Writing a Gothic Story: Just Add Monocles!
It was a dark and stormy night…
Two authors, one, a fashionista with a flair for the dark side, the other an enthusiastic Zafara with a flair for the silly side. Together they have a flair for the flair-y side. This daring duo will teach you all the ways to write the best gothic story.
Grr: Hello, everyone! I am Grr, a Darigan Kougra with energy to burn, clothes to appraise, and an indomitable spirit! And here is my awesome collaborator--Yibit!
Yibit: I’m Yibit, a Speckled Zafara. I’m six, but Jane says I’m smart for my age. I love events and plots.
Grr: You are super-smart, just like my old roommate. Oh, and I’m 14 and a half, in case anyone’s wondering.
Yibit: Thanks! I was actually wondering about that.
Grr: So, shall we jump right on in?
There’s a kiddy pool filled with about 2 inches of water in the middle of the room. Grr makes a motion for Yibit to splash in first. Yibit obliges. Grr follows shortly after.
Grr: Now that we’ve taken a deep dive, first thing’s first--monocles. You need all the monocles. Every character needs to wear at least two of them. Makes them extra fancy.
Yibit: Monocles for sure. Remember, they must be on the same eye. Both eyes are just glasses, and there’s nothing gothic about those.
Grr: Next thing is top hats and canes. Like, can you even imagine what a gothic story would be without someone looking dapper?
Yibit: And they must look absolutely dapper. Just plain dap won’t do.
Grr: Look here: we have a mannequin setup here to show you all the most important features your characters must have.
The mannequin is covered from neck to tail in Victorian-style garb. They have a fine silk top hat and two monocles, because they know the current fashion trends.
Yibit: Don’t forget Spyder Webs! They really give off that spooky gothic feel.
Grr: Eek! Yeah, s-spyders give me the c-creeps! But it’s true. Scary as they may be, you need to cover your entire setting with them. Like, your characters should be walking into them almost constantly. But not all the time, though, ‘cause that would be silly.
Yibit: How do you get spyder webs without the spyders? Uh…
Grr: Easy! You order them by the boatload from our sponsor, the NC Mall! And look! All the web without any mess.
Yibit: Oh, of course. Heh.
Yibit glances at Grr, and pushes a cage with spyders in it under a table. Grr doesn’t seem to notice.
Grr drapes some of the Giant Suspended Spyder Webs over the mannequin, covering their entire face with the sticky threads.
Grr: Eyuck! I mean, yay! But more than anything, you gotta make sure the mood is right. I feel darkening the entire room is paramount. You don’t want your story set on a bright, sunny, happy day. No, no, that would ruin the mood. So make sure everything is lit only by dim candlelight.
Yibit: I’m not allowed to use matches. But Grr is! She can light the candles for us! And I can close the curtains!
Yibit runs over to the window, and closes the curtains. The sunlight that was streaming in disappears, even though you could have sworn someone said it was a dark and stormy night.
Grr: Embrace the darkness! Oh, wait. How are we going to keep writing this article if we can’t see anything?
Yibit: I thought you said you were going to bring the candle.
Grr: I thought you said “can-do,” like bringing a “can-do” attitude, which I have. Brought that, I mean. Haha. Oops.
Yibit: Oh! I brought my can-do attitude too! High five!
The two try to bring their paws together, but miss in the darkness. However, the miss nudges the curtain open, brightening up the room to an acceptable level of dim.
Yibit: Yay for can-do attitudes!
Grr: You know it!
Yibit: Let’s talk about your font choice for a minute. You might think that you’d want a super fancy font with little tails at the end, those are called “serifs” according to Jane, and she knows everything.
Yibit points to the tail of the mannequin. You’re not sure that’s what Jane meant when she said “tails.”
Yibit: But you’d be wrong! Even though they look fancy, they aren’t truly gothic fonts. Gothic fonts are “sans-serif,” or without the little decorative tails. So what could be more gothic than using a font that’s literally gothic!
Grr: Woah. That blows my mind.
Yibit: Jane is always teaching me stuff like that. She also was going on and on about gothic architecture, but it got kind of boring, so I stopped listening.
Grr: We definitely don’t want any boring stuff in our stories. It’s gotta be pulse-pounding and scary!
Yibit: Yes! A real page turner! I’m a real page turner, and so is Grr. The mannequin is a fake page turner. But imagine this mannequin can turn pages as well.
The mannequin stands there silently, like an inanimate object.
Grr: Oh gosh, that would be something. I’ll have to see if there are any of those in the Brightvale University Science Hall. They always look alive--and like, with mad science or something, they totally could be.
Yibit: Like a Mannequin painted Steampunk?
Grr: Oh Darigan, yes. I’ll take 20.
Yibit: Though we’re here for gothic, I consider steampunk very similar, like it came from gothic almost. They’ve got fancy hats too. Not quite as many monocles, though.
Grr: They can be discount gothic, then. Not quite as good, but hey. Still fancy. And they’re gearing in the right direction. Get it? Gearing?
Yibit: Ahahahaha! That’s a good one. Now one thing I've observed is that everything is fancy and drab. You might think that's contradictory, but trust me, it makes sense in gothic stories. Notice our mannequin is dressed in drab colors, yet is super fance.
Grr: He is wearing a fance top! Yes, indeed.
Yibit: I feel like it’s missing something though…
Grr: A giant, flaming coconut that screams, “GOOD NIGHT?”
Yibit: Yes! That’s it!
Grr: And guest appearances from Mr. Sneky as well. Anywoo, I digress. What else should we be adding to make our stories super, extra gothic. Is it fashion? Sparkles?
Yibit: Another thing that's helps is something called purple prose. Though they should call it sparkle prose. Make your sentences as long and fancy as you can. It's called purple prose because, uh, you should write it in purple! Purple ink makes for the best purple prose.
Grr: Especially when it’s written by a Kougra with purple fur. We match, look at that!
Yibit: You match perfectly! Or should I say, the Darigan Kougra with the violet fur writes purple prose perfectly!
Grr: That’s an amazing alliteration, ally!
Behind the two there is a board covered in a mountain of brightly colored purple font. Within the serif-filled text wall it reads: “Upon an agonizingly dreadful, lachrymose midnight hour I pondered endlessly, awaiting the saccharine escape of dreaming slumber. But alas, it came not with expeditious wings. I whispered in solemn despair, hoping without end that my melancholy upon a feathered throne would offer sweet relief.”
Yibit: I’m better at light green prose myself, being Speckled and all that. But that’s not gothic enough! In fact-
Just then, the door to the room swings open, and a greyish blue Cybunny walks in. She looks around the room in horror.
Cybunny: What is going on here?
Grr: Oh! Hi, Saskori! We’re talking about how to write a really good gothic tale. And also about Neovia. We’re kind of experts. Probably.
Saskori: Have you ever actually been to Neovia?
Yibit: Well, no…
Grr: I’ve read about it in picture books. Does that count?
The Cybunny girl examines the mannequin.
Saskori: Is… is this wearing two monocles? And why is it covered in Spyder webs?
Yibit: It’s the latest gothic fashion, obviously!
Grr: It ups the scare factor by 20 or so!
Saskori moves on to the literal text wall.
Saskori: Why is it written in purple?
Yibit: Because it’s purple prose!
Saskori: And… how is this supposed to be gothic?
Yibit: You notice how there’s no tails at all in this font? That means it’s gothic!
Saskori: I thought… You know what? Maybe I’d better take over.
Yibit: Grr told you, we’re experts on Neovian Gothic! What do you know, you only live in the Haunted Woods!
Saskori sees the matching maniacal grins on the pair’s faces, and backs away quickly. Unfortunately, she knocks over the table where Yibit earlier hid a cage of Spyders. Even more unfortunately, this causes the cage to unlatch, unleashing at least a dozen Spyders.
Grr: S-S-S-SPYDERS! Oh Darigan, they’re absolutely everywhere! Shield me, mannequin!
The mannequin just stands there with an unmoving gaze as if unaffected by her very real, very horrifying plight.
Grr: GAH! I’m outta here, every Neopian for themself!
Yibit: Right behind you!
Yibit runs for the door, but trips and falls into the kiddy pool, getting soaking wet.
Yibit: Ahh! They’ve caught me in their surprisingly watery web!
Grr reaches the door first, yanks it open, and Yibit quickly runs after her, dripping water everywhere.
Saskori sighs, and starts gently rounding up the Spyders.
Saskori: They’re just petpets.
The Spyders nervously scuttle into her arms as she gently places them back in the cage.
Saskori: Alright, everyone. Let me tell you how to really write a gothic story. In brief, sadly, as I’m going to need to find homes for these wayward critters…
There’s a few key aspects to a gothic story. Setting, characters, and the emotional aesthetic it creates.
You’ll often find old castles, manors, or even ruins in the setting, helping give a mysterious, gloomy feel. The architecture is often a throwback to a medieval setting. In fact, gothic can also refer to a style of architecture, aging gothic architecture often features in these stories. Imposing, grand, kind of ominous, in decline describe both gothic buildings and prose.
Characters, both hero and villain, start out as good but flawed individuals. The difference between them is that the villain falls to the corruption that the hero resists. A good example of a gothic villain is Xandra, who did horrifying things based on good intentions.
Gothic also has an element of the supernatural, stuff you can’t quite explain. This is important to creating the feeling of sublime, which is an indescribable and strong emotion, the strongest your mind is capable of feeling. Terror is one way to create this feeling, and terror comes from obscure things you don’t understand. If you understand something, you don’t tend to be scared of it. Therefore, leave some mystery in your gothic story. Was that the wind, or a ghost?
Neovia is a good setting for a gothic story, as it already has pretty much all the elements needed. You’ll find old manors and ruins, elements of supernatural, and--
The Spyders begin to scurry about, knocking over furniture in the house while making squeaking sounds.
Saskori: Oh geez, looks like my time is up. To learn more about gothic literature, check out “Neovian Gothic,” a book written by Brans Oker. He is considered by many to be Neopia’s foremost expert on the topic.
Best of luck with your own gothic story!