Week Nine: Ninth Short Story

Let’s get Gothic!

This prompt was originally designed for poetry, but can, in my opinion, also apply to prose:

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, / Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore— / While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping…” First published almost two hundred years ago, Edgar Allan Poe’s narrative poem “The Raven” was itself partially inspired by the raven in Charles Dickens’s novel Barnaby Rudge and has gone on to spark numerous renditions, homages, and parodies. And the poem’s influence has extended far beyond literature, giving a name to an NFL team (Baltimore Ravens) and providing inspiration for a range of artists, from cartoonists (The Simpsons and Calvin and Hobbes) to musicians (Lou Reed and the Grateful Dead). Write a [short story] that takes its cue from an element of Poe’s verse that you are especially drawn toward. Consider its themes of loss and devotion; the extensive use of alliteration and rhyme; the “nevermore” refrain; classical, mythological, and biblical references; the question-and-answer sequencing; the symbolism of the raven; or the forebodingly dark atmosphere.”

For this week’s short story, play around with style and form. Try to work at least three of the prompt’s suggested elements into your work. Forget the traditional and accepted rules for prose structure. Experiment! If you want to repeat the same word in every line, or tab twice before every paragraph, or shape the text around a keyhole, do it! The Gothic genre is a wonderful platform for mimetic narrative.

Poe wrote a number of short stories—“The Tell-Tale Heart,” “Berenice,” and “The Black Cat,” to name a few. Check them out for inspiration.

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