Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Gothic-Writing Points

My blog post from April 2nd (Gothic Musings) was about writing in gothic style and explaining different visual inspirations. Oddly enough, last week I stumbled on an article titled Elements of the Gothic Novel by Robert Harris. Since I consider the Collective Obsessions Anthology in the realm of gothic fiction, I was interested in the article's points.

According to Harris, gothic novel elements include:

Setting in a castle; an atmosphere of mystery and suspense; an ancient prophecy connected with the castle or its inhabitants; omens, portents, visions; supernatural or otherwise inexplicable events; high, even overwrought emotion; women in distress; women threatened by a powerful, impulsive, tyrannical male; the metonymy of gloom and horror; and the vocabulary of the gothic.

None of the eight books in the Collective Obsessions Anthology 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: All titles in the Collective Obsessions Anthology have 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 anthology.

Although I've only included terms that apply to my anthology, 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); and 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 point that doesn't apply to the anthology is "uncertainty of reciprocation."

Even the most obsessive character in the anthology (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.

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