Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809. Though he died at a young age, Poe is considered one of the most influential American writers of all time. What made Poe so unique? His dark and often disturbing tone, which can be seen in his works such as “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven.” In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some tips on how to write like Edgar Allan Poe. So pour yourself a glass of bourbon, light up a cigar, and let’s get started!
- 1 Start with a dark and mysterious introduction
- 2 Use sensory language to create vivid images
- 3 Write in short, choppy sentences for a spooky effect
- 4 Use lots of adjectives to describe the setting and characters
- 5 Create suspense by hinting at something terrible that’s about to happen
- 6 Use poetic devices, such as alliteration and onomatopoeia, for effect
- 7 End with a shocking twist or revelation
Start with a dark and mysterious introduction
One of the hallmarks of Poe’s writing is his ability to set a dark and mysterious tone from the very beginning. This is often accomplished through his use of Gothic imagery and language. Consider the opening lines of “The Fall of the House of Usher”:
“During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passed through endless suites of rooms, corridors, and galleries, in all directions, except that toward the north. Many windows opened from these halls, but all were shuttered fast.”The Fall of the House of Usher
Poe immediately sets a dreary and foreboding mood with his descriptions of the weather and surroundings. This is a great way to set the stage for a horror story or mystery.
Use sensory language to create vivid images
Another characteristic of Poe’s writing is his use of sensory language to create vivid images in the reader’s mind. He often did this by using detailed descriptions of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures. For example, in “The Cask of Amontillado,” he writes:
“The voice said–‘Ha! ha! ha! –he! he! he! –a very good joke, indeed –an excellent jest. We will have many a rich laugh about it at the palazzo –he! he! he! –over our wine –he! he! he!'”
“The voice! –the voice! It came upon me with the suddenness of a flash of lightning. The walls were shaken as if by an earthquake. I was too much astounded to speak. For some minutes, indeed, I remained too much astounded to think.”The Cask of Amontillado
Poe’s use of language here is very effective in creating a vivid and almost tangible image of the scene for the reader.
Write in short, choppy sentences for a spooky effect
Poe also liked to use short, choppy sentences for a spooky effect. This can be seen in the following excerpt from “The Tell-Tale Heart”:
“True! –nervous –very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses –not destroyed –not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad?”The Tell-Tale Heart
Poe’s use of short sentences here creates a feeling of unease and suspense for the reader. It also makes the narrator seem more unstable and unreliable.
Use lots of adjectives to describe the setting and characters
Poe often used a large number of adjectives to describe the setting and characters in his stories. This helped to create a more vivid and atmospheric picture for the reader. For example, in “The Masque of the Red Death,” he writes:
“The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime, it was folly to grieve, or think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine.”The Masque of the Red Death
Poe’s use of adjectives here is very effective in painting a picturesque scene for the reader. It also helps to create a sense of atmosphere and foreboding.
Create suspense by hinting at something terrible that’s about to happen
Poe also liked to create suspense by hinting at something terrible that was about to happen. He would often do this by describing the characters’ increasing sense of paranoia and fear. For example, in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” he writes:
“It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! One of his eyes resembled that glass eye which you have seen me wear.”The Tell-Tale Heart
Poe’s use of suspenseful language here makes the reader feel as if something terrible is about to happen. This is a great way to build tension and keep the reader engaged.
Use poetic devices, such as alliteration and onomatopoeia, for effect
Poe also liked to use poetic devices, such as alliteration and onomatopoeia, for effect. This helped to create a more musical and lyrical quality to his writing. For example, in “The Raven,” he uses alliteration in the following lines:
“And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain”
“Thrilled me –filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before”The Raven
Poe’s use of alliteration here creates a sense of rhythm and flow in the poem. It also helps to create a feeling of suspense and foreboding.
Similarly, in “The Bells,” Poe uses onomatopoeia to create a sense of sound and movement:
“Hear the mellow wedding bells,
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!”The Bells
Poe’s use of onomatopoeia here helps to create a sense of rhythm and movement in the poem. It also makes the reader feel as if they are hearing the bells ringing.
End with a shocking twist or revelation
Finally, Poe liked to end his stories with a shocking twist or revelation. This was often done to surprise and shock the reader. For example, in “The Cask of Amontillado,” the twist is that the narrator has buried the person he was supposed to be revenge upon alive. In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the twist is that the person who the narrator thought he killed was actually still alive. These twists are often unexpected and can leave the reader feeling unsettled.
So, if you want to write like Edgar Allan Poe, remember to use short sentences, lots of adjectives, and suspenseful language. You should also use poetic devices, such as alliteration and onomatopoeia, for effect. Finally, don’t forget to end with a shocking twist or revelation.