Thursday, 29 October 2015

5 Key Elements of a Gothic Story.

As Halloween rapidly approaches and the desire for all things ‘spooky’ rises, we are going to look at the lure of Gothic stories. At this time of year we see the popular images of what we take to represent scary and fearful things eg ghosts, witches, vampires and the odd zombie thrown in for good measure. All of these can be traced back to the genre of Gothic Literature.

A Gothic story is a type of fiction that combines elements of horror, death and romanticism. It is a very stylized type of horror story. It generally contains these key elements:

  1. Creepy setting- usually a castle, old house, forest or somewhere remote.
  2. Weather- this is usually a storm or at the least heavy rain.
  3. Supernatural threat- in the form of a Vampire, ghost, witch, ancient curse etc.
  4. Isolated person or group- very often young or female in danger.
  5. The location is cut off from the outside world, and so help is difficult to get.

When did they become popular?
Gothic stories first became popular in the 18th century. The first ‘Gothic’ story is generally thought to be ‘The Castle of Otranto’ published in 1764, by Horace Walpole.

How did they cross over into Horror films?
With the growth of cinema in the early 20th century, Gothic stories gradually became adapted and made into Horror stories. Most horror stories conform to Gothic story standards. This and the fact that people like to be scared.

What would be a good Gothic story to read this Halloween (or any time?)

  1. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  3. The Turn of the Screw by M. R. James
  4. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  5. Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice
  6. My Sword hand is Singing by Marcus Sedgewick
  7. Twilight by William Gay*
  8. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
  9. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
  10. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

*This has nothing to do with teenage Vampires! It is a ‘southern’ Gothic story set in 1950s Tennessee and about a very creepy undertaker.

For more information about any of our online KS2, KS3 & IGCSE English courses, please contact us at: or visit our website: