Skip to main content

English9 Gothic Fiction: How to write a Gothic story

Writing Gothic Fiction

Writing Style

In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley employs writing styles reflective of early 19th century literature. This clip explores a range of those styles, including using a series of letters to develop a narrative, structuring a narrative concentrically, and the inclusion of Gothic elements like horror, suspense, and poetic descriptions of wild, remote settings. It assists students of English literature to gain a fuller appreciation of this important novel.

SOURCE: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (2018), ClickView, Duration 7:33 minutes, Rated E

Key Elements of Gothic Fiction:

Some of the major elements that are recognizable throughout the genre include:

Atmosphere: In the Gothic novel, the atmosphere will be one of mystery, suspense, and fear, the mood of which is only enhanced by elements of the unknown or unexplained.

Clergy: Often, as in The Monk and The Castle of Otranto, the clergy play important secondary roles. They are often weak and sometimes outrageously evil.

The Paranormal: Oftentimes Gothic fiction will contain elements of the supernatural or paranormal, such as ghosts and vampires. In some instances, these supernatural features are later explained in perfectly natural terms, but in other works, they remain completely inexplicable.

Melodrama: Also called “high emotion,” melodrama is created through highly sentimental language and overly emotional characters. The panic, terror and other emotions can seem overwrought in order to make the characters and setting seem wild and out of control.

Omens: Typical of the genre, omens – or portents, visions, etc.—often foreshadow events to come. They can take many forms, such as dreams.

Setting: The setting of a Gothic novel is typically a character in its own right. Gothic architecture plays an important role, so the stories are often set in a castle or large manor, which is typically abandoned. Other settings may include caves or the wilderness.

Virginal Maiden 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. This dynamic creates tension and appeals deeply to the reader's pathos, particularly as these heroines tend to be orphaned, abandoned, or somehow severed from the world, without guardianship.

SOURCE: Burgess, Adam. (2018, June 27). An Introduction to Gothic Literature. Retrieved from

Find a website