The Gothic novel was invented almost single-handedly by Horace Walpole. The Castle of Otranto (1764) contains essentially all the elements that constitute the genre. Today, gothic elements have been used so often in films that some have become predictable clichés.
Elements of the Gothic Novel
Gothic elements include the following:
1. Setting in a castle or old mansion.
2. Anatmosphere of mystery and suspense.
A fear enhanced by the unknown.
3. An ancient prophecy
is connected with the castle or its inhabitants (either former or present).
4. Omens, portents, visions.
A character may have a disturbing dream vision, or some phenomenon may be seen as a portent of coming events.
5. Supernatural or otherwise inexplicable events.
6. High, even overwrought emotion.
The characters are often overcome by anger, sorrow, surprise, fear, and especially, terror. Crying and emotional speeches are frequent. Breathlessness and panic are common.
7. Women in distress.
The female characters often face events that leave them fainting, terrified, screaming, and / or sobbing.
8. Women threatened by a powerful, impulsive, tyrannical male.
One or more male characters has the power, as king, lord of the manor, father, or guardian, to demand that one or more of the female characters do something intolerable.
9. The metonymy of gloom and horror.
A sort of metaphor, in which something (like rain) is used to stand for something else (like sorrow).
10. Gothic vocabulary.
Using the right words maintains the dark-and-stimulated feeling that defines the Gothic; for example: mystery, fear, terror, sorrow, surprise, haste, anger...
11. The Onomatopoeia.
Onomatopoeic words resemble the sound they name; as for instance: groan, shriek, howl, crash, hiss, moan...