Gothic-Writing Points

Posted Tue, 04/12/11

Last week I stumbled upon an article titled Elements of the Gothic Novel by Robert Harris. Since I consider the Collective Obsessions Saga in the realm of gothic fiction, I was interested in the article's points.

According to Harris, gothic novel elements include:

  1. Setting in a castle.

  2. An atmosphere of mystery and suspense.

  3. An ancient prophecy connected with the castle or its inhabitants.

  4. Omens, portents, visions.

  5. Supernatural or otherwise inexplicable events.

  6. High, even overwrought emotion.

  7. Women in distress.

  8. Women threatened by a powerful, impulsive, tyrannical male.

  9. The metonymy of gloom and horror.

  10. The vocabulary of the gothic.

None of the eight books in the Collective Obsessions Saga are set in a castle, but rather a large mansion by the sea. The atmosphere is most definitely mysterious and suspenseful at times. As for "ancient prophecy" being connected to the structure or it's inhabitants, there is an element of divine fate playing itself out through several generations totaling more than 140 years.

The other points are covered as well: Collective Obsessions has omens with touches of the supernatural, along with emotional drama (mental illness, murder, suicide, obsession), and women in distress. While most females in the storyline come across as rather assertive, a few of them are indeed threatened by unbalanced males at one time or another.

The "gloom and horror" ambiance is present, although neither dominates any one book in the saga.

Although I've only included terms that apply to the Collective Obsessions Saga, Harris defines "vocabulary of the gothic" as the following:

  • Mystery (diabolical, enchantment, ghost, haunted, omens, ominous, portent, secret, spectre, spirits).

  • Fear, terror & sorrow (anguish, apprehensions, commiseration, concern, despair, dismay, dread, frantic, grief, hopeless, lamentable, melancholy, miserable, mournfully, panic, sadly, shrieks, sorrow, sympathy, tears, terror, unhappy, wretched).

  • Surprise (alarm, amazement, astonished, shocking, staring, thunderstruck, wonder).

  • Haste (anxious, frantic, impetuous, sudden).

  • Anger (enraged, furious, incensed, provoked, raving, resentment, temper, wrath).

  • Largeness (enormous, massive, tremendous, vast).

In addition, elements of romance are considered part of the gothic genre. These are: powerful love, uncertainty of reciprocation, unreturned love, tension, lovers parted, illicit love and rival love. The only point that might not apply to my saga is "uncertainty of reciprocation."

Even the most obsessive character in the saga (Mike Sullivan, who appears in The Twain Shall Meet) never has doubt that the object of his desire will return his affections. He is actually quite certain she will be his in the end, even when all odds are stacked against him (re: incarceration in a sanitarium).

Gothic tales and the writing thereof may not be to the taste of everyone, but the genre continues to fascinate me.

It's one of the reasons I chose to use the pseudonym Deidre Dalton for the Collective Obsessions Saga. I want to keep the eight-part series detached from my work as Deborah O'Toole because my other books do not contain gothic elements. Mind Sweeper has a touch of Gothicism, but stories like Celtic Remnants have nothing in common with the genre.

Whatever the case, Elements of the Gothic Novel is a good read for those with an interest in the style.

*POSTSCRIPT (02/14/14): My novel Glinhaven will also include elements of traditional gothic style (see blog post Return to Glinhaven).

Irish Eyes: Writing

Tags: Collective Obsessions; Glinhaven; Writing