Gothic Writing: a new workshop for schools

Posted by Miriam Nash on 17th April 2018

Everyone who visits the Ministry of Stories enters through Hoxton Street Monster Supplies, where they encounter tins of fear, jars of human snot and salts made from tears of boredom. Our new Gothic Writing workshop makes use of these weird and wonderful objects to inspire new stories. It’s ideal for students in years 7-11 studying gothic literature or descriptive writing.

The Gothic is the genre of fear, of creeping dread. It features dark settings, supernatural happenings, monstrous beings and a flavour of the past. Imaginative physical spaces and writing challenges are built into the fabric of gothic literature. The Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole, the first novel called ‘gothic’, was inspired by a nightmare Walpole had at his home in Strawberry Hill which was built in the style of a gothic castle. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) was written in response to a challenge from Lord Byron to write a ghost story on a rainy holiday in Switzerland, as was John Polidori’s The Vampyre (1819), the first vampire story written in English.

Our Gothic Writing workshop continues in this tradition – challenging students to create their own gothic tale in response to the objects and stories of Hoxton Street Monster Supplies. The quotes below come from students from Morpeth School who helped us test and develop the workshop alongside local teachers and our volunteer writing mentors.

“It had many gruesome objects, stories and it’s a very unusual shop”

After a brief introduction to gothic literature, students explore the shop and its objects and choose one to spark a story. They begin by describing it imaginatively – its feel, its look, its secrets. They use this object to create a character – human, monster, living, dead, undead – who will encounter the object in their story. This creating while experiencing makes writing playful and fun. It takes away the fear of the blank page and replaces it with physical ideas.

“[The best thing was] having the props to inspire you so that you could write a story”

“It helped me to understand gothic contexts much more by looking at real gothic objects”

After listening to a short, gothic story from the shop archives, students write their own with support from our volunteer writing mentors, who are experienced at encouraging students to trust their imaginations and push their thinking.

“The mentors were very good and made you think of things you wouldn’t have thought about before”

The workshop ends with sharing and celebration of the work, and encouragement to continue a writing practice at home and at school through follow-up activities. You can read some of the stories created so far on our showcase page.

“It made me enjoy writing”

We believe great writing comes from taking fun seriously. Whether you’re a teacher, volunteer or young person, we hope you’ll come and be part of the fun of Gothic Writing this summer term.

Gothic Writing joins our existing programme of workshops for primary and secondary schools, which includes Storymaking and Comic Books. Find out more about our workshops and how to book.

NEXT PAGE: Minister of the Month: Peggy Aylett