If you love horror stories you have no doubt come across your fair share of gothic horror. These are the wonderful, dark and brooding horror stories that give a sense of foreboding while intriguing you to read further. If you ever wanted to write a gothic horror story but didn’t know where to start, this is the article for you.
Start a gothic horror story by creating a feeling of unease. Set the scene with something dark and foreboding and introduce a supernatural element. Use descriptive language to create shock and dread, while building towards a gruesome revelation. Also, have your main character experience something that changes the way they view the world.
Writing gothic horror is fun, but many people get stuck just starting. Here are some great ways to start your story. See if any of these inspire you.
Start With a Feeling of Unease
One way to start your story is to give the reader an unsettling feeling. This can be done through description, actions, thoughts and dialogue. When a reader reads these words, they should feel off-kilter and hesitant to continue. This is best done in the first chapter, but can also be incorporated into later chapters. By doing this, the reader’s reading experience is prolonged. For example, use description to make the setting feel cold and unwelcoming like this:
“The sun glinted off the harsh white snow and reflected in your eyes. The weather was below zero and the wind whipped through my coat. I pulled your hat over your ears and clutched at your scarf to keep it from flying away. I took a deep breath, but it froze in my lungs.”
This creates an image in the reader’s mind that makes them feel uncomfortable and hesitant to continue reading.
Introduce an Element of the Supernatural
The supernatural can be incorporated in several ways. This is best done in the first chapter, but you can develop this throughout the story as well. For example, describe evil ghosts who communicate with the protagonist and hide behind corners:
“I shivered, for I could feel their eyes on me” “Ghosts!” I cried out, your voice echoing off the rock walls. “Ghosts! You’re here to kill me!”
By reading this, the reader will expect the protagonist to meet this ghost and be frightened of it, which can be used for later chapters as a source of suspense.
Set the Scene in a Dark and Foreboding Location
Set the scene in an ominous location that is foreboding like this:
“The trees were bare, and no lights shone through their leafless branches. The only light came from the snow-dusted windows of town. A light layer of snow coated the forest floor, muffling all sound.”
This creates an uneasy feeling in both the reader and the protagonist, making them feel like they are in a dangerous location.
Use Descriptive Language to Create a Sense of Dread
Describe your characters and setting with powerful adjectives and metaphors:
“MY face was pale as milk, MY eyes wide like saucers. My mouth hung open, your hair falling over my face. I looked like a terrified rabbit with its eyes shining in the night.”
This will create powerful mental images the reader will associate with your character. When using metaphors it is important to be careful with your choice.
Build up to a Shocking or Gruesome Revelation
The reader should expect the twist in your story to be shocking or grotesque. This should be done in reverse order, first describing an everyday situation that is mundane but often disturbing and then building up to later chapters that are heinous or gruesome.
“I walked through the room and looked out of the window. My room was situated on the second floor, overlooking a park. It was a nice neighbourhood, one that many would have loved to live in.”
This creates expectation and tension in the reader and creates an expectation that this is going to be terrible later on: “I turned to my roommate without saying a word. She sat in a chair by her desk reading a book. There was a flash of red as her eyes moved across the page, but they were the only part of her face I could see.”
Have Your Characters Experience Terrifying Hallucinations or Visions
Have your character experience hallucinations or visions that will make the reader uneasy.
“I leaned down and touched the tip of my finger to the wax. I felt a tiny shiver as you traced through it. I gasped, and my roommate turned around at the sound.”
This creates unease in both characters, thus heightening tension in both their minds: “My eyes darted around looking for what was there but finding nothing. It was silent; everything was… but was I alone?” The reader expects something to happen, so they can be hesitant to continue reading: “I jumped at the sound, and a cold feeling burned through your body. There was nothing there.”
Write From the Point of View of a Disturbed Individual
A good way to create suspense is by having your character experience disturbing visions or hallucinations that he or she can’t explain, though other characters soon learn about it.
“I woke up to a scream. I was still in the depths of sleep, but that scream had woken me. I heard the screams again, and this time they weren’t screams at all. They were words: “a red mist, a long shadow!” These words were more like mumbles and echoed around my room.”
By having your character hear these things, the reader will expect something to happen. If they don’t, the reader will doubt their sanity and question whether the character is insane or not.
Describe Horrific Events in Graphic Detail
The reader should be able to feel everything your character is doing. This creates a feeling of disgust or discomfort in the reader and anticipation for the next chapter. For example, write about something gruesome:
“I stared at the ground, my hand moving up to your throat. I watched as a single drop of blood fell from my knife and hit the floor. I dropped it, stepping back as the sound of metal hitting stone echoed around me.”
This creates a physical reaction in the reader, making them feel uncomfortable and uneasy.
Have Your Character Experience Something That Changes Their Outlook on Life
The reader should expect to think a certain way about your character when they first meet them and have this view of them changed later on in the story.
“I loved my job, I did. I enjoyed working the counter and talking with customers, making sure they were happy with their purchases.”
The reader would expect this to continue, but then their perspective will change:
“I was counting the drawer when I heard a girl crying from outside. Her cries were heart-wrenching, and her skin was covered in blood. ‘Please help us!’ she screamed as I ran out of the door to follow her into a dark alley. The streets were empty, but I could hear the sounds of screams and cries coming from a house up ahead. I ran towards it, only to see a man standing in the doorway. He held a knife in his hand.”
This completely changed the reader’s view of this character and makes them relate to him more because they expect that he is going to change in the future.
These are some of the ways to start a gothic horror story. The main thing is to start writing. Don’t wait for the perfect story to come to you. Writing is an iterative process. As you write, more ideas will come to you. So get started now. Happy writing.