In the realm of literature, few names evoke the aura of dark enchantment quite like Edgar Allan Poe. His haunting tales and melancholic poetry have captivated readers for generations, leaving an indelible mark on the world of macabre fiction. If you find yourself drawn to the allure of the mysterious, the gothic, the eerie, and the Wednesday Addams of it all, you may be tempted to explore the art of writing like Edgar Allan Poe.
Let’s delve into the enigmatic and strange world of Poe’s literary genius, unraveling the key elements that defined his style. Whether you wish to pen chilling tales or spookily sad verses, keep reading.
In this article, you’ll learn how to write like Edgar Allan Poe by using:
- Emotional Intensity
- Unreliable Narrators
- Allegory and Symbolism
- Get a Little Weird
- Poetic Language and Rhythm
- Explore Human Psyche
- Punctuation, Structure, Attention to Detail
- Utilize Audible Literary Devices
- Get Sad
- Break the Rules & Make Up Your Own
Writing like Edgar Allan Poe requires a careful study of his literary style, so get reading! Once you’ve read a decent amount of poems and stories from the goth freak, let’s get into some specific tips for it.
No one does dark and gothic like Poe. It’s kind of his whole thing. To write like him, you’ll need the skill to create a gloomy, eerie atmosphere by using vivid descriptions of haunting settings. Really get into the feeling of the setting, and that feeling should range somewhere between spooky and disgusting.
Here’s a video that goes in depth about how to create atmosphere in your writing:
2. Emotional Intensity
Not only is Edgar Allan Poe impressively goth, he’s also emo as all get-out. His writing explores themes of loss, death, being haunted by birds, suffering mocking torment at the hands (heart) of your recent murder victim. Classic coming-of-age stuff. So foster some intense emotions in your writing like fear, despair, madness, grief, being a lil too silly (sealing a living person into the wall), etc.
3. Unreliable Narrators
Many, if not most, of Poe’s stories are narrated by unreliable characters. An unreliable narrator (arguably, any first-person narration) is a character telling us a story that we know we can’t believe. Through subtle hints and context, we come to learn that his characters are a little goofy and we probably shouldn’t believe anything they say. Either due to madness or being inherently uncool people, his characters are lying! The careful reader should be able to see through the charade and understand the real story behind it.
4. Allegory and Symbolism
Poe loves an allegory like Quentin Tarantino loves feet—it comes up a lot. If you want to write like Poe, you need some creepy situation, off-putting atmosphere, and Something Else that it all represents.
5. Get a Little Weird
Edgar Allan Poe was famously an oddball. To get into his style, you can’t shy away from a little strangeness—in fact, embrace it! I’m not saying get “marry your 13-year-old first cousin” type of Poe weirdness.
Actually, please model literally none of your real life after Edgar’s.
But throw in a couple fictional dead animals, make something normal haunting (like a clock), or something. You get it.
6. Poetic Language and Rhythm
Edgar Allan Poe is famous for his poetry, but even his short stories hold the same intentional language and rhythm as a poem. Your prose should read like poetry. Read your sentences out loud to edit for the sound of it. Not only should your writing hold all the gruesome detail and unhinged madmen that it can fit, but those sentences should sound at least rhythmic, but aim for enchantingly and hauntingly melodic, if ya can..
7. Explore Human Psyche
Allegories and unreliable narrators are common vessels for the underlying theme of most of Edgar Allan Poe’s works: Examining the human psyche. The dude loved to write about people losing their minds. I think he knew he had lost his pretty early in life. (He married his 13-year-old cousin, but I’ll stop mentioning that.) If you want your story to resemble Poe’s, you should probably have a little delve into human nature and themes of madness, obsession, guilt, and other motifs common in Poe’s stories.
8. Punctuation, Structure, Attention To Detail
Like I said, even his prose was poetic. If you want to write like Edgar Allan Poe, you really need to board the train of meticulous editing. Take time crafting every image and line. Consider punctuation and structure. Leave no detail unattended.
9. Utilize Audible Literary Devices
If my telling you to write poetically has you scratching your head, here are some specific literary elements Poe uses that you can include in your writing.
Alliteration means words close in proximity to one another repeat their beginning sound. A “weak and weary” type beat. This gives even a non-poem light an air of poeticism.
Assonance refers to the repetition of a vowel sound in close enough proximity for a discernible echo. “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary.”
Along with the repeating of sounds, Poe often utilizes the repetition of words and phrases, which is another literary device that lends a strong Poem Vibe to his prose.
Enjambment is a poetic tool that plays with emphasis, expectations, and misdirection. Simply put, enjambment is where you choose to split lines in poetry. The word you end on, begin on, and the way you split phrases can have a myriad of interesting effects on the way it is read.
10. Get Sad
For anyone who has read a few of Edgar Allan Poe’s pieces, it comes as no surprise that he was a deeply troubled man. Mental illness, trauma, and a life full of strife and grief built him, and thus built his body of literary work. I’m not saying you should seek out a life of pain, but if you find yourself particularly pained (which you at some point inevitably will), you might take that opportunity to draft something so bleak it’s worthy of comparison to Poe’s melancholy voice.
11. Break the Rules & Make Up Your Own
Edgar Allan Poe is famous because he was not only a strong writer, but an iconic, innovative, daring writer. He broke many rules of literature while also closely adhering to his own self-imposed rules that gave his writing its rhythmic, memorable nature. Don’t be afraid to color outside of the lines, then off the page, off the table, and out the door. Build your own list of writing rules, experiment, and give yourself permission to express emotions unfiltered.
I hope you find these tips and techniques from our boy Poe inspiring. Embrace the darkness of life, explore the mystery of the human psyche, and harness the power of words to wring every drop of weirdness and rhythm they have in them. Writing like Poe isn’t just an imitation, but a journey of self-discovery as you attempt to infuse your own writing with the weird uniqueness of one of the most famous writers to ever live.
Happy writing! Get weird!