by remembrances.

This term can enhance the supernatural elements of your story or symbolize a character’s troubled past.

  • The haunted mansion stood alone, its windows dark and lifeless.
  • She was haunted by the mistakes of her past.
  • His haunted eyes told a story of loss and regret.

28. Abysmal

“Abysmal” refers to something extremely bad or appalling.

This word can be used to express deep despair or the extreme degree of something negative.

  • The abysmal darkness of the cave was terrifying.
  • Her mood was abysmal after the unfortunate incident.
  • The abysmal conditions of the camp were heartbreaking.

29. Malevolent

“Malevolent” means having or showing a desire to cause harm to another person.

It’s an excellent choice for describing malicious characters or ill-intentions.

  • The malevolent spirit sought to harm anyone who entered the house.
  • His malevolent grin made her heart race.
  • She could sense a malevolent presence in the room.

30. Diabolical

“Diabolical” signifies something that belongs to or is characteristic of the Devil.

This word can amplify the evil aspects of a character or situation.

  • The diabolical ritual was meant to summon a demon.
  • His diabolical laughter echoed in the silent night.
  • The villain’s diabolical plan was thwarted by the hero.

Here is a video I made about words to use in Gothic Fiction:

Gothic Words Summary Chart (Word Bank)

To help you write epic Gothic Fiction, I put together this summary chart of all 30 words in this guide:

I hope you find this chart helpful.

It should provide a good overview of each word’s usage in a gothic fiction context. Remember, context is crucial, and these words can take on different nuances depending on how they are used.

Final Thoughts: Words To Use in Gothic Fiction

This guide is in no way comprehensive: there are nearly endless words to use when writing Gothic Fiction.

Although I hope these words help trigger your creativity as you craft your stories.

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  • What Makes Stephen King’s Writing So Good? (Explained)

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30 Essential Words for Gothic Fiction: A Clear Guide

Gothic Fiction Essential Words

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Gothic fiction has been a popular genre for centuries, with its dark and mysterious themes captivating readers of all ages. The genre has its origins in 18th-century England and has since spread across the globe, with notable works such as Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” becoming cultural icons. However, for those who are new to the genre or looking to deepen their understanding, it can be overwhelming to navigate the vast array of Gothic literature.

To help readers navigate the genre, this article presents a 30-word guide to essential words for Gothic fiction. From “haunted” to “supernatural,” these words are integral to understanding the themes, style, and influence of Gothic literature. By familiarizing oneself with these words, readers can gain a deeper appreciation for the genre and its enduring popularity.

Whether you are a seasoned fan of Gothic fiction or just beginning to explore the genre, this guide provides a concise and informative introduction to the essential words that define it. From the eerie atmosphere of a haunted castle to the supernatural powers of a vampire, these words capture the essence of what makes Gothic fiction so compelling. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the world of Gothic literature and explore the essential words that define it.

Defining the Gothic Genre

words to use in gothic writing

The Gothic genre emerged in the late 18th century in England and quickly gained popularity across Europe. It is characterized by a blend of horror, romance, and supernatural elements. In this section, we will explore the historical roots, key characteristics, and evolution of the Gothic novel.

Historical Roots

The Gothic genre owes its origins to Horace Walpole’s novel “The Castle of Otranto” (1764), which is considered the first Gothic novel. The novel’s setting, a medieval castle, and its supernatural elements, including ghosts and curses, set the tone for the genre. Gothic literature gained popularity in England during the Romantic era, with writers such as Mary Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe contributing to its development.

Key Characteristics

The Gothic genre is characterized by a dark, mysterious atmosphere, with settings often featuring haunted castles or abandoned mansions. The genre also frequently features supernatural elements such as ghosts, demons, and vampires. The themes explored in Gothic literature include death, madness, and the supernatural, often with a focus on the darker aspects of human nature.

Evolution of the Gothic Novel

The Gothic novel evolved throughout the 19th century, with writers such as Bram Stoker and H.P. Lovecraft adding their unique contributions to the genre. The 20th century saw the emergence of Gothic subgenres, such as Southern Gothic and Gothic romance. Today, the Gothic genre continues to be popular, with contemporary writers such as Neil Gaiman and Stephen King continuing to explore its themes and tropes.

In conclusion, the Gothic genre is a unique blend of horror, romance, and supernatural elements that has captured the imaginations of readers for centuries. Its historical roots, key characteristics, and evolution have contributed to its enduring popularity.

Gothic Literature Elements

words to use in gothic writing

Setting the Scene

Gothic literature is known for its dark and eerie settings that create a sense of foreboding and unease in the reader. These settings often include old and decaying buildings, such as castles, mansions, and monasteries, that are shrouded in mystery and secrets. The weather and landscape are also important elements in setting the scene in Gothic literature, with fog, rain, and thunderstorms often adding to the ominous atmosphere.

Gothic Protagonists and Antagonists

The protagonists and antagonists in gothic literature are often complex and layered characters, with their own secrets and hidden motivations. The protagonist is usually a vulnerable and innocent character who is thrown into a world of darkness and danger, while the antagonist is often a powerful and malevolent force that seeks to harm or destroy the protagonist. Gothic literature also often features anti-heroes, who are flawed and morally ambiguous characters that the reader may sympathize with despite their questionable actions.

Supernatural and Horror

Supernatural elements are a hallmark of gothic literature, with ghosts, vampires, and other monsters often making appearances. These supernatural entities are used to create a sense of horror and terror in the reader, as they represent the unknown and the unexplainable. The supernatural is often intertwined with the psychological, with characters experiencing hallucinations and delusions that blur the line between reality and fantasy.

In conclusion, the elements of gothic literature work together to create a unique and unsettling reading experience. From the eerie settings to the complex characters and supernatural entities, gothic literature continues to captivate and terrify readers to this day.

Themes and Motifs

words to use in gothic writing

Love, Lust, and Romance

Love, lust, and romance are common themes in gothic literature. These themes often involve a character who is consumed by their love for another, leading them down a path of tragedy and despair. The romance in gothic literature is often dark and twisted, with characters engaging in forbidden love or being consumed by their passions. These themes can be seen in classic gothic novels such as “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte and “Dracula” by Bram Stoker.

Madness and Emotion

Madness and emotion are also common themes in gothic literature. Characters are often portrayed as being driven to madness by their emotions, leading to tragic consequences. These themes can be seen in works such as “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe. These themes are often used to create a sense of unease and foreboding in the reader.

Isolation and Tragedy

Isolation and tragedy are also common themes in gothic literature. Characters are often isolated from society, either physically or emotionally, leading to feelings of loneliness and despair. This isolation often leads to tragic consequences, such as death or madness. These themes can be seen in works such as “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley and “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde. These themes are used to create a sense of foreboding and to emphasize the tragic nature of the characters’ lives.

Overall, these themes and motifs are essential to gothic literature. They help to create a sense of unease and foreboding in the reader, while also emphasizing the tragic nature of the characters’ lives. By using these themes and motifs, gothic writers can create works that are both dark and compelling.

Influential Gothic Works and Authors

words to use in gothic writing

Pioneers of the Gothic Tale

The Gothic genre originated in the 18th century, and its early pioneers include Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Gregory Lewis, and Charles Robert Maturin. Radcliffe’s “The Mysteries of Udolpho” (1794) and Lewis’s “The Monk” (1796) are two of the most influential works of the period, known for their suspenseful plots, supernatural elements, and intricate settings. Maturin’s “Melmoth the Wanderer” (1820) also contributed to the development of the genre, with its haunting depiction of a cursed figure.

19th Century Gothic Fiction

The 19th century saw the rise of Gothic literature in the form of novels, with Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s “Frankenstein” (1818) and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839) being two of the most notable works. Shelley’s novel explores the dangers of science and technology, while Poe’s tale delves into the psychological effects of fear and madness.

Another influential author of this period was Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose works such as “The Scarlet Letter” (1850) and “The House of the Seven Gables” (1851) incorporate Gothic elements into their exploration of Puritanism and the human psyche.

Modern Gothic Influences

The 20th century saw the emergence of new Gothic influences, with H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmic horror and Sir Walter Scott’s historical fiction being two notable examples. Lovecraft’s works, such as “The Call of Cthulhu” (1928), explore the terror of the unknown and the limits of human knowledge. Scott’s “Waverley” (1814) and “Ivanhoe” (1820) incorporate Gothic elements into their depiction of historical events and settings.

Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” (1897) is also a seminal work of the Gothic genre, known for its portrayal of the titular vampire and its exploration of sexuality and Victorian anxieties. These works continue to influence modern Gothic literature, which incorporates elements of horror, romance, and the supernatural to create a unique and captivating genre.

Crafting Gothic Ambiance

Creating a Gothic ambiance is essential to Gothic fiction. It helps to build an atmosphere of suspense, gloom, and terror. Gothic ambiance can be crafted through various literary techniques such as language, symbolism, and imagery. This section will explore these techniques in detail.

Language and Diction

The language and diction used in Gothic fiction are crucial in creating a Gothic ambiance. Gothic words such as “ethereal,” “melancholy,” and “neglected” can be used to set the tone of the story. The use of archaic language can also help to create a sense of timelessness, which is a common feature of Gothic fiction.

The tone of the language should be somber and grandiose, with a touch of melodrama. This helps to emphasize the dark and nightmarish aspects of the story. The use of descriptive language can also help to create a vivid picture in the reader’s mind, which can enhance the Gothic ambiance.

Symbolism and Imagery

Symbolism and imagery are powerful tools in creating a Gothic ambiance. The use of Gothic symbols such as skulls, bats, and spiders can help to create a sense of dread and foreboding. The setting can also be used to create a Gothic ambiance. Neglected and abandoned places such as old mansions, graveyards, and ruins are common settings in Gothic fiction.

The use of dark and somber colors such as black, gray, and dark red can also help to create a Gothic ambiance. The weather can also be used to set the mood. Stormy weather, fog, and darkness can help to create a sense of unease and tension.

Creating Tension and Dread

Creating tension and dread is essential in Gothic fiction. This can be achieved through various techniques such as foreshadowing, suspense, and mystery. Foreshadowing can be used to hint at future events, which can create a sense of anticipation and dread. Suspense can be created by withholding information or delaying the revelation of important details.

Mystery can also be used to create tension and dread. Unanswered questions and unresolved conflicts can leave the reader with a sense of unease and uncertainty. This can help to create a sense of dread and foreboding, which is essential in Gothic fiction.

In conclusion, crafting a Gothic ambiance is crucial in Gothic fiction. The use of language, symbolism, and imagery can help to create a vivid and immersive experience for the reader. Creating tension and dread is also essential in keeping the reader engaged and invested in the story.

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Gothic vocabulary bank

Gothic vocabulary list

Extend the vocabulary of your English students with this list of Gothic words. It’s ideal as a creative writing prompt to help students when writing atmospheric gothic stories, and can also support with choosing more engaging synonyms for creative writing tasks.

The vocabulary list is sorted into eight handy categories, for example, 'words to describe characters' and 'words to create atmosphere'. 

If you are exploring the gothic genre, you might also like our KS3 Gothic teaching pack , which features a range of gothic literature and gothic writing activities .

Example words from the vocabulary bank: 

Words to describe the unknown:

an amorphous creature

it appeared to …

opaque water

something moved

unintelligible sound

Words to create atmosphere

desolation/desolate/barren/bleak

dreary/grey

fog/mist/cloud/darkness

ominous/menacing

suffocating

Words to describe emotions

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More gothic writing: CAPITAL gothic letters A-Z

The CAPITAL gothic writing tutorial below is presented from A-Z – assuming you already know how to manipulate a calligraphy pen for lower-case gothic letters. If not, you may want to try out some of the other Gothic pages first ...

Helpfully, the following particular gothic alphabet contains many similar forms, so once you've learned one letter, chances are you'll find others easier.

Useful info about gothic majuscules

There are many, many varieties of majuscules (capital letters) used in gothic writing. So keep your eyes open for more examples of capital gothic letters A-Z or even single letters (fonts, signs, titles, manuscript facsimiles etc). Build up a collection. Once you know the basics of how to write calligraphy, you can then imitate or adapt whatever you fancy for a particular project.

Generally, gothic capitals defy the oblong up-and-down aspect of their minuscule brethren. They occupy a square area, or even a widish rectangle, and are often very rounded.  

I believe this contrast came about for at least two reasons.  Partly, it's because gothic capitals derive somewhat from uncial letters and later versals, which are extremely round. Partly it's because capital letters in long passages of gothic writing have always served as necessary navigational aids around the page, so the more contrast they have with the angular 'fenceposts' of the ordinary text, the better.

The latter fact should also tell you that gothic majuscules work very well in bright colour: traditionally, vermilion, blue or green. Important initials can have little gold boxes painted round them, as well as much other ornament. Gothic writing in general lends itself enthusiastically to majuscule decorated letters so I hope you'll have fun with those. However, the big round shapes of the majuscules in gothic writing leave big white spaces inside (this space in any letter is called the 'counter'). And in gothic writing you must at all costs fill white space! So decorative lines, lozenges and little twiddle-twaddles abound, both inside and out.

Okay, let's get on with the actual gothic writing, rather than me twiddle-twaddling endlessly about my pet topics.

Gothic writing: majuscule gothic letters A-Z

This alphabet is written around six nib-widths high. I've laid out the letters stroke by stroke, with the newest stroke shown in red each time. Thin vertical lines are formed by turning the pen round to point directly to the left and then drawing downwards. Any other puzzling hairlines are created by twisting the pen to use just the left corner of the nib (for this, see the third gothic tutorial page).

Here's an 'Xample':

I've not put in all those bitty little 1, 2, 3 arrows to show stroke direction, as I expect by now you can see how things should go.

(Remember: the rule for gothic writing is that you always draw the nib either from higher on the page to lower, or else from the left to the right; either way, the pen moves back or sideways from where the nib is pointing. If you push the pen nib-first, then the patron demon of bad writing, Titivillus, will come spluttering out and haunt your desk. He will dry your nib, grease your page, muddy your colours and joggle your hand. Don't say I didn't warn you.)

'A', ironically, is the one letter in this alphabet which won't help you much to write any of the others. But it's simple enough. Actually, I think this 'A' is a bit sissy. I blame my exemplar. Try putting a larger, flat foot on the second downstroke, to match the first.

In fact, there are many, many forms of 'A' (and other letters) in historical gothic examples, so as a general rule don't feel too limited by what you see here.

'B' introduces a wonderful element of gothic writing which I hope you'll use again and again: the hackle. This is the 'hook' decorating the first long downstroke of the letter (fifth stroke in the sequence). It can be angular or curved; I prefer curved ... this week.

To tackle a hackle on gothic letters: as you can see, the idea is to place your nib at its usual 45-degree angle so that the right corner of the nib is just barely touching the back of the letter. From there, draw the nib across and down in a steady curl until the left corner of the nib also meets the downstroke of the letter. (Meanwhile, make sure you have kept the angle constant so that the right corner of the nib doesn't intrude over the other side of the downstroke and leave an unsightly bulge or point.)

'C' is the first of many very rounded examples in this particular catalogue of gothic writing. The basic pattern shown here is: start just below the top line; draw a smooth round 'crescent moon' from top left to bottom right – that is, thin stroke through thick stroke to thin again; go back up to the top line, just to the right of the top point of the crescent, nib at 45 degrees, and draw a vertical (add a small angle at the bottom if you like); back up, and turn the nib sideways to draw a thin line neighbouring; lastly, go to just below the top again to add the rest of the letter.

If you can do that, then you're also ready for 'E', 'G', 'O', 'Q', 'T', 'U', 'V' and 'W'. Woo-hoo!

The version of 'D' shown here is a rather splendid letter: start as for B, and then just have fun with that long ski-slope sweep of a stroke. Try not to exaggerate the curves too much. It's interesting to see from this element of gothic writing how the majuscule 'D' and the minuscule 'd' are essentially the same letter, just differing in which is the straight stroke and which is the curved.

'E' ... very much the same as 'C'. Keep the final 'tongue' fairly short. It's easy to get carried away. Ah – perhaps you are wondering about the fork on that tongue. Another twisty nib-trick: keeping the nib at 45 degrees, draw the horizontal and, while still drawing, lift the right corner of the nib off the page for the last millimetre. The right corner of the nib will leave its usual oblique line-end; the left corner of the nib, continuing, will obediently draw out the wet ink at the bottom of the stroke to form another perfectly matching point: presto! – a fork.

Did it work?

I could tell you it's just a matter of practice. But you knew that already :-)

I could also whisper that it's perfectly acceptable to go back and use a nib corner to correct the fork's edges and improve its points; all the best calligraphers do, you know.

'F' is also quite a grand letter, because its doubled black lines enclose a white stripe to create a dramatic contrast. Keep the lines smooth and slightly curved, avoiding the sharp angles of minuscule gothic writing, for a more flowing 'dazzle' effect.

'G' ... ain't this easy-peasy. Not even the forked tongue of the 'E' to worry about.

'H' is fairly self-explanatory, too, I hope. The new element is that flourished head. (Yes, it has one of those forkward awks on it, like the 'E'.)

Tip: When you draw the first downstroke, make sure you start by moving the nib slightly to the left for a tiny, initial leftwards curve into the vertical. Then you can go back to that point and draw up from it and to the right for another slight curve into the horizontal. The smooth, narrow join then introduces a more graceful forward-running flourish.

Done 'H'? Satisfied with it? Congratulations! You can now write 'Happy Birthday' in gothic writing. (Cheat: copy the example on the 'Decorated Letters' page.)

'I' is a nice, simple letter, but watch the proportions so that it doesn't end up looking too much like a 'J'. A handy rule of thumb is to make sure that the flourish at the head and the curl at the foot don't extend back further than a hackle's width plus about half again.

As you can see, a gothic 'J' is considerably more flourished than 'I'. Remember, this is quite a modern letter – in general use for only three hundred or so years. (Yes, that is modern – for gothic writing, anyway.) 'J' is therefore essentially an adaptation of 'I'; exaggerate the bowl and the top-stroke to distinguish it clearly.

'K' is formed quite similarly to 'H'. Its chief feature is its bold diagonal leg, which should thrust forward with both assurance and decorum – ie not so inconsiderately far that the next letter in the word will be pushed away along the line.

That 'L' stood for the Latin word 'librae', meaning 'unit of weight'. 'Librae' was the word the English used to mean 'pounds' as in 'pounds, shillings and pence' (L, s and d – librae, solidi, denarii). And why was it called a 'pound' to begin with? Scholars suggest it was because a £ consisted of enough pennies to weigh 1lb on the scales. And then 'Libra' of course also means the Balance or Scales in astrology; and gives us the words 'equilibrium' (equal balance), to 'deliberate' (weigh up, balance out in one's thoughts) and 'library' (place where the unbalanced hang out ... joke.)

Enough word histories? Seriously? Oh very well – moving on ...

'M' is quite tall and graceful. Try not to make the shoulders too wide. Think of those high, narrow, arched windows in gothic cathedrals. (I do think there are quite a few interesting similarities between gothic architecture and gothic writing.)

Important Announcement: you are now half-way through 'Majuscule Gothic Letters A-Z'! Stop. Get up. Stretch. Shake out your writing hand and give it a bit of a massage. Contemplate the infinite, or, possibly, the chocolate supplies. (Which always, sadly, turn out to be finite.)

Mmm: 85% cocoa solids is the best. Ready? Here we go again:

'N', you will be happy to know, is nothing more complex than a hatless 'H'.

The challenge with 'O' as in any calligraphy alphabet, gothic or otherwise, is to get the curves balanced so that the overall aspect is smoothly round and upright, rather than eggy or tipsy or squished on one side.

'P', as you see, begins like a B but the stem goes below the line so you get a nice large brash bowl.

'Q', like 'D', is an opportunity for a bit of a flourish – this time, below the line.

'R' should be easy: it's more or less the top half of a 'B' stitched onto the bottom half of a 'K'. Make sure it has a rather larger bow at the top than a 'B', though. And the same warning applies about the leg as for 'K'.

'S'. Hm. In gothic writing, majuscule 'S' comes in so many varieties that I am inclined (when time permits) to give it its own page. But, for the moment, this version resembles 'F' in consisting for the most part of two parallel, slightly curving lines. Be sure to begin and end the diagonal middle section below the top-line and above the base-line, so that you have space for a graceful transition into the head and foot of the letter. The final diagonals should be positioned so that if either were extended in a straight line it would meet the other.

'T', by way of relief after 'S', is the simplest round letter of all these gothic letters A-Z. Keep the horizontal smooth, and balance its width against the curve of the body; don't let it go too far in either direction, and not too curly either.

'U', too, can draw 'U', too. (Ho, ho, ho.) Seriously: it's almost the same as the 'C's and 'G's earlier. The main difference is the little left-pointing flourish; and even that is rather like the beginning of a 'T'.

'V' is extremely similar to the other round letters, but it is useful to make the first 'crescent moon' shape a little narrower and more egg-shaped than in 'U' and its fellows, so as to help your reader to decide more readily which letter it is.

'W' is a walloping great humdinger of a letter and I have stuck it on two lines not because of its multiple stages of formation but out of respect for its considerable width.

But for all that, it is indeed nothing worse than a 'double U': it's another modern letter in gothic writing, devised by us Germanic types because we'd turned a perfectly good 'V' (pronounced 'W' by the Romans) into its modern vuvvly sound, while we wanted 'U' to remain a wowel and nothing more. (Oh dear; I do hope no-one's trying to read this in translation. Apologies if you are.) Er ... yes. Hence, 'W'.

You will see that I have indicated only the first of the two strokes which are necessary; just repeat each stroke and you will end up with the right letter. The only possible sticky patch is deciding how to position the second 'crescent moon'. Start it from just below the top-line as usual and straight above the place where the first crescent ends. You want the curve of the second crescent to just brush across the tip of the first in passing. Then, when you draw the thick verticals, angle the second one in so that it looks as though it's joining up with the end of the first crescent. (I've circled the relevant spot in the illustration above. No, I didn't get them quite lined up there, did I? Still, you get the idea.)

'X' is curiously spidery, very much a large version of the minuscule letter already familiar to you from earlier gothic writing experiments. It is not always easy to get all four legs balanced. Keep an eye on what you have already drawn so you can see when and where to stop.

'Y' is a funny one. You'd think after 'V' and 'U' that 'Y' would be formed similarly, but the tail doesn't work well on the round shapes. It is different from the other letters in this gothic alphabet in starting with quite long 'ears'. The second of these 'ears' should start not too far away from the first – you can see in the example that all that separates them is the distance between the thin vertical and the first downstroke. The tail is of course drawn with the corner of the nib; I've swaggeringly shown the lozenge on the tail as part of the same stroke, but it would make sense to take the pen off after the hairline and then go back to do the lozenge.

And here we are finally at the 'Z' of these majuscule gothic letters A-Z! Your gothic writing will never be the same again – in a good way, of course. It's hard to make 'Z' very exciting, but I've done my best with two thin parallel diagonals and a strong cross-bar. As with 'L' and 'T', don't get carried away by the curves on those horizontals. Gently does it.

I do hope you have enjoyed writing and practising these gothic majuscules. If you'd like to go and have a look at some decorated letters, now is a good time. Perhaps it would be best done over another nice cup of tea and a small snack, after all that hard work.

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How to Write Gothic Fiction

Last Updated: May 19, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 358,491 times.

Gothic fiction is a subgenre of horror, exemplified by authors such as H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, and Wilkie Collins. Gothic horror consists of moody landscapes, supernatural experiences, and an atmosphere filled with dread. You can write your own piece of gothic fiction if you know about its conventions. Keep reading to learn how to write a gothic fiction story.

Developing Ideas for Your Gothic Fiction

Step 1 Choose a time when your story will take place.

  • A story about the past can make supernatural events and strange characters seem more real to your readers.
  • Or, you can write in the present but include lots of elements that hearken back to an older time. Bram Stoker includes modern technology and ancient things in Dracula. He describes typewriters and trains, but he also includes vampires and an ancient castle.

Step 2 Choose a setting.

  • The Overlook Hotel in Stephen King's The Shining is an excellent example of such a location. The Overlook was once a gleaming vibrant vacation spot occupied by many people, but now only Jack and his family occupy it. [1] X Research source
  • The mood of the environment will influence how the characters act.

Step 3 Create your characters.

  • Hero or anti-hero. There should be at least one character in your gothic fiction that readers will like, even if he or she has some dark tendencies. Mary Shelley's Victor Frankenstein is a great example of a hero who is good, even though he creates a monster.
  • Villain. The villain in gothic fiction stories often plays the role of a tempter, who leads the hero down a dark path. A good villain should be both evil and fun to read about. Dracula in Bram Stoker's Dracula is an excellent example of an interesting, yet evil villain. He does terrible things (like murdering people) and is portrayed by Bram Stoker as the epitome of foreign corruption that threatened Britain's society at the time. Since this fear of invasion was common at the time 'Dracula' was published, it was a very popular Gothic novel.
  • Woman in white. Many gothic fiction novels feature a doomed bride or damsel in distress character who never gets her happy ending. Elizabeth from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a good example of a woman in white. [2] X Research source
  • Woman in black. Other gothic fictions include a woman in black character like a widow. Miss Jessel of Turn of the Screw by Henry James is an example of a woman in black. [3] X Research source

Step 4 Develop a plot.

  • For example, in Bram Stoker's Dracula Mina redeems herself with the help of her friends.

Making Your Gothic Fiction Unique

Step 1 Add a supernatural element.

  • For example, young William Frankenstein wanders off and Frankenstein's monster murders him. [5] X Research source

Step 3 Add a prophecy or curse.

  • For example, a prophecy haunts the family in Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto. The prophecy says that the castle will pass from Manfred's line. The prophecy seems to have come true when Manfred's son dies. [8] X Research source

Step 4 Add a damsel in distress.

  • Matilda is in love with one man, but another man lusts after her, which puts her in danger throughout the book. [10] X Research source

Step 5 Consider using a found material or true story framing device.

  • For example, Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker both use found material framing devices. They present their stories through character letters and journal entries.

Writing Your Gothic Fiction

Step 1 Introduce your story.

  • For example, Roderick descends into madness in Edgar Allen Poe's “Fall of The House of Usher.” His decline intensifies the story and makes it scarier.

Step 6 Kill off some of your characters.

  • For example, a giant helmet crushes Conrad in Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto. Conrad was on his way to get married. [16] X Research source

Step 7 Conclude with a twist.

  • Edgar Allen Poe includes twists at the end of his stories that lead readers to question the finality of death. Poe includes one of these twists in “Fall of the House of Usher” when Madeline appears in the doorway and falls on top of Roderick. Roderick had believed that Madeline was dead.

Gothic Fiction Template

words to use in gothic writing

Expert Q&A

Christopher Taylor, PhD

  • Read gothic fiction for inspiration and to learn more about the genre. The better you understand the conventions of the genre, the easier it will be for you to contribute your own work of gothic fiction. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 0
  • Going online to research all your information, like places for your setting, may also help. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
  • Share your work with supportive friends and family when you are finished. Ask for feedback on what they like and how you can improve your story. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0

Tips from our Readers

  • Be patient! It may take days before you get a good idea on what to write about.
  • Read gothic books/blogs to get inspiration for your own writing.

words to use in gothic writing

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Write a Short Story

  • ↑ https://www.sgasd.org/cms/lib/PA01001732/Centricity/Domain/553/Frankenstein%20Gothic%20and%20Romantic%20Notes.pdf
  • ↑ http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2014/oct/28/halloween-top-tips-gothic-writing-chris-priestley
  • ↑ http://knarf.english.upenn.edu/Chars/william.html
  • ↑ https://owlcation.com/humanities/How-to-Write-a-Curse-or-Prophecy-in-Your-Fiction-Writing
  • ↑ http://www.bbc.co.uk/timelines/zyp72hv
  • ↑ http://www.virtualsalt.com/gothic.htm
  • ↑ http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/write-first-chapter-get-started/10-ways-to-start-your-story-better
  • ↑ https://www.thegothiclibrary.com/gothic-tropes-madness/
  • ↑ https://study.com/learn/lesson/the-castle-of-otranto-horace-walpole-summary.html

About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

To write a great piece of gothic horror, start by setting your story in a strange, decaying place with a creepy atmosphere, like a crumbling castle or a haunted house. Then, spend plenty of time developing your characters. Create a main character that has some dark tendencies but is still sympathetic, and a villain who tempts the hero towards a dark path. If you need some inspiration, look for examples in the works of the great gothic horror writers, including Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, and Edgar Allan Poe. For more writing tips from our Literary co-author, like how to develop an engaging plot, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Gothic   

Gothic is an extinct East Germanic language that was spoken in parts of the Crimea until the 17th century. It was originally written with a runic alphabet about which little is known. One theory of the origins of Runes is that they were invented by the Goths, but this is impossible to prove as very few inscriptions of writing in Gothic runes survive.

The Gothic alphabet was invented around middle the 4th century AD by Bishop Wulfila (311-383 AD), the religious leader of the Visigoths, to provide his people with a written language and a means of reading his translation of the Bible. It is based on the Greek alphabet , with some extra letters from the Latin and Runic alphabets.

The Goths were divided into two main tribes: the Ostrogothi or Greutungi (dune-dwellers) and the Visigothi or Tervingi (steppe-dwellers). Related tribes included the Burgundians and the Vandals.

Gothic alphabet

There are no separate numerals, but each letter has a numeric value.

Download a Gothic alphabet chart in Excel , Word or PDF format

Sample text in Gothic (The Lord's Prayer)

Transliteration.

  • Atta unsar þu in himinam
  • weihnai namo þein
  • qimai þiudinassus þeins
  • wairþai wilja þeins
  • swe in himina jah ana airþai.
  • hlaif unsarana þana sinteinan gif uns himma daga
  • jah aflet uns þatei skulans sijaima
  • swaswe jah weis afletam þaim skulam unsaraim
  • jah ni briggais uns in fraistubnjai
  • ak lausei uns af þamma ubilin
  • unte þeina ist þiudangardi jah mahts
  • jah wulþus in aiwins.

Translation

  • Father our, thou in heaven
  • be holy name thy.
  • Come kingdom thy,
  • happen will thy,
  • as in heaven also on earth.
  • Bread (loaf) our, the everyday, give us this day,
  • and forgive us, who debtors be,
  • just as also we forgive those debtors our.
  • And [do] not bring us in[to] temptation,
  • but free (loose) us from the evil [one].
  • For thine is [the] kingdom and [the] might
  • and glory in eternity.

IPA transcription

  • ˈatːa ˈunsar θuː in ˈhiminam
  • ˈwiːhnɛː ˈnamoː θiːn
  • ˈkʷimɛː ˈθiu̯ðinasːus θiːns
  • ˈwɛrθɛː ˈwilja θiːns
  • sweː in ˈhimina jah ana ˈɛrθɛː
  • hlɛːɸ ˈunsarana ˈθana ˈsinˌtiːnan ɡiɸ uns ˈhimːa ˈdaɣa
  • jah aɸˈleːt uns ˈθatiː ˈskulans ˈsijɛːma
  • ˈswasweː jah ˈwiːs aɸˈleːtam θɛːm ˈskulam ˈunsarɛːm
  • jah ni ˈbriŋɡɛːs uns in ˈɸrɛːstuβnijɛː
  • ak ˈlɔːsiː uns aɸ ˈθamːa ˈuβilin
  • ˈunteː ˈθiːna ist ˈθiu̯ðanˌɡardi jah mahts
  • jah ˈwulθus in ˈɛːwins

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gothic_language

A recording of this text

Sample text in Gothic

Allái manna freihals jah samaleikō in waírþidái jah raíhteis waúrþans. Fraþei jah miþwissei gibnans jah libandau swē broþrjus.

Translation by Roel. Other additions and corrections by Michael Peter Füstumum and Steve Porter

Hear a recording of this text by Jabnaki

Note: the pronunciation of Gothic has been reconstructed but there is some debate about how certain sounds are pronounced.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Sample videos in Gurung

Information about Gothic | Phrases | Numbers | Tower of Babel | Gothic books

Information about Gothic http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gothic_language http://www.wulfila.be/gothic/gotica/ http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/lrc/eieol/gotol-0-X.html

Online Gothic lessons http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/lrc/eieol/gotol-0-X.html http://ling.everywitchway.net/germanic/east/gothic/gothic-for-goths https://inthewulfilantongue.wordpress.com/ http://learngothic.blogspot.nl/?m=1

Online Gothic dictionary http://www.freelang.net/online/gothic.php

Gothic Grammar http://www.ling.upenn.edu/~kurisuto/germanic/goth_wright_about.html http://lexicon.ff.cuni.cz/texts/goth_wright_about.html

Project Wulfila - digital library of texts in Gothic and other Old Germanic languages http://www.wulfila.be/

Gothic phrases https://web.archive.org/web/20140622065727/http://besieda.in.ua/materialy/gotskiy-gothic

Gothic fonts http://www.wazu.jp/gallery/Fonts_Gothic.html

Online Gothic news http://airushimmadaga.wordpress.com

Music in Gothic http://runaleiks.bandcamp.com/

Gothic on Discord https://discordapp.com/invite/QXcXZ93 https://discord.gg/gwHjk9h6yp

ALPHABETUM - a Unicode font for ancient scripts, including Classical & Medieval Latin, Ancient Greek, Etruscan, Oscan, Umbrian, Faliscan, Messapic, Picene, Iberian, Celtiberian, Gothic, Runic, Old & Middle English, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Old Nordic, Ogham, Kharosthi, Glagolitic, Anatolian scripts, Phoenician, Brahmi, Imperial Aramaic, Old Turkic, Old Permic, Ugaritic, Linear B, Phaistos Disc, Meroitic, Coptic, Cypriot and Avestan. https://www.typofonts.com/alphabetum.html

Information about other East and Ancient Germanic languages

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Creating an Eerie Atmosphere: How to Write in a Gothic Setting

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Gothic literature is a genre that has captivated readers for centuries. It is characterized by its dark and eerie setting, supernatural elements, and brooding atmosphere. The genre originated in the 18th century and has since then been a popular subject of literature, art, and film. As a writer, creating a gothic setting requires a particular skill set that can be learned with time and practice. In this article, we will explore the techniques and methods for writing in a gothic setting in order to create an eerie atmosphere that will leave your readers on the edge of their seats. Creating a gothic atmosphere is all about setting the right tone. You want to create an environment that is both foreboding and intriguing, leaving your readers with a sense of unease and anticipation. The key to achieving this is to use descriptive language that paints a vivid picture of the setting. Gothic settings are often characterized by their dark and gloomy nature, with elements such as fog, rain, and mist adding to the overall atmosphere. By using descriptive language, you can create a sense of dread and anticipation in your readers, drawing them deeper into the story. Gothic literature is a genre that emerged in the 18th century and is characterized by dark and eerie themes, supernatural elements, and a sense of mystery and suspense. This genre typically features haunted castles, creepy mansions, and gloomy landscapes that create a sense of foreboding and unease. Gothic literature often explores the darker aspects of human nature, including madness, obsession, and death. It is known for its use of vivid imagery, atmospheric settings, and intense emotions, which work together to create a chilling and unsettling reading experience. Overall, Gothic literature is a genre that is designed to evoke fear, terror, and a sense of awe in its readers. Creating an eerie atmosphere is a crucial aspect of writing in a gothic setting. It sets the tone for the entire story, creating a sense of foreboding and unease that keeps readers engaged and on edge. The use of vivid and descriptive language, such as describing the creaking of old floorboards or the flickering of candles in a dimly lit room, helps to create an immersive experience for readers. This, in turn, allows them to feel as though they are experiencing the story firsthand, rather than simply reading about it. By crafting an eerie atmosphere, writers can effectively transport readers to a world of mystery and darkness, where anything can happen and danger lurks around every corner. Gothic literature emerged in the late 18th century as a reaction to the Enlightenment, focusing on the darker sides of human nature and exploring themes of mystery, horror, and the supernatural. The genre’s origins can be traced back to Horace Walpole’s novel The Castle of Otranto, which featured eerie settings, haunted characters, and supernatural occurrences. Gothic literature reached its peak in the 19th century with works by authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, and Bram Stoker, who incorporated elements of horror, romance, and suspense into their stories. The genre continues to be popular today, with modern authors such as Stephen King and Anne Rice carrying on the tradition of creating dark, haunting tales that captivate readers.

Setting the Scene

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Setting the scene is a crucial element when writing in a gothic setting. It is the foundation upon which the entire story is built. The atmosphere that is created through the description of the setting is what helps to immerse the reader in the world of the story. The gothic genre is characterized by its dark and unsettling settings, which are often abandoned or neglected. These settings are typically described in great detail, with a focus on the eerie and ominous elements that create an unsettling atmosphere. The purpose of the setting is to create an environment that is both familiar and unfamiliar, drawing the reader in while also making them feel uneasy. One way to create a gothic setting is to use imagery that is typically associated with the genre. This can include descriptions of abandoned buildings, dark forests, and misty graveyards. It is important to be as detailed as possible when describing the setting, as this will help to create a vivid picture in the reader’s mind. By using sensory details such as the smell of decay or the sound of creaking floorboards, the reader can be fully immersed in the setting. Another effective technique is to use weather as a way to set the mood. A stormy night or a foggy morning can create a sense of foreboding, adding to the overall atmosphere of the story. Ultimately, the setting should be used to create a sense of unease and to draw the reader further into the story. Choosing the right setting is critical to creating an eerie atmosphere in a Gothic story. A Gothic setting should be eerie and unsettling, with a dark and foreboding atmosphere that makes the reader feel uneasy. An abandoned house, a desolate countryside, or a dark and shadowy castle are all classic Gothic settings that can create the desired creepy mood. The setting should be described in detail, with particular attention paid to the weather, lighting, and sounds. The use of vivid sensory details can help to transport the reader into the Gothic world and create a strong emotional response. Ultimately, the right setting can make or break a Gothic story, so it’s important to choose carefully and use it to its full potential. The environment in a Gothic setting is crucial to creating an eerie atmosphere. It is often depicted as dark, damp, and misty with cobweb-covered corners and flickering candles casting long shadows. The walls are adorned with intricate carvings and crumbling stone, and the air is thick with the scent of decay. The sounds of creaking doors, howling winds, and echoing footsteps add to the spine-chilling ambiance. The environment is often isolated and remote, with sprawling mansions or ancient castles standing alone on rocky cliffs or in the midst of dense, creepy forests. The overall effect is a sense of foreboding and unease, where anything can happen, and danger lurks around every corner. The use of weather can be a powerful tool in creating an eerie atmosphere in a gothic setting. Dark clouds looming overhead, thunder rumbling in the distance, and flashes of lightning illuminating the surrounding darkness can all contribute to a sense of foreboding and unease. Fog can also be a potent element, shrouding the landscape in a veil of uncertainty and obscuring any potential danger lurking in the shadows. A sudden gust of wind can rattle windows and doors, heightening the tension and making the characters feel isolated and vulnerable. All of these weather-related elements can be used to great effect in establishing an eerie and unsettling mood in a gothic story.

Characterization

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One of the crucial elements for creating an eerie atmosphere in Gothic literature is characterization. The way authors portray their characters can significantly impact the overall mood of the story. Gothic literature is known for its complex, flawed, and often dark characters. These characters are typically haunted by their past, driven by their desires, and consumed by their obsessions. They are often portrayed as being on the brink of madness, and their inner turmoil is reflected in their actions and behavior. By creating well-developed characters with intricate backstories, authors can create a sense of unease and tension that permeates throughout the entire story. In Gothic literature, characterization is not just about the protagonist, but it also includes the secondary characters. These characters often serve to reinforce the eerie atmosphere of the story. They can be used to create a sense of dread or to provide an ominous foreshadowing of events to come. The setting is also an essential element in the characterization of the characters. For example, a dark and foreboding castle can have a significant impact on how a character is perceived by the reader. By using descriptive language to bring the setting to life, authors can create an atmosphere that is both haunting and memorable. Overall, characterization is a crucial aspect of creating an eerie atmosphere in Gothic literature, and authors must pay close attention to how they develop their characters to ensure they achieve the desired effect. Characters play a crucial role in creating an eerie atmosphere in a Gothic setting. They can be used to embody the mysterious, the grotesque, and the inexplicable. By carefully crafting the appearance, behavior, and motivations of characters, writers can evoke feelings of unease and discomfort in their readers. For example, a character that appears to be too perfect or too good to be true can create a sense of distrust and suspicion. A character whose actions are unpredictable or erratic can create a feeling of uncertainty and danger. By using characters to create an unsettling tone, writers can draw readers deeper into their Gothic world and keep them on the edge of their seats. When it comes to developing mysterious and dark characters in a gothic setting, there are several techniques to consider. One effective approach is to focus on creating characters with conflicting personalities, ones that are difficult to understand, and whose motivations are shrouded in secrecy. These characters might appear to be friendly and approachable at first, but as the story progresses, their true nature becomes increasingly apparent. Another technique is to use symbolism and imagery to convey a sense of unease and foreboding surrounding these characters. For example, a character who is associated with darkness and shadows might be portrayed as mysterious and enigmatic, and their actions might be difficult to predict. By using these techniques, writers can create truly memorable and intriguing characters that add depth and complexity to their gothic stories. Character behavior and actions can be crucial in creating an eerie atmosphere in a gothic setting. The way characters move, speak, and interact with their surroundings can set the tone for the entire story. For example, a character who is constantly looking over their shoulder, speaking in hushed tones, and avoiding eye contact can convey a sense of fear and paranoia. Similarly, a character who is overly confident and dismissive of the dangers around them can create a sense of foreboding and impending doom. By carefully crafting the behavior and actions of your characters, you can draw your readers into a world that is unsettling, mysterious, and full of tension.

Language and Tone

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Language and tone are crucial elements in creating an eerie atmosphere in a Gothic setting. The language used should be descriptive and vivid, painting a picture of the dark and foreboding environment. The use of sensory details is essential in creating an immersive experience for the reader. The language should be rich and dense, with a focus on creating a sense of unease and discomfort. Gothic writing often deals with themes of death, decay, and the supernatural, and the language should reflect these themes. The tone should be melancholic and eerie, with an emphasis on creating a sense of dread. The tone can also be achieved through the use of specific literary devices such as metaphor and simile. These devices can be used to create a sense of depth and meaning in the writing, enhancing the eerie atmosphere. The vocabulary used should be varied, with a focus on archaic and obscure words that are not commonly used in modern language. This adds an air of mystique to the writing, making it feel more like a work from a different time. The tone should be consistent throughout the writing, with a sense of foreboding building as the story progresses. Overall, language and tone are powerful tools that can be used to create an immersive and eerie atmosphere in a Gothic setting, allowing the reader to be transported to a world of darkness, mystery, and intrigue. When writing in a Gothic setting, it is crucial to use descriptive and vivid language to create an eerie atmosphere that draws in the reader. Using evocative words and phrases, such as \gloomy,\ \haunted,\ and \shadowy,\ can help to set the tone and transport the reader to the eerie world you are creating. Additionally, incorporating sensory details such as the smell of decaying wood or the feeling of dampness in the air can further immerse the reader in the setting. By using descriptive and vivid language, you can effectively create a sense of foreboding and suspense that will keep your readers on the edge of their seats. The tone of a story or piece of writing is a crucial element in setting the mood and creating a particular atmosphere. In a gothic setting, the tone should be dark, ominous, and eerie to evoke a sense of foreboding and unease in the reader. The use of descriptive language and vivid imagery can help to establish this tone, painting a picture of a haunting and mysterious world. By carefully selecting words and phrases that convey a sense of darkness and mystery, the writer can immerse the reader in a world of gothic horror, where danger lurks around every corner and the unknown looms large. The tone is therefore a powerful tool for creating an eerie atmosphere in gothic writing, drawing the reader in and keeping them on the edge of their seat. In writing a gothic setting, the appropriate use of figurative language is crucial to creating an eerie atmosphere. Metaphors, similes, and personification can be used to describe the setting and characters in a way that stimulates the reader’s imagination and evokes emotions. However, it is important to use these literary devices sparingly and purposefully, so as not to overdo it and detract from the overall effect. The language should be varied and expressive, with a balance between descriptive and suggestive language. By using figurative language effectively, the writer can transport the reader to a world of darkness and mystery, where anything is possible and danger lurks around every corner.

Plot and Conflict

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When it comes to writing in a gothic setting, two critical elements to consider are plot and conflict. The plot is the foundation of any story, and it defines the direction of the narrative. In gothic literature, plots typically involve dark and mysterious events, such as supernatural occurrences, murders, and haunted houses. The plot should be intricate and complex, with multiple layers that keep the reader engaged and curious. A gothic story typically involves a protagonist who faces a series of obstacles and challenges, as they try to uncover the truth behind the strange events that are occurring around them. In addition to a compelling plot, conflict is another essential component of gothic literature. Conflict is the tension that exists between two opposing forces, such as good and evil, or the living and the dead. In a gothic story, the conflict is often between the protagonist and the mysterious forces that are at work. The conflict should be suspenseful and intense, with the protagonist facing numerous obstacles and setbacks before finally triumphing over their adversary. Whether it’s a haunted house, a malevolent spirit, or a cursed object, the conflict in a gothic story should be both terrifying and captivating, leaving the reader on the edge of their seat. By incorporating a complex plot and intense conflict, writers can create an eerie atmosphere that will keep their readers engaged and captivated from start to finish. One of the most effective ways to create an eerie atmosphere in a Gothic setting is to incorporate conflict to increase tension. This can be achieved by introducing opposing forces or characters with clashing personalities, beliefs, or desires. By doing so, you create a sense of unease and unpredictability that keeps the reader on edge. You can also use conflict to reveal deeper layers of your characters and their motivations, adding complexity and depth to your story. Whether it’s a battle between good and evil, a struggle for power, or a clash of ideals, conflict can help you build suspense and create a hauntingly unforgettable tale. Plot twists play a crucial role in creating an eerie atmosphere in a gothic setting. They serve as a tool to unsettle the reader and keep them on edge, as they never know what to expect next. A well-executed plot twist can add to the overall creepiness of the story, making the reader feel as though they are trapped in a world where nothing is as it seems. The sudden revelation of a hidden truth or unexpected turn of events can send shivers down the reader’s spine and keep them engaged in the story. The use of plot twists is essential in creating a sense of unease and suspense in gothic literature, adding to the overall dark and foreboding atmosphere. Building suspense through pacing is a crucial element in creating an eerie atmosphere in a Gothic setting. The pacing of a story can determine how much tension and anticipation a reader feels. By slowing down the pace of the story during key moments, such as when the protagonist is exploring a dark and mysterious mansion or when they are being hunted by a supernatural creature, the reader’s imagination is forced to fill in the gaps, heightening their sense of fear and uncertainty. Conversely, by increasing the pace during moments of action or conflict, the tension is heightened even further, leaving the reader breathless with anticipation. Skillful use of pacing in a Gothic story can make the difference between a mediocre tale and a truly terrifying one.

Symbolism and Imagery

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Symbolism and imagery are crucial elements in creating an eerie atmosphere in gothic writing. Symbols are objects, characters, or situations that represent something beyond their literal meaning, while imagery is the use of vivid and descriptive language to create mental pictures in the reader’s mind. These literary devices help writers to convey complex ideas and emotions in a subtle and powerful way, making their writing more engaging and memorable. In gothic literature, symbolism and imagery are used to amplify the dark and mysterious themes of the genre. For example, the use of dark and shadowy imagery can create a sense of foreboding and uncertainty, while the presence of symbols such as bats, wolves, and spiders can evoke a feeling of danger and menace. Similarly, the use of religious symbols such as crosses and crucifixes can create a sense of dread and horror, as they are often associated with death and suffering. By using these devices effectively, writers can create a truly immersive and terrifying gothic setting that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. In Gothic literature, symbolism is a powerful tool to create an eerie atmosphere. The use of symbols can convey hidden meanings and evoke intense emotions in readers. For example, a dark and stormy night can symbolize danger or foreboding, while a decrepit mansion might represent decay and death. Similarly, objects like skulls or ravens can be used to foreshadow death or other ominous events. The symbolism used in Gothic literature helps to create an unsettling and unsettling atmosphere that keeps readers on edge. By using symbolism effectively, writers can enhance the impact of their stories and make their readers feel like they are stepping into a world that is both familiar and terrifying. The use of vivid imagery is crucial in creating a Gothic setting that evokes an eerie atmosphere. It is through the use of descriptive language that a writer can transport their reader to a world of darkness and mystery. By carefully choosing words that depict the surroundings in a detailed and sensory way, the scene becomes more tangible to the reader. For example, describing the crumbling walls of a deserted castle as \decaying stone that crumbled like stale bread\ creates a visual and tactile image in the reader’s mind. The use of sensory language such as the smell of dampness, the sound of creaking floorboards, and the feel of cold cobblestones underfoot all add to the overall atmosphere of the setting. Thus, the effective use of imagery is a powerful tool in creating a vivid and haunting Gothic setting. Gothic literature is rich in symbolism and imagery that creates an eerie atmosphere. One example is the use of dark, ominous settings such as castles, ruins, and graveyards, which symbolize the decay and decline of the world. Another example is the use of supernatural elements like ghosts and monsters, which represent the darker side of human nature and the unknown. Additionally, Gothic writers often use the symbolism of death, such as skeletons, skulls, and coffins, to remind readers of their mortality and the inevitability of their own demise. The use of these powerful symbols and images helps to create a sense of unease and foreboding that is characteristic of Gothic literature. In creating an eerie atmosphere in a Gothic setting, it is essential to pay close attention to the key elements that make up the genre. Gothic fiction is characterized by its dark, mysterious, and often supernatural themes. To achieve a truly eerie atmosphere, writers should focus on creating a sense of foreboding and uncertainty. This can be achieved through the use of descriptive language, such as describing the setting as dark and gloomy, and using symbolism and imagery to create a sense of mystery and unease. Additionally, incorporating supernatural elements, such as ghosts or other supernatural creatures, can add to the overall eerie feeling of the setting. By carefully crafting the setting and utilizing these key elements, writers can create a truly haunting and memorable Gothic atmosphere. The influence of Gothic literature on modern storytelling cannot be overstated. The genre’s emphasis on the supernatural, the mysterious, and the macabre has permeated popular culture, from horror films to television shows to video games. The Gothic tradition has also inspired writers to explore themes of isolation, madness, and the human psyche, and to create characters that are both terrifying and sympathetic. In addition, the Gothic style of writing often employs intricate symbolism, elaborate imagery, and complex narrative structures, which have influenced writers across all genres to experiment with form and style. Overall, Gothic literature has had a profound impact on the way modern writers tell stories, and its legacy continues to inspire and intrigue readers and writers alike. For aspiring Gothic writers, it’s important to remember that creating an eerie atmosphere is key to the genre. Utilize descriptive language to paint vivid pictures in your reader’s minds, but also leave room for their imagination to run wild. Don’t be afraid to delve into the darker aspects of humanity and explore themes such as death, decay, and the supernatural. Additionally, pay attention to the details when crafting your setting, as the environment can often serve as a character in its own right. Above all, remember that Gothic literature is about creating a sense of unease and dread, so let your writing reflect that.

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In conclusion, writing in a gothic setting requires a careful balance of elements to create an eerie atmosphere that captivates readers. By incorporating elements such as dark and foreboding scenery, complex and flawed characters, and supernatural occurrences, writers can transport their readers to a world that is both frightening and intriguing. It is important to remember that while gothic writing may seem macabre and unsettling, it also holds a certain allure that draws readers in and keeps them engaged. By mastering the art of gothic writing, authors can create stories that will linger with readers long after the final page has been turned.

words to use in gothic writing

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10 Words to Describe a Gothic Setting

By Rebecca Parpworth-Reynolds

words to describe a gothic setting

Are you writing a Gothic fiction novel and do you need some words to describe a Gothic setting! Continue reading for today’s lesson!

1. Decrepit

Old  and falling apart due to lack of care or overuse.

“The book was so  decrepit  that when she picked it up it threatened to fall apart in her hands.”

“The house had been empty for decades, and so was so decrepit that they wondered if they would ever be able to renovate it.”

How it Adds Description

Often within Gothic novels, things are left to decay or are untouched for many years. Naturally, this means that they start to fall apart, making “decrepit” a great way to describe them! Items can also become “decrepit” from overuse, so it’s perfect to describe an item that a character might obsess over.

2. Foreboding

A feeling that  something bad  may happen soon.

“The dark corridor gave him a shiver of  foreboding , but it was too late to turn back now.”

“As soon as they opened the door, the air was heavy with dust and  foreboding .”

Gothic settings can often be sites of tragedy and misfortune, and it might be that your characters pick up on that, or you want to let your readers know that something bad is coming. “Foreboding” is a great way to describe the atmosphere or even objects!

3. Grandiose

Something large or incredibly detailed that is designed to appear  important .

“The duchess descended the  grandiose  staircase of the mansion to greet her guests.”

“His speech was full of  grandiose  gestures and platitudes which made her sick to her stomach.”

Often, places within Gothic literature were once opulent and rich, meaning the word “grandiose” can be used in two ways. It can be used to show that it is a shadow of its former self, or give an imposing feel to places and objects.

Being  related to death  and usually causing an adverse reaction.

“His room was filled with  macabre  drawings and sketches that made some of the officers feel uneasy.”

“His humor tended to lean towards the  macabre , which could be off-putting to some, but made others enjoy his company all the more.”

The Gothic has close links to death and the “macabre”, so it should become an essential part of your vocabulary if you are writing a Gothic story! It can be used to describe settings, items, and even people, so provides great versatility in your writing. It can also help to show what characters might have stronger stomachs than others, as some may find something in your story to be macabre, whereas others might be unfazed by it.

5. Moth-eaten

Old , and often with holes in it, most likely from being eaten by moths.

“She pulled back the  moth-eaten  curtain to reveal the boy trying to hide behind it.”

“The widow was still in her mourning dress, by now so incredibly  moth-eaten  that it barely clung to her body.”

“Moth-eaten” items can show a state of decay that is perfect for gothic settings. It shows how long things have been left, but can also refer to plans or concepts that have been left to stagnate over a period of time without being changed or amended, perfect for someone with fixed views.

6. Neglected

Not being given  care or attention .

“The garden was covered in weeds and harsh thorns and brambles brushed up against her clothing. It had clearly been  neglected  for some time.”

“The prisoner had been  neglected  in his cell for years, and was a shadow of the man that he used to be.”

“Neglected” gives a sense of abandonment and can describe settings that have been devoid of human life for some time which can be useful for Gothic writing. It also shows a lack of attention, which can show how certain characters treat others or help to show that they have gone so far downhill that they are unable to care for anything around them.

7. Nightmarish

Incredibly scary  or disturbing.

“If he was going to do anything, it would be to escape this  nightmarish  hellscape and make his way back to civilization.”

“The  nightmarish  eyes of the painting seemed to stare through her soul, even when she turned away from it.”

Rather than just saying something in your writing is “scary”, using “nightmarish” can pack more of a punch. It gives the impression that something is almost so frightening that it isn’t real, making it perfect for Gothic stories!

8. Sinister

Something evil  or that gives the impression of something bad happening.

“As he realized that they had fallen right into his trap, the man gave a  sinister  grin.”

“As he walked through the courtyard,  sinister  gargoyles looked on from above.”

“Sinister” is a fantastic way to show something as evil, but also to add some anticipation and foreshadowing, too! It can show that something bad is yet to come, keeping your reader on their toes.

  • Serious , often of a sad nature.
  • Dark and shadowy.

“Every single portrait along the hallway had a  somber , disapproving expression.”

“Her outfit had no shred of color anywhere to be seen, and was as  somber  as she was.”

“Somber” is a word that helps to indicate dark, gloomy, or melancholy settings, face expressions, or feelings. As a result, it’s great to add into your repertoire when it comes to Gothic writing.

10. Stagnant

  • Not flowing  or moving.
  • Unchanging.

“As she opened the door to the old mansion,  stagnant  air filled her lungs.”

“The village had been  stagnant  for decades, its people refusing to adapt to modern technologies and conveniences.”

Often places and people in Gothic settings are unchanging, or have been untouched for a long period of time, such as old buildings. Using “stagnant” can help you to explain this, either by talking about air or water, or the attitudes of people.

A Brief Introduction to Gothic Literature

Elements, Themes, and Examples from the Gothic Style

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words to use in gothic writing

  • Ph.D., English Language and Literature, Northern Illinois University
  • M.A., English, California State University–Long Beach
  • B.A., English, Northern Illinois University

The term Gothic originates with the architecture created by the Germanic Goth tribes that was later expanded to include most medieval architecture. Ornate, intricate, and heavy-handed, this style of architecture proved to be the ideal backdrop for both the physical and the psychological settings in a new literary genre, one that concerned itself with elaborate tales of mystery, suspense, and superstition. While there are several notable precursors, the height of the Gothic period, which was closely aligned with Romanticism , is usually considered to have been the years 1764 to about 1840, however, its influence extends to 20th-century authors such as V.C. Andrews, Iain Banks, and Anne Rice.

Plot and Examples

Gothic plotlines typically involve an unsuspecting person (or persons)—usually an innocent, naive, somewhat helpless heroine—who becomes embroiled in complex and oftentimes evil paranormal scheme. An example of this trope is young Emily St. Aubert in Anne Radcliffe’s classic Gothic 1794 novel, "The Mysteries of Udolpho," which would later inspire a parody in form of Jane Austen ’s 1817 "Northanger Abbey."

The benchmark for pure Gothic fiction is perhaps the first example of the genre, Horace Walpole’s "The Castle of Otranto" (1764). Although not a long tale in the telling, the dark, its oppressive setting combined with elements of terror and medievalism set the bar for an entirely new, thrilling form of literature.

Key Elements

Most Gothic literature contains certain key elements that include:

  • Atmosphere : The atmosphere in a Gothic novel is one characterized by mystery, suspense, and fear, which is usually heightened by elements of the unknown or unexplained.
  • Setting : The setting of a Gothic novel can often rightly be considered a character in its own right. As Gothic architecture plays an important role, many of the stories are set in a castle or large manor, which is typically abandoned or at least run-down, and far removed from civilization (so no one can hear you should you call for help). Other settings may include caves or wilderness locales, such as a moor or heath.
  • Clergy: Often, as in "The Monk" and "The Castle of Otranto," the clergy play important secondary roles in Gothic fare. These (mostly) men of the cloth are often portrayed as being weak and sometimes outrageously evil.
  • The paranormal : Gothic fiction almost always contains elements of the supernatural or paranormal, such as ghosts or vampires. In some works, these supernatural features are later explained in perfectly reasonable terms, however, in other instances, they remain completely beyond the realm of rational explanation.
  • Melodrama : Also called “high emotion,” melodrama is created through highly sentimental language and instances of overwrought emotion. The panic, terror, and other feelings characters experience is often expressed in a way that's overblown and exaggerated in order to make them seem out of control and at the mercy of the increasingly malevolent influences that surround them.
  • Omens : Typical of the genre, omens—or portents and visions—often foreshadow events to come. They can take many forms, such as dreams, spiritual visitations, or tarot card readings.
  • Virgin in distress : With the exception of a few novels, such as Sheridan Le Fanu’s "Carmilla" (1872), most Gothic villains are powerful males who prey on young, virginal women (think Dracula). This dynamic creates tension and appeals deeply to the reader's sense of pathos, particularly as these heroines typically tend to be orphaned, abandoned, or somehow severed from the world, without guardianship.

Modern Critiques

Modern readers and critics have begun to think of Gothic literature as referring to any story that uses an elaborate setting, combined with supernatural or super-evil forces against an innocent protagonist. The contemporary understanding is similar but has widened to include a variety of genres, such as paranormal and horror. 

Selected Bibliography

In addition to "The Mysteries of Udolpho" and "The Castle of Otranto," there are a number of classic novels that those interested in Gothic literature will want to pick up. Here's a list of 10 titles that are not to be missed:

  • "The History of the Caliph Vathek" (1786) by William Thomas Beckford
  • "The Monk" (1796) by Mathew Lewis
  • "Frankenstein" (1818) by Mary Shelley
  • "Melmoth the Wanderer" (1820) by Charles Maturin
  • "Salathiel the Immortal" (1828) by George Croly
  • " The Hunchback of Notre-Dame " (1831) by Victor Hugo
  • "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839) by Edgar Allan Poe
  • "Varney the Vampire; or, the Feast of Blood" (1847) by James Malcolm Rymer
  • "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • " Dracula " (1897) by Bram Stoker
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100+ Gothic Words

When we hear the word “gothic,” we usually think of someone who wears all-black clothes and makeup. But it is more than that. In goth or gothic literature, for instance, it relates to something dark, strange, or supernatural elements. So, if you want to read or write scary stories, here are some gothic words you can use.

  • Words Related to Literature

Table of Contents

A shadow is a dark space that is formed when an object blocks a source of light. We all have shadows. In horror, shadows can represent a threatening feeling, as if something unpleasant is about to occur. You can also use this word to describe something that is hidden or obscured. For instance, there could be a monster lurking in the shadows, or a great cloud cast a shadow over the land, making everything dark.

Horror 

This gothic word came from the Latin word  horrere , which means to shudder or tremble, something our bodies do when we are scared. In short, it is the feeling of fear and other emotions that create a sense of discomfort. 

Another use of this gothic word is to describe someone or something horrible, like “She is such a horror of a friend.” Horror is also a genre of fiction that aims to scare readers or make them feel dreadful.

Mystery 

A mystery is an event or phenomenon that doesn’t follow a logical or natural sequence. In short, it is unexplainable. Think about crop circles or the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. People have been debating how those events took place, but they could never truly explain the mysteries behind them. 

Mystery is also a genre of fiction that involves a baffling crime that needs to be solved. The origin of this word refers to something hidden or a mystic presence.

Vampires 

Vampire is one of the most well-known gothic words on this list. 

A vampire is a fictional creature described as a reanimated or undead person that sucks the blood of the living to survive. The depiction of vampires has changed over many years, with many movies and TV shows having different interpretations of what vampires are. However, being a bloodsucker remains a common theme. You can also use this word to describe a person who takes advantage of other people or someone who “sucks the life out of you.”

Grotesque 

In the gothic or horror genre, some monsters or beings are shown as extremely disfigured, ugly, or deformed. This is what we describe as grotesque. You can also use grotesque to describe something weird, shocking, or outrageous.

You can use the word “gloom” to describe dimness or partial darkness. You can also use this gothic word to describe a state of low energy, sadness, or depression. 

Dolorous 

Many of the gothic words on this list describe negative emotions, and dolorous is one of them. 

Dolorous came from the Latin word  dolor , which means pain or grief. In short, to be dolorous is to feel woeful or mournful. For instance, people who are feeling misery or great sorrow are dolorous. Or, you would be dolorous if something terrible happened to the people who you care about. 

You can also use this gothic word as an adjective for something that would cause pain to someone, such as dolorous news or dolorous song.

Sepulchral 

Before we look at the word sepulchral, we should know the meaning of the word sepulcher first. 

A sepulcher is a tomb or place of burial. In turn, sepulchral reminds us of dead people and the place they are buried in. For instance, a graveyard gives off a sepulchral feeling. 

You can also use it to describe a joyless experience that is closely related to death. In short, sepulchral is the direct opposite of a happy or cheerful mood. 

List of Gothic Words 

  • Frankenstein
  • Phantasmagoria
  • Gothic Architecture
  • Sarcophagus
  • Supernatural
  • Gothic Revival
  • Abandonment
  • Supernaturalism
  • Femme Fatale
  • Romanticism
  • Transcendental
  • Chiaroscuro

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Gothic Genre Word Bank

Gothic Genre Word Bank

Subject: English

Age range: 11-14

Resource type: Visual aid/Display

zoebee123

Last updated

18 February 2021

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words to use in gothic writing

A selection of words (split into word classes and sub-sections) related to the Gothic genre. Supports pupils with extended their vocabulary, choosing precise language, and demonstrating correct spellings. Works well as a prompt for creative writing. Can be adapted.

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17 Tips to Take Your ChatGPT Prompts to the Next Level

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ChatGPT, Google Gemini, and other tools like them are making artificial intelligence available to the masses. We can now get all sorts of responses back on almost any topic imaginable. These chatbots can compose sonnets, write code, get philosophical, and automate tasks.

However, while you can just type anything you like into ChatGPT and get it to understand you. There are ways of getting more interesting and useful results out of the bot. This "prompt engineering" is becoming a specialized skill of its own.

Sometimes all it takes is the addition of a few more words or an extra line of instruction and you can get ChatGPT responses that are a level above what everyone else is seeing—and we've included several examples below.

While there's lots you can do with the free version of ChatGPT, a few of these prompts require a paid ChatGPT Plus subscription —where that's the case, we've noted it in the tip.

ChatGPT can give you responses in the form of a table if you ask. This is particularly helpful for getting information or creative ideas. For example, you could tabulate meal ideas and ingredients, or game ideas and equipment, or the days of the week and how they're said in a few different languages.

Using follow-up prompts and natural language, you can have ChatGPT make changes to the tables it has drawn and even produce the tables in a standard format that can be understood by another program (such as Microsoft Excel).

If you provide ChatGPT with a typed list of information, it can respond in a variety of ways. Maybe you want it to create anagrams from a list of names, or sort a list of products into alphabetical order, or turn all the items in a list into upper case. If needed, you can then click the copy icon (the small clipboard) at the end of an answer to have the processed text sent to the system clipboard.

Screenshot of ChatGPT

Get ChatGPT to respond as your favorite author.

With some careful prompting, you can get ChatGPT out of its rather dull, matter-of-fact, default tone and into something much more interesting—such as the style of your favorite author, perhaps.

You could go for the searing simplicity of an Ernest Hemingway or Raymond Carver story, the lyrical rhythm of a Shakespearean play, or the density of a Dickens novel. The resulting prose won't come close to the genius of the actual authors themselves, but it's another way of getting more creative with the output you generate.

ChatGPT can really impress when it's given restrictions to work within, so don't be shy when it comes to telling the bot to limit its responses to a certain number of words or a certain number of paragraphs.

It could be everything from condensing the information in four paragraphs down into one, or even asking for answers with words of seven characters or fewer (just to keep it simple). If ChatGPT doesn't follow your responses properly, you can correct it, and it'll try again.

Another way of tweaking the way ChatGPT responds is to tell it who the intended audience is for its output. You might have seen WIRED's videos in which complex subjects are explained to people with different levels of understanding. This works in a similar way.

For example, you can tell ChatGPT that you are speaking to a bunch of 10-year-olds or to an audience of business entrepreneurs and it will respond accordingly. It works well for generating multiple outputs along the same theme.

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Tell ChatGPT the audience it's writing for.

ChatGPT is a very capable prompt engineer itself. If you ask it to come up with creative and effective inputs for artificial intelligence engines such as Dall-E and Midjourney , you'll get text you can then input into other AI tools you're playing around with. You're even able to ask for tips with prompts for ChatGPT itself.

When it comes to generating prompts, the more detailed and specific you are about what you're looking for the better: You can get the chatbot to extend and add more detail to your sentences, you can get it to role-play as a prompt generator for a specific AI tool, and you can tell it to refine its answers as you add more and more information.

While ChatGPT is based around text, you can get it to produce pictures of a sort by asking for ASCII art. That's the art made up of characters and symbols rather than colors. The results won't win you any prizes, but it's pretty fun to play around with.

The usual ChatGPT rules apply, in that the more specific you are in your prompt the better, and you can get the bot to add new elements and take elements away as you go. Remember the limitations of the ASCII art format though—this isn't a full-blown image editor.

Screenshot of ChatGPT

A ChatGPT Plus subscription comes with image generation.

If you use ChatGPT Plus , it's got the DALL-E image generator right inside it, so you can ask for any kind of photo, drawing, or illustration you like. As with text, try to be as explicit as possible about what it is you want to see, and how it's shown; do you want something that looks like a watercolor painting, or like it was taken by a DSLR camera? You can have some real fun with this: Put Columbo in a cyberpunk setting, or see how Jurassic Park would look in the Victorian era. The possibilities are almost endless.

You don't have to do all the typing yourself when it comes to ChatGPT. Copy and paste is your friend, and there's no problem with pasting in text from other sources. While the input limit tops out at around 4,000 words, you can easily split the text you're sending the bot into several sections and get it to remember what you've previously sent.

Perhaps one of the best ways of using this approach is to get ChatGPT to simplify text that you don't understand—the explanation of a difficult scientific concept, for instance. You can also get it to translate text into different languages, write it in a more engaging or fluid style, and so on.

If you want to go exploring, ask ChatGPT to create a text-based choose-your-own adventure game. You can specify the theme and the setting of the adventure, as well as any other ground rules to put in place. When we tried this out, we found ourselves wandering through a spooky castle, with something sinister apparently hiding in the shadows.

Screenshot of ChatGPT

ChatGPT is able to create text-based games for you to play.

Another way to improve the responses you get from ChatGPT is to give it some data to work with before you ask your question. For instance, you could give it a list of book summaries together with their genre, then ask it to apply the correct genre label to a new summary. Another option would be to tell ChatGPT about activities you enjoy and then get a new suggestion.

There's no magic combination of words you have to use here. Just use natural language as always, and ChatGPT will understand what you're getting at. Specify that you're providing examples at the start of your prompt, then tell the bot that you want a response with those examples in mind.

You can ask ChatGPT for feedback on any of your own writing, from the emails you're sending to friends, to the short story you're submitting to a competition, to the prompts you're typing into the AI bot. Ask for pointers on spelling, grammar, tone, readability, or anything else you want to scrutinize.

ChatGPT cleared the above paragraph as being clear and effective, but said it could use a call to action at the end. Try this prompt today!

Screenshot of ChatGPT

Get ChatGPT to give you feedback on your own writing.

In the same way that ChatGPT can mimic the style of certain authors that it knows about, it can also play a role: a frustrated salesman, an excitable teenager (you'll most likely get a lot of emoji and abbreviations back), or the iconic western film star John Wayne.

There are countless roles you can play around with. These prompts might not score highly in terms of practical applications, but they're definitely a useful insight into the potential of these AI chatbots.

You can type queries into ChatGPT that you might otherwise type into Google, looking for answers: Think "how much should I budget for a day of sightseeing in London?" or "what are the best ways to prepare for a job interview?" for example. Almost anything will get a response of some sort—though as always, don't take AI responses as being 100 percent accurate 100 percent of the time.

If you're using the paid ChatGPT Plus tool, it will actually search the web (with Bing) and provide link references for the answers it gives. If you're using the free version of ChatGPT, it'll mine the data its been trained on for answers, so they might be a little out of date or less reliable.

Your answers can be seriously improved if you give ChatGPT some ingredients to work with before asking for a response. They could be literal ingredients—suggest a dish from what's left in the fridge—or they could be anything else.

So don't just ask for a murder mystery scenario. Also list out the characters who are going to appear. Don't just ask for ideas of where to go in a city; specify the city you're going to, the types of places you want to see, and the people you'll have with you.

Your prompts don't always have to get ChatGPT to generate something from scratch: You can start it off with something, and then let the AI finish it off. The model will take clues from what you've already written and build on it.

This can come in handy for everything from coding a website to composing a poem—and you can then get ChatGPT to go back and refine its answer as well.

You've no doubt noticed how online arguments have tended toward the binary in recent years, so get ChatGPT to help add some gray between the black and the white. It's able to argue both sides of an argument if you ask it to, including both pros and cons.

From politics and philosophy to sports and the arts, ChatGPT is able to sit on the fence quite impressively—not in a vague way, but in a way that can help you understand tricky issues from multiple perspectives.

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'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

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When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form .

How to use Copilot Pro to write, edit, and analyze your Word documents

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Microsoft's Copilot Pro AI offers a few benefits for $20 per month. But the most helpful one is the AI-powered integration with the different Microsoft 365 apps. For those of you who use Microsoft Word, for instance, Copilot Pro can help you write and revise your text, provide summaries of your documents, and answer questions about any document.

First, you'll need a subscription to either Microsoft 365 Personal or Family . Priced at $70 per year, the Personal edition is geared for one individual signed into as many as five devices. At $100 per year, the Family edition is aimed at up to six people on as many as five devices. The core apps in the suite include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote.

Also: Microsoft Copilot vs. Copilot Pro: Is the subscription fee worth it?

Second, you'll need the subscription to Copilot Pro if you don't already have one. To sign up, head to the Copilot Pro website . Click the Get Copilot Pro button. Confirm the subscription and the payment. The next time you use Copilot on the website, in Windows, or with the mobile apps, the Pro version will be in effect.

How to use Copilot Pro in Word

1. open word.

Launch Microsoft Word and open a blank document. Let's say you need help writing a particular type of document and want Copilot to create a draft. 

Also: Microsoft Copilot Pro vs. OpenAI's ChatGPT Plus: Which is worth your $20 a month?

A small "Draft with Copilot" window appears on the screen. If you don't see it, click the tiny "Draft with Copilot icon in the left margin."

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2. Submit your request

At the text field in the window, type a description of the text you need and click the "Generate" button.

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Submit your request.

3. Review the response and your options

Copilot generates and displays its response. After reading the response, you're presented with a few different options.

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Review the response and your options.

4. Keep, regenerate, or remove the draft

If you like the draft, click "Keep it." The draft is then inserted into your document where you can work with it. If you don't like the draft, click the "Regenerate" button, and a new draft is created. 

Also: What is Copilot (formerly Bing Chat)? Here's everything you need to know

If you'd prefer to throw out the entire draft and start from scratch, click the trash can icon.

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Keep, regenerate, or remove the draft.

5. Alter the draft

Alternatively, you can try to modify the draft by typing a specific request in the text field, such as "Make it more formal," "Make it shorter," or "Make it more casual."

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Alter the draft.

6. Review the different versions

If you opt to regenerate the draft, you can switch between the different versions by clicking the left or right arrow next to the number. You can then choose to keep the draft you prefer.

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7. Revise existing text

Copilot will also help you fine-tune existing text. Select the text you want to revise. Click the Copilot icon in the left margin and select "Rewrite with Copilot."

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Revise existing text.

8. Review the different versions

Copilot creates a few different versions of the text. Click the arrow keys to view each version.

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Review the different versions.

9. Replace or Insert

If you find one you like, click "Replace" to replace the text you selected. 

Also: ChatGPT vs. Microsoft Copilot vs. Gemini: Which is the best AI chatbot?

Click "Insert below" to insert the new draft below the existing words so you can compare the two.

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Replace or Insert.

10. Adjust the tone

Click "Regenerate" to ask Copilot to try again. Click the "Adjust Tone" button and select a different tone to generate another draft.

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Adjust the tone.

11. Turn text into a table

Sometimes you have text that would look and work better as a table. Copilot can help. Select the text you wish to turn into a table. Click the Copilot icon and select "Visualize as a Table."

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Turn text into a table.

12. Respond to the table

In response, click "Keep it" to retain the table. Click "Regenerate" to try again. Click the trash can icon to delete it. Otherwise, type a request in the text field, such as "remove the second row" or "make the last column wider."

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Respond to the table.

13. Summarize a document

Copilot Pro can provide a summary of a document with its key points. To try this, open the document you want to summarize and then click the Copilot icon on the Ribbon. 

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The right sidebar displays several prompts you can use to start your question. Click the one for "Summarize this doc."

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Summarize a document.

14. Review the summary

View the generated summary in the sidebar. If you like it as is, click the "Copy" button to copy the summary and paste it elsewhere.

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Review the summary.

15. Revise the summary

Otherwise, choose one of the suggested questions or ask your own question to revise the summary. For example, you could tell Copilot to make the summary longer, shorter, more formal, or less formal. 

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You could also ask it to expand on one of the points in the summary or provide more details on a certain point. A specific response is then generated based on your request.

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Revise the summary.

16. Ask questions about a document

Next, you can ask specific questions about any of the content in a document. Again, click the Copilot icon to display the sidebar. In the prompt area, type and submit your question. Copilot displays the response in the sidebar. You can then ask follow-up questions as needed.

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Ask questions about a document.

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IMAGES

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  2. Gothic Calligraphy&Lettering on Behance

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  5. Gothic Genre Word Bank

    words to use in gothic writing

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    words to use in gothic writing

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  1. D writing in Gothic Calligraphy #writting #shortsfeed

  2. Gothic vs Cursive #handwriting #calligrahy #tutorial #calligraphy #calligraph #art #calligrapgy

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COMMENTS

  1. 30 Words To Use In Gothic Fiction (Gothic Word Guide)

    1. Desolate One can hardly imagine gothic fiction without a sense of emptiness and abandonment. "Desolate" perfectly captures this feeling. Use this word when you want to evoke feelings of loneliness and isolation. Examples: The castle stood desolate on the foggy hill. His desolate gaze added to the chilling atmosphere.

  2. PDF Gothic Writing Word Bank

    Gothic Writing Word Bank Places Describing Places Objects Describing People Abbey Castle Cellar Cemetery Chamber Churchyard Clearing Clifftop Corridor Crypt Dungeon ... Adverbs Other useful words Anxiously Creepily Ghastly Nervously Silently Softly Suddenly Surreptitiously Suspiciously Blood Dawn Dusk Fingernails Fingerprints Footsteps Ghost

  3. 30 Essential Words for Gothic Fiction: A Clear Guide

    Key Characteristics The Gothic genre is characterized by a dark, mysterious atmosphere, with settings often featuring haunted castles or abandoned mansions. The genre also frequently features supernatural elements such as ghosts, demons, and vampires.

  4. Gothic vocabulary bank

    Gothic vocabulary bank 5 4 reviews Last updated: 15/11/2023 Contributor: Teachit Author Main Subject English Key stage KS3 Category English: Literature Resource type Display/posters Extend the vocabulary of your English students with this list of Gothic words.

  5. Words to Use in Gothic Fiction (And How To Use Them)

    Words to use in Gothic Fiction (And How To Use Them)| In this video, I walk you through 30 words to use in your Gothic Fiction #writing #horror #words 📣 Rec...

  6. PDF A Glossary of Literary Gothic Terms

    The most famous example of a Gothic story which involves the theft of a corpse in order to bring it back to some form of life is Frankenstein: Victor frequents "the dissecting room and the slaughter-house" for his "workshop of filthy creation"--apparently his monster comes from some kind of assemblage.

  7. More Gothic Writing: Capital Gothic Letters A-Z

    Build up a collection. Once you know the basics of how to write calligraphy, you can then imitate or adapt whatever you fancy for a particular project. Generally, gothic capitals defy the oblong up-and-down aspect of their minuscule brethren. They occupy a square area, or even a widish rectangle, and are often very rounded.

  8. Useful phrases in Gothic

    A collection of useful phrases in Gothic, an extinct East Germanic language that was spoken in parts of the Crimea until the 17th century. See these phrases in any combination of two languages in the Phrase Finder. If you can provide recordings, corrections or additional translations, please contact me . Key to abbreviations: m = male, f ...

  9. How to Write Gothic Fiction (with Pictures)

    1. Choose a time when your story will take place. Decide if your story will take place in the past or present. Many gothic fiction stories take place a century or even further in the past. A story about the past can make supernatural events and strange characters seem more real to your readers.

  10. 5 Tips on How To Write a Gothic Novel

    1. Pick your time and place carefully. In gothic novels, the setting acts almost as a character in its own right. Early gothic writers set their books in the medieval period and abroad, because an unfamiliar setting allowed their readers to believe in the impossible. Authors have been doing similar things ever since.

  11. Gothic language and alphabet

    Gothic . Gothic is an extinct East Germanic language that was spoken in parts of the Crimea until the 17th century. It was originally written with a runic alphabet about which little is known. One theory of the origins of Runes is that they were invented by the Goths, but this is impossible to prove as very few inscriptions of writing in Gothic runes survive.

  12. Ideas for Writing Gothic Short Stories

    Elements of Gothic Fiction. There are at least six basic elements to keep in mind when writing Gothic short stories. Any of them can be a great starting point. 1. The Setting. Generally, Gothic fiction is set in a house or castle that's more than what it seems. It is its own character altogether.

  13. Gothic literature guide for KS3 English students

    The Twilight Saga is a series of novels and one novella by the author Stephenie Meyer. This series covers many of the traditional Gothic elements together with a love story, supernatural beings ...

  14. Creating an Eerie Atmosphere: How to Write in a Gothic Setting

    In writing a gothic setting, the appropriate use of figurative language is crucial to creating an eerie atmosphere. Metaphors, similes, and personification can be used to describe the setting and characters in a way that stimulates the reader's imagination and evokes emotions. However, it is important to use these literary devices sparingly ...

  15. 10 Words to Describe a Gothic Setting

    1. Decrepit Definition Old and falling apart due to lack of care or overuse. Examples "The book was so decrepit that when she picked it up it threatened to fall apart in her hands." "The house had been empty for decades, and so was so decrepit that they wondered if they would ever be able to renovate it." How it Adds Description

  16. Gothic Literature: Basics of the Genre & Key Elements

    The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe (1794) Ann Radcliffe paved the way for women in the Gothic genre with her groundbreaking and scandalous The Mysteries of Udolpho. This story features noblemen of dubious lineage, a tragic heroine, a brooding villain, seemingly supernatural occurrences, and a creepy countryside castle. Advertisement

  17. Learn About Gothic Literature With Elements and Examples

    Key Elements Most Gothic literature contains certain key elements that include: Atmosphere: The atmosphere in a Gothic novel is one characterized by mystery, suspense, and fear, which is usually heightened by elements of the unknown or unexplained. Setting: The setting of a Gothic novel can often rightly be considered a character in its own right.

  18. Gothic Vocabulary

    PNG, 1.1 MB. PNG, 121.99 KB. PNG, 183.9 KB. Gothic vocabulary - In Gothic writing vocabulary can be quite tricky, but this lesson supports students in improving their use of vocabulary when creating narrative pieces. Students are provided with detailed lists of synonyms for adjectives, verbs and adverbs, all with a Gothic-style focus.

  19. Top 10 Elements of Gothic Literature

    It wasn't until the Romantic era in the late 18th century that the word was applied to literature. The first mention of Gothic literature appeared in English writer Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, published in 1764. Walpole applied the word in the subtitle, "A Gothic Story." The use was intended to be a sophisticated joke to ...

  20. 4 Tips to Writing Gothic Fantasy

    Which leads to tip two: Ensure that the past intrudes on or colors the present. A huge part of crafting a Gothic work is that the events of the past continue to haunt and guide the present. This can be looked at as a curse or more commonly the butterfly effect. One fateful act or decision made by a grandparent affects the lives of generations ...

  21. 100+ Gothic Words

    Grotesque In the gothic or horror genre, some monsters or beings are shown as extremely disfigured, ugly, or deformed. This is what we describe as grotesque.

  22. Gothic Genre Word Bank

    docx, 311.24 KB A selection of words (split into word classes and sub-sections) related to the Gothic genre. Supports pupils with extended their vocabulary, choosing precise language, and demonstrating correct spellings. Works well as a prompt for creative writing. Can be adapted. Creative Commons "Sharealike"

  23. Gothic novel

    A more sensational type of Gothic romance exploiting horror and violence flourished in Germany and was introduced to England by Matthew Gregory Lewis with The Monk (1796). Other landmarks of Gothic fiction are William Beckford's Oriental romance Vathek (1786) and Charles Robert Maturin's story of an Irish Faust, Melmoth the Wanderer (1820).

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