In one of my first writing classes, the instructor asked class members what genre they chose for their writing?
I raised my hand and replied, "Gothic Romance."
She threw me her most disapproving look and said, “If you want to sell your work, you’ll want to forget about the Gothic Romance. Its market has passed. Readers aren’t interested in that today.”
Perhaps I don’t take instruction well. Or perhaps I simple write what I like to read. I’ve spent many fine hours enjoying Daphne du Maurier, Emily Bronte, Barbara Michaels, Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney and Amanda Quick.
I went on to finish that Gothic Romance book because it felt right to me and I really like Gothic Romances. In fact, I’ve written several more. I don’t know if any will sell, but I have to tell you they were pleasures to write. So much so, I’m starting on another.
At this point, you might be wondering just what a Gothic Romance is.
"Infoplease" defines a Gothic Romance as “a type of novel that flourished in the late 18th and early 19th century in England. Gothic Romances were mysteries, often involving the supernatural and heavily tinged with horror, and they usually were set against dark backgrounds of medieval ruins and haunted castles.”
I believe Gothic Romances actually flourish today under the broader umbrella of Paranormal Romance. All right then, how can you tell if you’re reading a Gothic Romance?
It's not difficult. Gothic Romances have some common elements. Here are 13:
1. The story unfolds in an eerie atmosphere, full of peril.
2. The setting is forbidding or haunted. Typical sites: A manor in the moors, an isolated ruin or a haunted castle.
3. Often, the writer’s voice is melancholy and in a minor key.
4. The writer and you as a reader expect bad things to happen to the heroine.
5. The story is shrouded in mystery, a past secret that the readers and the heroine must figure out.
6. The heroine enters the story as a victim, someone in the wrong place at the wrong time.
7. Even though the heroine is a victim, she has the potential to unearth the past secrets.
8. The heroine is resourceful and -- even if she doubts it -- she possesses an inner strength equal to the threatening situation she’s thrown into.
9. The hero, usually the master of the menacing dwelling, appears to be sinister, at least at the story’s start.
10. The hero almost always knows about the unfortunate past.
11. As the heroine uncovers the mystery, she enters into a relationship with the hero.
12. If there are two love interests in the story, one will turn out to be the villain.
13. Often the heroine is a virgin. Usually the main characters are so busy solving the mystery and surviving they have little time for intimacy.
Well, that’s my list. Can you think of any other Gothic Romance elements I might have missed? I’m taking suggestions. Also if you’ve read a good Gothic recently, please share. Thanks.
“How to Write A Romance and Get It Published,” by Kathryn Falk