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So You Want to Write a Gothic Novel

It’s almost Halloween which means everything Gothic, dark, gory, supernatural, and dead etc. Let’s suppose you want to get into the spirit and write a gothic story for Halloween. But how do you go about writing a Gothic tale or story and what elements do you include? Well, without getting too much into the history of the Gothic, I’m going to give you nineteen themes that are traits on the Gothic story.

1) The Dark Secret: There was Frankenstein, the Castle of Otranto, Bruce Wayne and his secret identity. You name it. Most Gothic novels always start with a secret, a secret that usually spells doom for the main characters or makes their lives extraordinarily difficult

2) Frame Stories: This is very apparent in Frankenstein. We start with a man’s, Robert I think, journal, letters to his sister, and then finding Frankenstein and relaying Frankenstein’s story to his sister, and in that story we have the story of the Creature and… well I think you get it. Dracula is similar to this, but not quite. We get the compilation of a lot of people’s experience and journals and they put it together to make a story.
3) Death: Not just someone dying, but there’s always this odd fascination with death period and trying to overcome it or avoid it.
4) Violence: Do I need to really describe this? Name one scary or dark movie you’ve seen that didn’t have some kind of violence in it.
5) Incest: Frankenstein married his cousin. Judge Turpin was enamored by his ward and wanted to marry her. In Vampire Knight, the main coupling, Kaname and Yuuki, are siblings. Need I say more?
6) The Haunted: Whether it be a haunted house, a haunted item, or a haunted person, the supernatural haunting something through and item or prop is a well known theme in gothic tales. The Haunting, Psycho, Beetlejuice, Season of the Witch (a recent one), and many more explore this thing of an item or person being possessed by a spirit and therefore haunted.
7) Thirst for Knowledge: This is a theme that’s more prevalent in the first incarnations of gothic stories. Frankenstein is my favorite example of this, finding out something that was probably not supposed to known to begin with. But there is always the curiosity factor in scary movies. We all know darn well that the MC shouldn’t have gone into that house with his friends, but their too curious to know what’s really going on to stop.
8) Ignorance is bliss/Dangerous Knowledge: Sometimes we’re just better off not knowing about the vampire from Transylvania, better off not knowing the secret of life, better off not finding out the barber of Fleet street is a psychopathic murderer who kills his victim and lets his partner make the bodies into pies. Knowledge is power. But sometimes, ignorance is bliss and if vampire do exist in the world, I rather be blissfully ignorant of it.
9) Isolation: The haunted house is always on a hill in the woods by itself. The haunted hotel is off by itself in Psycho. Dracula gets to Lucy when she’s by herself in her room. The school in Vampire Knight is off by it itself, away from town and who can blame them? Gotta hide the vampires somehow.
10) Forbidden Love: Whether it be the mutual kind or one-sided kind, you can’t have a gothic novel without a forbidden romance somewhere along the way. Twilight picks up on this one. In fact, that’s the main gothic theme.
11) Omens: Gothic stories love using symbolism and signs to freak us out by pointing to something on the horizon. They also like to do that to point us in the wrong direction so we aren’t paying attention to what we probably should be.
12) Obsession: Dorian Gray anyone? This guy has an obsession for catering to his every whim want and desire. And Batman is so obsessed with fighting crime he can’t settle down.
13) Revenge: Sweeney Todd, the modern incarnation. Enough said.
14) Desire: Um… All of the Gothic stories I’ve read so far. But Dorian Gray sticks out here because he lives by his desires.
15) Betrayal: Someone’s always throwing somebody under the bus to save themselves in these stories or to get what they want. Judge Turpin didn’t technically betray Todd, because they weren’t friends per say, but he certainly betrayed his reputation and his profession.
16) Mental Disorders: Sweeny Todd’s a psychopath and so is Joker. Eleanor is a little paranoid in The Haunting, John Harker goes mad from the realization that Dracula ain’t quite human.
17) Decadence: Ever notice the setting for these movies is the dark woods, an old house, or a big dirty city?
18) Lust: Do I have to give an example? Do I really have to?
19) The Sublime: The gothic is famous for making things beautiful, yet horrifying, The vampires in Vampire Knight are beautiful, hot, gorgeous, but they can impale someone at the drop of the dime and cause windows to shatter. Sweeney Todd, like all psychopaths, knows how to play up the charm and put you in the exact position they want you in. The haunted house is always magnificent and beautiful, but is sits on a cliff.

So I say that if you’ve got at least five of these elements, you’ve got the makings of a nice dark gothic story on your hands, just perfect for getting into the spirit of Halloween or if you’re like me and don’t celebrate it, for the fun of it. This stuff is awesome!

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