Gothic Romance – Isn’t it just a ghost story?
What are the features of gothic romance that make it unique, and make it stand out from other genre? Gothic romances are love stories with a dash of horror! Romances that scare the life out of you! And Harlequin Shivers are the ‘new’ gothics. They have elements of the unexplained, but they are not paranormal romances. Generally, the heroine and heroine are human beings who may have paranormal experiences. Shivers have high levels of sensuality, but their strong gothic story line makes them much more than an erotic romance. Some of the features of the gothic genre are:
This is the most important part of the planning process for a writer of gothic novels. Poetic, gloomy and atmospheric, the setting is another character. It is often a remote building, possibly of medieval origin, for example a castle, abbey or crumbling manor house.
Think wild mysterious landscapes-bleak moors, hard to reach islands or deep, inaccessible valleys.
Enclosed or claustrophobic spaces are also symbolic in gothic writing-crypts, passageways, caves, dungeons, secret rooms, dark towers, cloisters…
The Male Protagonist
- May have inherited powers or status-so he might be titled or talented
- May be solitary or egocentric
- Is likely to be a flawed personality
- May be obsessive
- We may get a sense of duality, or even that there is a doppleganger
- He may attract yet repulse, and the sensual elements can be overt or implied
The Female Protagonist
Our heroine has grown up since the days of Jane Eyre! Traditionally, she was a trembling victim, frail, passive and naïve, who was subjected to grotesque acts by a superior will.
Now, however, she is likely to be strong and feisty. She may well have many of the same characteristics as the male protagonist. And she will fight back!
- Crossing boundaries-natural/supernatural, barbaric/civilised, mortal/immortal, pleasure/pain
- Evokes fear and tension in the reader
- Dark secrets and forbidden knowledge
- Superstitions-curses, angels, demons, vampires, witches etc.
- Dreams and nightmares reveal unconscious mind
- Omens and portents
You know when you watch a scary film (usually through your fingers) and that character who is alone in the house goes into the attic (or maybe the cellar) to find out what the unexplained noises are? That’s why I write gothics.
When we see those scenes in films, or read them in books, we usually switch all the lights on before we sigh with relief and say, “You wouldn’t do that in real life. You’d run screaming out of the door.” But we still love to watch or read those scenes…because they give us shivers.