Monday, November 13, 2017

3 Tips for Writing Creepy Sounds + A Haunting Playlist

Writing Gothic fiction has so much to do with setting the atmosphere. While using all of the senses are important to creating this, sounds are a powerful emotional vehicle.  Not only do they evoke emotion they also can symbolize a character's internal environment.

I'm always challenging myself to find different ways to describe sounds that will bring that sense of foreboding or create a dark atmosphere. While there are certain words that incite an immediate eerie sense, sometimes it can feel clique, overused and readers may be desensitized to them. And meh, is never the reaction I want when writing dreadful things. Now, I'm by no means suggesting to never use these, but if every door creaks and there is a crash after every lightning flash, it might be time to switch it up a bit.

So, here are 3 tips for writing creepy sounds.

1. Add a sound description that one doesn't normally associate with the thing making the sound. For example, the birds barked from the treeline to warn us of what lay beyond. Or, the fire cackled mocking my attempts to concoct the perfect brew. You get the gist. Providing a sound that isn't expected naturally puts one at unease, consciously or unconsciously.

2. Use onomatopeia, by writing the sound itself. An example would be writing tick, tock as the sound of a clock. It places the reader deep within a character's experience. It is also a nice way to zoom in tight on a sound, silencing everything else. This a cinematic approach but can be just as powerful in the written form.

3. Use metaphors and similes. For example, the storm growled where it crouched on the ridge ready to pounce, and the floorboards moaned like an old woman beneath his feet. Sometimes attaching a creepy image to a sound can enhance its spookiness.

How do you approach writing eerie sounds? Let me know in the comments.

My Haunting Playlist for Writing.

Not all writers write to music. I am one that does. Music and sounds are both powerful in conveying emotions and immediately put me in the place I need to be to write a specific scene.  So, I thought I'd share the link to Shadow's Haunting Playlist on Spotify, my playlist of haunting tunes for writing. Enjoy and let me know if you have other tunes to add. I love to discover new haunting music.

As always, stay beautifully haunted,

♥ Shadow.

Monday, October 16, 2017

5 Podcasts for Gothic Writers

I find podcasts to be really useful in voids of time, like commutes and shuttling my spawn around. From informative to entertaining, they can turn empty moments into more productive ones, and they certainly beat staring aimlessly at brake lights.

So, in no specific order, I've compiled 5 useful podcasts for Gothic writers.

1. Helping Writers Become Authors

This podcast, by award-winning author, K.M. Weiland, gives a lot of great information on the craft of writing in general and all the episodes are worth checking out. But, here are a few episodes that are particularly helpful for writing Gothic fiction.

2. Writing Excuses

This is an award winning podcast for writers, and there are a lot of fantastic episodes as they are in season twelve. Before you break out into a sweat over the volume of episodes, these podcasts are short, about fifteen to twenty-five minutes. And here a few places to start.

  • Season 11 - Elemental Genres. This was a really great season with a lot of information on genres and there are podcasts dedicated to Horror, Mystery and Thrillers, with information that can be applied to Gothic Fiction, but there is a bonus podcast in this season that is a real gem called, Horrifying the Children with Darren Shan.
  • Mystery Plotting: Discusses plotting principles for any discovery and revelation plot and is not just for the Mystery genre.
  • Horror: Discusses what makes a story scary and tools for writing tension.
  • Lovecraftian Horror: More great writing tools for Dark Fiction.

3. This is Horror

This is a podcast dedicated to Horror fiction, writers and readers. While I don't define Gothic Fiction as being synonymous with Horror, there are a lot of tools within this genre that are applicable to Gothic Fiction. A great episode to start with is TIH 123: Writers’ Craft Talk: Writing Suspenseful Scenes with 16 Writers 

4. In Our Time

BBC Radio runs this podcast hosted by Melvyn Bragg and it has a wealth of information from Gothic Literature to Victorian Culture. A great source for research and insights into the Gothic classics. I would start with this episode, In Our Time: Gothic

5. Lore

If you haven't heard about this award winning, critically acclaimed podcast about true life scary stories, you shouldn't waste another minute missing out. I can't say enough about how much I love this podcast. It isn't a podcast on writing but will definitely give you all kinds of story ideas and inspiration.
The storytelling is beautifully done by writer, host and producer, Aaron Mahnke, who is also the author of many supernatural thrillers. A lot of the music is composed by Chad Lawson whose haunting music is often on my writing playlists.
Episodes to start with is ALL OF THEM. Hurry, go now, don't walk, run.

Bonus podcast: A Gothic Story : A podcast by the British Library to accompany an exhibition they held called Terror and Wonder: the Gothic Imagination. It wonderfully chronicles the birth of Gothic Fiction and all of its monsters.

How about you, Night Writers, do you listen to podcasts for inspiration and techniques? If you do, definitely share which ones, I'd love to add them to my list.

As always, stay haunted!

♥ Shadow.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Gothic Elements: Snakes and Toads


Forked tongue, venomous fangs and sinuous coils of sleek scales. What's not to love? The serpent is a beautiful and at times deadly creature and a darling addition to any dark storytellers bag of tricks.

Ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes, is #2 on top ten list of most common fears according to So, if your purpose is to fill your audience with dread, add a snake and your chances of accomplishing this increases, exponentially.

While the Snake has many meanings, I feel its key Gothic meanings are Immortality, Death, Secrets, and Deception. Volumes have been written on snake symbolism and it's made multiple appearances in mythology and folklore, too many to reference here. But, if interested you can visit here to learn more about snakes in mythology and here to learn more about their symbolic meanings.

However, I've chosen a few of my favorite snake associations to share with you. I'd love to hear yours.

Snake and Skull: "Dead men tell no tales" is the line that jumps immediately to mind when I see this symbol. The snake meaning knowledge, secrets, immortality and the skull representing death, the association here to me is the secrets we take to the grave or the knowledge we carry beyond it. It also speaks to life after death, whatever that form might take. We may slough off the mortal coil, but the spirit remains. One of my favorite uses of this imagery is in the Harry Potter books, as the Death Eaters sign is a skull and snake.

Medusa: The Greek creature, a Gorgon (meaning "dreadful"). And whether it is the beautiful woman turned Gorgon after being raped in Athena's Temple or born as one of three Gorgon, she is ultimately beheaded and to me a tragic figure. Medusa is many things, but for me the snakes on her head represent deception. Self-deception, feminine deception, deception of evil or against evil as her head was depicted on shields and doorways to ward of evil and for protection. Carl Jung also refers to her as the devouring mother, which is a theme I'm fascinated with. If you are interested as well, more on that can be found here.

Growing up Medusa ©Shadow Leitner

Serpent and Eve: Another form of deception is the temptation of Eve in the Garden of Eden by none other than a serpent. It wasn't a cow or bird that tempted her, it was a serpent. This is where the forked tongued is relevant, its dual nature, but mostly what fascinates me about the symbology of this particular serpent is that everything the serpent has ever represented can be rolled up into this one. Deception, Death, Immortality, Knowledge, Secrets, Poison, Chaos, and the list goes on, this snake bears it all.  It may not be the first time in mythology and folklore that snakes are associated with evil but it has cemented our association of snakes with the Devil.

Ouroboros: The snake or dragon eating its own tail is a symbol that means infinity or the cyclic representation of nature, as well as life and death. Its most notable Gothic association is the use of this symbol in magic, from Ancient Egyptian to Renaissance magic. It is also a prominent symbol used in alchemy. Another example of the Ouroboros is J├Ârmungandr, the Midgard Serpent of Norse Mythology. A serpent that grew large enough to surround the world and bite its own tail.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Damballah (Voodoo Loa): A common element in Southern Gothics is Voodoo or Voudoun. The common loa (intermediary between "God" and "Man") depicted is Damballah Wedo (Li Grande Zombi) one of the most important loa and is characterized by a snake or serpent. Damballah represents balance, creation and water/rain and has its origins with the African creation deity, Nzambi. Snakes are often used in rituals invoking this loa who can possess a human and speaks with hisses. More on serpent worship and Li Grande Zombi can be learned here.

Photo by Jack Hamilton on Unsplash


Toads as a Gothic element usually pertain to magic, magical folklore, and superstitions.  I'm sure we've all heard that rubbing a toad on your warts can cure them. Some accounts state you have to impale it on a tree rubbing it on your warts and leave it to die, only then will it cure your warts. Poor frogs. Don't do that, neither rubbing or impaling said toad will cure you of warts.

Though, many a witch's spell call for frog parts. And modern science has confirmed that some frogs do have medicinal properties. However, some botanicals have the word frog in their common name. For example, when the witches of Shakespeare's Macbeth call for Toe of Frog it may actually be a variety of buttercup with the common name of Frog's Foot. Okay, that may be a stretch, but you get the gist.

Many ancient cultures viewed the frog and toad as positive symbols of luck, fertility, and protection One such example is the Ancient Egyptian Goddess with a frog head Hekt, who was associated with fertility and protection. Frogs were so sacred to Egyptians that they were often embalmed after death. The toad was sacred in other cultures, as well, because they either held the souls of dead children, as told in some European myths or were responsible the cycles of life and death and rebirth.

It wasn't until the Middle Ages that the toad fell from its sacred toadstool, as it were and become an element of evil. This is when they became known as witch familiars, doing the devil's work and were a common ingredient in witches brews and spells, according to the witch hunters of that day. Most accounts of their evilness describe their filthy habitats, cold and slimy skin, calculating eyes and harsh croaking. Hmm...sounds like some of my old boyfriends.

Anyway, I'd love to hear your favorite serpent or toad references or if you've used either in your stories. Let me know in the comments.

Also, if you are on Instagram, be sure to post your snake and/or toad images this week, using the hashtag #DarkInklings for a chance to be featured across my social media channels on Friday. They can be old or new images.

@shadowleitner on Instagram

As always, stay beautifully haunted!

♥ Shadow.

Monday, October 2, 2017

An Epic List of 100+ Werewolf & Wolf Shifter Descriptions

The Lycanthrope or Werewolf has been described in various ways in both literature and the movies, depending on the mythos used or created. Some describe him or her as an upright creature, some on all fours, but both variations are vicious beasts. Then there is the Wolfman, who is more of a beastly man than a completely transformed creature, sometimes fully clothed and very hairy. However, he will still tear your throat out if crossed, unless of course its Michael J. Fox as Teen Wolf. 

Another creature that has re-emerged and has been very popular lately is the Wolf Shapeshifter, in which a man or woman fully transforms into a wolf. The shift can occur regardless of the moon cycle and some shapeshifters have triggers like rage, while others can change at will.

Whatever the rules are or mythos used for your man to wolf story, many descriptions of Lycanthrope and/or Wolf Shifter are the same or at least very similar. So, I've listed over a hundred descriptions to help describe your version of this creature as well as its transformation. I hope it spurs your imagination. I'm sure once that door is opened you'll think of many more descriptions, I know I did. 

1.     coarse
2.     bristled
3.     matted
4.     mangy
5.     tuft
6.     mane
7.     crop
8.     thatch
9.     fleece
10.  barbed
11.  pelt
12.  wooly
13.  shaggy
14.  bushy
15.  scruff
16.  umber
17.  timber
18.  gray
19.  striped
20.  black
21.  white
22.  smoky
23.  coat
24.  warm

25.  yellow
26.  amber
27.  fierce
28.  ochre
29.  hungry
30.  savage
31.  red
32.  glowing
33.  dark
34.  intense
35.  predatory
36.  depth
37.  fixed
38.  wild

39.  fangs
40.  sharp
41.  carnivorous
42.  chiseled
43.  glistening
44.  tinged
45.  stained
46.  razors
47.  bare
48.  snap
49.  muzzle
50.  snout
51.  flared
52.  whiskered
53.  jowls
54.  quiver
55.  pant
56.  sniff
57.  jagged
58.  gnash
59.  crush
Image Courtesy of Imgur

60.  pricked
61.  perked
62.  swivel
63.  pointed
64.  tipped
65.  cocked
66.  twitch

67.  snarl
68.  howl
69.  cry
70.  yawp
71.  bay
72.  grunt
73.  grumble
74.  yowl
75.  rumble
76.  huff

77.  hunch
78.  crouch
79.  haunches
80.  thick
81.  wag
82.  sway
83.  pounce
84.  leap
85.  swift
86.  rear
87.  stalk
88.  pounce

Paws and Claws
89.  slash
90.  tear
91.  heavy
92.  pad
93.  paw
94.  splay
95.  jagged
96.  gash
97.  cleave
98.  blades
99.  rend
100.  sever
101.  rip
102. mangle

103. strain
104.  stretch
105.  sweat
106.  rack/pop
107.  sinewy
108.  clammy
109.  wretch
110.  convulse
111.  contort
112.  bulge
113.  fevered
114.  thrash
115.  peel
116.  split
117.  twist
118.  elongate
119.  rupture

Characteristics {In Human or Wolf Form}
120. Beastly
122. Rugged
123. Earthy
124. Heated
125. Temper
126. Ravenous
127. Hunter
128. Rustic
129. Woodsy
130. Loyal
131. Protective
132. Rough
133. Lupine
134. Wolfish
135. Territorial
136. Nocturnal
137. Vicious
138. Surly
139. Rage
140. Violent

­čÉż May all your nights be lit by a full moon.

Stay beautifully haunted!


Monday, September 4, 2017

Birds of Gothic Lore

So, I’m dedicating this post to those birds that give you that prickle along the back of your neck. And no, it’s not because they can poop bomb you from above, though that's certainly something you should look out for. I’m talking about the birds that have been inducted into the Gothic Hall of Fame (no, this doesn't exist, I wish), including some reasons why they are considered dark creatures. And as always, I hope to leave you with some resources to fuel your own inspirations.

Of course, just mentioning birds, I immediately think of Tippi Hedren being attacked by birds, in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” based on a short story of the same title by Daphne Du Maurier.


I still get shivers. Or the crow tapping on a lover’s grave bringing him back to life to act his revenge in “The Crow”. And I would never leave out the iconic “The Raven” quothing Nevermore by Edgar A. Poe, least I’m burnt at the stake for such gothic sacrilege.


Let’s start with the Raven. It truly sits atop this pecking order. But long before this bird showed up rapping on the chamber door of Lenore’s lamenter, it was considered a bird of bad omens and death.

Photo by Tyler Quiring on Unsplash {My edit using tin type}

Ravens have appeared in ancient texts and folklore as dark figures and continue to peak the imagination of writers and artists. Their mythical association to death is due in part to their black feathers and their formidable caw. They are also scavengers who eat carrion (decaying flesh), which is a common trait amongst most birds of gothic lore.

But not all historical references are to its darker nature, there are some depictions of white ravens, mostly in indigenous tales, but also in mythology. For example, Appollo was said to have had a white raven messenger and after receiving bad news threw a fit of fire, blackening the raven's feathers. Others refer to white versus black themes, like the raven and the dove sent out by Noah.

My favorite ravens are Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory), the ravens of the Norse god Odin. He would send them to gather information from every realm to report back to him, even from the underworld. Apparently, the dead are insufferable gossips.

An illustration from a 18th-century Icelandic manuscript
depicting Huginn and Muninn sitting on the shoulders of Odin.
{my edit using tin type}

Ravens have symbolically represented various things in different cultures, some are:
  • trickster, 
  • messenger, 
  • bad omens, 
  • malevolence, 
  • the three phases of day,  
  • the guardians of hermits, 
  • wisdom, 
  • prophecy, 
  • magic, 
  • facing one's fears, 
  • evil and death. 
I'm certain you could find a new spin on an old raven's tale, once you look in the different folk tales and myths of other cultures, as there are many.

If interested, a good place to start is here. You can also find more in-depth symbolic raven meanings here


The bird closely related to and often mistaken for a raven and vice versa is the Crow. 

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Much of the lore surrounding crows seems to be interchangeable with the raven, but there are some differences. Where the raven is mysterious, the crow is cocky and catty. The crow has a lot of secrets but not known for keeping them. But for all of that, crows are known for their intelligence. They are in the realms of chimpanzee and dolphin smart.

But back to their induction into the Gothic motifs. Black feathers, carrion eater, you know the drill. It's black, therefore, it must be evil, or at the very least, mysterious. And so it is associated with death and violence, among other nefarious things.

Here are few interesting Crow associations:

Counting Crows, and no I'm not referring to the rock band. Counting Crows is a form of fortune-telling, also known as augury, that dates back to Greek and Roman times. How many crows and which direction they were flying foretold everything from whether it was going to rain to misfortune to someone dying.
Eating crow is a saying attributed to these birds as someone having to eat their words or having to admit they were wrong, in other words, humility. May also be associated with literally eating crows, which was done during times of war and famine.

Crow and Pie is ballad from circa 1500's about a rape and was most likely a warning to women to be cautious and not let themselves be seduced because apparently in the 1500's rape was the woman's fault. This one ruffles my feminist feathers, but I will not digress.

The Crow can symbolize:
  • Intuition
  • Fearlessness
  • Wisdom
  • Messenger
  • Magic
  • Bad Omens
  • Death
  • Violent death
  • Trickster

Corbies are another name for Ravens and Crows. Our other black feathered friends are the Magpie, Jackdaws, Blackbirds, and Rooks.


When I think of Vultures, also known as Buzzards, I immediately think of old westerns. There is always a scene in the desert where they are circling the dead or dying. I would love to see a gothic story set in the old west, maybe set in a ghost town.  However, the Vulture is an even more ancient creature.

This bird was venerated in ancient Eygpt and is depicted in hieroglyphics as the letter "A". It is often referred to as the Pharaoh's Hen or Chicken.

Nekhebet is the goddess mostly tied to the Vulture, but it was also the favored bird of Isis, amongst others. Symbolically, the vulture represents the death and rebirth cycle, and thus immortality and associated with the feminine. Definitely, a figure to consider in a story that is rich with ancient Egyptian lore. You can find out more here.

The Egyptians weren't the only ones to recognize the vulture, as in Greek Mythology, Zeus turned two of his enemies, Aegypius and Neophron, into vultures. There are also several Native American and South American folk tales that depict or characterize this bird in some way.

We are most familiar with the bad connotations associated with the vulture, but actually, this bird has a lot of positive symbology, such cleanliness, rebirth, resourcefulness, and protection. More vulture symbology can be found here.


Okay, any bird that can turn its head 180 degrees like in "The Exorcist", warrants being on this list. And if you ever heard a barn or screech owl scream, you'd agree. I swear you'd think you heard a banshee.  

Photo by Massimo Mancini on Unsplash
{my edit using tin type}

Unlike the other birds of this post, this is a bird of prey, meaning it hunts living things for its food, and is nocturnal. However, its close relationship to magic, as well as, the night in general, I felt it warranted being here.

In mythology, the owl is best known for its association to the goddess Athena, and is thought to be wise, with such sayings as "Wise old owl”. It is also known as the guardian of souls and the protection from evil. However, the owl is the character of many folklores and superstitions. Some see the owl as a bad omen, but I much prefer its relationship to secrets and mysteries, like a crone witch.

It also serves as a prominent figure at Halloween, with its hooting haunting the spooky night.

There are many owl mythos and is rich with symbolism that I feel is worth exploring. If interested here is a great place to start.

How have you incorporated birds into your stories? Do you have any favorite books or movies that feature Gothic birds? Are there any other birds you would have added? If so, let me know in the comments.

Stay beautifully haunted!

♥ Shadow.