Gothic fiction is often times confused with horror fiction, but the two are very different. While horror fiction focuses primarily on scaring the reader by describing horrifying events and characters, gothic fiction is more romantic. The key elements to gothic fiction are the love story, the creepy environment, the castle, lots of symbols and the supernatural. Horror fiction usually avoids the romance topic, but since no novel or story can focus completely on a single genre, the two sometimes intertwine.
Writing gothic fiction is not easy however because most people tend to move towards horror and they rely too little on the story itself. The best way to learn how to write gothic fiction is to read the original gothic novels and short stories to get a hang of what this genre is all about. Here are some examples:
1. The Castle of Otranto
You can’t write gothic fiction without having read The Castle of Otranto, Horace Walpole’s 1764 masterpiece. This novel is the cornerstone of gothic fiction. It was the first known gothic novel and it features the key elements of gothic literature: a love story gone bad, a castle, rain and thunders and secret passageways underneath the castle, a crazed madman who chases a beautiful lady, ghosts and many more. The first time I read this novel, I started laughing out loud at some parts because of how clichéd they seemed. Overall though, it is a very nice read and you will not get bored one bit. It’s one of those stories that is so clichéd that it’s perfect.
This novel will teach you what a gothic novel should look like. What better way to start learning about gothic fiction than by reading the original piece that triggered this entire genre?
2. Wuthering Heights
Whenever you think about gothic fiction, I bet you don’t think about the Bronte sisters. Although Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte’s novel, is not fully a gothic novel, it still contains a lot of the classic elements that we saw in The Castle of Otranto. Wuthering Heights is a great example of a story that features Gothic elements at its core, but which is also mixed with elements from other genres. We have the typical Gothic castle in the story, represented by the Wuthering Heights home, the supernatural element represented by Catherine’s ghost and the exotic setting that separates the two worlds, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange.
However, the story is different from that of Horace Walpole because it no longer focuses completely on the Gothic side. It introduces romance elements. You can learn a lot about integrating Gothic elements into a typical romance story from Wuthering Heights.
I don’t think I have to say a lot about Bram Stoker’s Dracula because I am sure you’ve heard all about it, regardless whether you read the story or not. It is one of those stories that became so popular that you already know the plot and the characters without having to read it.
While Wuthering Heights is a classic example of a gothic story mixed with a lot of romance elements, Dracula is the perfect example of a what a Gothic story looks like when it is mixed with horror. Bram Stoker does a great job in mixing the typical love story with horror elements. If you plan to write a Gothic novel with more horror elements, let Bram Stoker be your teacher. The man does a great job in scaring his readers, while also making them become emotionally invested in the love story between Jonathan Harker and Mina Murray.
So there you have it, three very important Gothic novels that you should definitely read if you plan to add a few Gothic elements to your book. What you have to remember though is to always keep the love element in the book. A Gothic story without love or at least one character slowly eaten away by love or guilt developed by his or her love for someone is just pure horror.
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