Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Little Bitty Notes

I came across this tidbit so I thought I'd post it for those who follow literary agents and their moves:

** "Nancy Yost is leaving Lowenstein-Yost Associates Inc. to start up her own literary agency.

** Literary agents Serafina Clarke and Brie Burkeman have combined their two companies to establish Brie Burkeman & Serafina Clarke Ltd., specializing in high quality commercial writing across all mediums.

Since I am writer, I thought I'd share some basic, "overview" findings on the gothic genre.

Gothic literature got its start in 1764 when Horace Walpole wrote “The Castle of Otranto.” Walpole’s story contained all the elements that define the genre. Throughout the years, many authors have taken their stab at writing Gothic literature, putting their own unique stamp on it.

Ann Radcliffe, writing in 1794, gave the genre a sense of legitimacy when she questioned the supernatural elements, explaining them away as natural causes. She also introduced the brooding villain, who by the end of the story, is revealed to the hero.

Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, was definitely influenced by Gothic elements, but her novel is considered the one of the first science fiction novels to be written.

Another influential author in the Gothic tradition was Edgar Allen Poe. In “The Fall of the House Usher,” he explored such classic Gothic themes of decay, death, and madness, but he added his own twist – he looked into the terrors of the soul.

Also writing during Poe was Emily Bronte. “Wuthering Heights,” explored Gothic elements on the Yorkshire Moors through the brooding “Heathcliff” character and is still a favorite today.

With Bram Stroker’s “Dracula,” the most famous Gothic villain ever was created. He also established Eastern Europe as a favorite locale for the genre. More recently, in the 1930’s, HP Lovecraft has been connected with the genre, blending the Gothic with horror, seting a new bar for writers.

Romance has also been mixed with the Gothic genre. During the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s, such authors as Victoria Holt and Dorothy Fletcher focused on the female and her connection to a gloomy castle.

Another sub-genre is known as Southern Gothic. This sub-genre takes traditional Gothic elements and plants them in the Southern United States.

To have a novel known as “Gothic,” its got to follow a set of rules. First, the setting takes place in a castle, or if the story is set in America, an old family estate. That’s what makes Southern Gothic so appealing, because an old plantation can be used. The estate, be it a castle, mansion, or plantation, can sometimes be abandoned, sometimes occupied, or it can be near caves to augment a mystery and may often contain secret passages, strap doors, and mysterious room.

Next, the novel has to carry an atmosphere of mystery and suspense. In the recent novel, “The Thirteenth Tale,” there’s an atmosphere of mystery built up around the parentage of the twins, “Emmeline and Adelaine.”

There’s usually an ancient prophecy involved along with omens and visions. In “The Thirteenth Tale” the storyteller tells Margaret that there’s a third girl which follows Emmeline and Adeline around, referring to her as a vision.

There are usually supernatural events which occur in gothic fiction. It doesn’t matter if they are given a natural explanation or not, the event is what’s important.

Other elements in Gothic literature include high emotion, women in distress, a powerful or tyrannical male figure and metonymies – metaphors like rain which is used to represent something else, like sorrow.

If you’re thinking of exploring the genre, read a couple of books first to get the “feel” for it. It can be fun to write for, but the plot and pacing must be tight for the story to be successful.


  1. Hi Steph,
    Took me a bit to get here. Your addy is, not the other way around!

    Anyway, I love Gothic novels. Those were some of the first "romances" I read, and my love for the mysterious elements stayed with me throughout all my storytelling adventures.

    Enjoyed the post!

  2. Maggie, I'm sorry. It's been a hectic week for me. Some of my first, more serious novels with gothic too and I really enjoyed them myself. A great gothic read that I recently found was "The 13th Tale" by Diane Setterfield. I think you would enjoy it.