Gothic Fiction, IWSG

What Do You Like Best About Gothic Fiction?

Free image courtesy Larisa-K on Pixabay.

It’s time for another post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), and as October is Halloween month, it seems appropriate that I’ll be talking about my favourite genre.

Haunted houses, eerie landscapes and forbidden secrets: ever since the publication of The Castle of Otranto in 1764, Gothic Fiction may have received its fair share of detractors, but it has gone on to become a very versatile genre.

For many years, I could never work out exactly which genre I wrote in. As I read in multiple genres, my writing would gravitate towards a variety of genres as well. Horror, romance, historical, mysteries: I tried them all. It’s only in more recent years that I’ve come full circle, returning to the genre that I was drawn to from a very early age (although I do still write in other genres).

I think I’ve managed to avoid my characters doing this. I might have to try it sometime!

One of the reasons why I enjoy Gothic Fiction so much is because it incorporates other genres, and therefore gives it more scope to tap into various themes. Two recurring themes for me are mental illness and gender issues, such as the status of women in society (which works well in a historical setting).

I grew up watching horror films and have always been fascinated by the paranormal (ghosts being my favourite), so I am naturally drawn to stories that contain these elements. I enjoy the suspense built within them, eager to keep turning the pages or watching to see what lurks within the shadows. As the setting is an important characteristic of the Gothic genre, this helps heighten the feelings of dread.

Gothic fiction is also highly emotional, which is why it works extremely well with romantic elements. Throw in a flawed, brooding hero and I’m sold. 😉

The BBC production of Jane Eyre is my favourite.

Death is a constant companion within the genre. I’ve had a morbid fascination about the subject from a young age (regular family visits to the local cemetery may have something to do with it). It is one of life’s great mysteries, and being naturally curious, I really enjoy a good mystery too!

Gothic Fiction has many characteristics, and as you can probably tell, I’m fond of all of them! Recently, I’ve heard that the Gothic novel is ‘coming back.’ For me, it never left.

For those who celebrate – Happy Halloween! 🙂

What do you consider the best characteristics of your favourite genre? Have you struggled to find your genre when it comes to writing? Do you have a favourite production of Jane Eyre?

IWSG

What Genre Would You Find Difficult to Write?

Free image courtesy 8385 on Pixabay.

Firstly, I’ve returned to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), where writers get together to share and encourage others. It’s good to be back and I look forward to reacquainting myself with fellow writers and meeting new ones along the way. 😊

The answer to this month’s optional question was a bit of a no brainer for me. As much as I enjoy watching science fiction, this is one genre I would find difficult to write. Despite my interest in science in general, I can never get my head around all the terminology and complex workings (the subject was not my best at school). I have a brain that’s wired to what my husband likes to refer to as ‘arty-farty’ (I’ll leave the hard-core science stuff to him).

I grew up in a household where we watched a lot of sci-fi shows on television: – Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Lost in Space, Space 1999, Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants, The Twilight Zone. So, it’s not as if I am suffering from a lack of influence! The funny thing is, it was not until after we got married that my husband discovered I was a Trekie (bonus brownie points, I guess).

I admit I have never tried writing anything in the genre, because, if I’m being honest, my interest is not strong enough. By that, I mean I don’t feel passionate enough about it, and realistically, we should be writing in genres where we feel the most passionate. And that, for me, is in the horror genre (The Twilight Zone helped play its part here).

Yes, I remain interested in science, I mean, how cool is the sound of a black hole? Sounds like something out of a horror movie! But I’ll leave the writing of the genre to others. I’m happy to just keep watching it and be introduced to more great shows, like Firefly. 😉

What genre would be the worst one for you to tackle and why? Which genre do you feel the most passionate about? Do you enjoy watching sci-fi?

 

This Writer's Life, Writing Process

Home is Where the Heart Is.

Free image courtesy David Mark from Pixabay.

This time last year, I entered my first RWA short story competition. Although my entry didn’t place, I managed to step out of my comfort zone. That story, along with one other, would later go on to become ‘First Christmas’, my first foray into the world of sweet paranormal romance. Even though I had fun writing both those stories, when my book was published in November, I felt happy to go ‘home’.

And where is that, exactly?

They say ‘home is where the heart is’, and for me that place is a spooky old mansion, full of dark shadows and forbidden secrets. My home, my real home, is among the darkness. Like many journeys we take, we sometimes need to spread our wings, but we always return to our roots.

In her book ‘Dear Writer, You Need to Quit’ (which I recommend for all you writers out there), Becca Syme says that we need to quit focusing on our weaknesses. Instead, we should focus on our strengths. Once we know what they are, development is the next step.

I recently finished reading Stephen King’s ‘Full Dark, No Stars’, and one of the things he had to say in the afterword resonated with me. ‘When it comes to fiction, the writer’s only responsibility is to look for the truth inside his own heart’.

Yes, I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic, but the dark side is my comfort zone. I have always been drawn to the horrors of what human beings are capable of, as well as the supernatural. I have come to accept it and learned to embrace it.

As we head into 2021, my path leads me into the shadows. I hope you’ll join me.

Where is your natural ‘home’ as a writer? Do you plan on writing in a different genre this year? Have you experimented with other genres, only to return where you’re the most comfortable?

IWSG, Writing

IWSG: Write What You Love.

Some years ago, I woke up from a very strange dream. It was so strange, that I kept thinking about it throughout the day, and decided to write the idea down. It was a horror story, and it became my first attempt at a short story. My husband read it and called it macabre, which I naturally took as a compliment. 😉

Originally, I never intended to write short stories, nor paranormal fiction. When I first started writing, I wanted to write novel-length pieces, but I always fell short. I also think this was due, in part, to the fact that at the time, I wanted to write romances. I fell I love with Jane Austen and continue to admire her work. As a teen, I read a lot of sweet romances and even tried writing a novel for Mills and Boon. Despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t do it. Anything romantic would need to have a dark side. I was well and truly into Bronte territory.

My muse was clearly taking me down some dark alleys.

I grew up watching a lot of film and television. Horror, suspense, and mysteries really caught my attention. I was also fascinated by the paranormal. What was staring me in the face, I chose to ignore, until only a few years ago. I finally gave in to my muse and I believe I have now finally found my ‘voice’.

From that strange dream, I went on to write more short stories, entered short story competitions, and even self-published a couple of them. Later this year, in time for Christmas, I will be releasing a couple more. I am also currently working on a series of novellas.

I love the short form and will continue to write them. Meanwhile, with a lot of trial and error, my novel drafts are slowly beginning to take shape. 😉

Have you written in a form or genre you hadn’t planned writing in? Do you choose a form/genre in advance?

The purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Image courtesy Pixabay

IWSG, Up Close & Personal

IWSG: What Would Readers Never Know About You from Your Work?

For this month’s question, I was really struggling to find an answer.

Honestly, I don’t know if it is due to the weather (we are officially in winter here in Australia), current world events, or because I have been struggling with some depression lately. It could even be all three! Either way, I came up with a couple of different things that readers may not know about me from my work.

I enjoy some science fiction

I’m a hopeless romantic

Okay, they might get to learn this!

I like cute things and I’m a dog person

I enjoy fantasy (especially when it looks like this) 😉

What would readers never know about you from your work? Have world events started to take a toll on you? Have you been struggling with your writing lately?

The purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Main image courtesy Unsplash

Writing, Writing Process

5 Lessons from James Patterson’s Masterclass.

Before the end of 2018, I was given an early Christmas present. It was for James Patterson’s Masterclass. I had heard about this course for some time and had been wanting to do it for a while. I was introduced to James Patterson some years back, when I read his first book, Along Came a Spider, the first in the Alex Cross series. Since then he has produced so many books, it’s been difficult to keep up! It’s no wonder he has gone on to become the world’s bestselling author.

The course covers a lot of information and is great for new writers and for writers like myself, who already have some writing knowledge, but could do with more advice. With that in mind, here are five of the best things I learned from the Masterclass:-

1. Write Fast

In order to get the story down, you need to crash through. If you’re struggling, don’t torture yourself, just write ‘to be done’ and move on. This is helpful to avoid the dreaded writer’s block. The more you write, the better you get.

2. Work with an Outline

Everything needs to be in the outline. The outline should have lots of promise, so you can’t wait to write each scene. When you’re writing an outline, you’re thinking about the story. Write the story! James demonstrates this process in a detailed outline guide, and you will need to do the course in order to learn more.

3. Create Complex Characters

You want readers to love your characters or hate them; make the reader ‘feel’. Create characters the reader is not going to forget. In order to understand your character, you need to see the other side to that character by making them more complex and well-rounded. Villains need to be smart, clever and need to surprise you. The more you humanise the villain, the better.

4. Keep Raising the Stakes

Know your genre – know what’s out there in order to avoid it. Don’t write stuff that’s already out there, put a new twist on it. Find something that’s fresh and new. One of the biggest secrets of suspense is setting up questions the reader must have answered. Keep raising the stakes. Keep the reader guessing. Don’t give the answer away too quick; give it away slowly. Don’t assume that anyone is safe.

5. Stay Positive While Editing

Don’t start re-writing until you’ve written one draft. With the first re-write, try to get to the heart of your story. Keep moving forward; make it so that the pages turn themselves. Stay positive during the edit, break it down into parts to make it manageable. Think of editing as making it better. You didn’t make a mistake; you’re making it closer to what it should be.

The biggest take-aways for me were writing fast and working with an outline. Because I tend to think too much over my ideas, by the time I get to write them down, I can sometimes lose interest and look for the new shiny. 😉 Outlines have always been a part of my writing routines, but after doing this course, I’ve been using James’ method ever since.

The course comes with video and workbook, and you can work through them at your own pace. The video contains about twenty-four lessons and the course also contains access to the Masterclass community, so that you can share work and join the discussion with other students.

Because the course covers a wide range, some information you may have heard already, but it does contain advice you may never have heard of before, let alone considered (the gender breakdown of his readership, and how that influences his content is one example).

I felt one of the drawbacks was that James focused on writing thrillers, which is understandable as that is his genre, but it may not be what writers of different genres want to know about. Also, the course covers the topic on writing for Hollywood, which may be interesting, but not necessarily helpful to writers who don’t plan on going down this path.

If you haven’t done the course and you want to know more about it, you can read this helpful post to find out if it is worth your money or you can jump right in and sign up for the Masterclass.

‘If you don’t love it, you’re not going to finish the book. That’s okay. That’s telling you that’s not what you’re going to do. You have an interest in it, but you’re not that passionate about it. If you are passionate about it, you can’t help yourself; you have to write it. You’ve got to write that book’.

Have you done the Masterclass with James Patterson or are you thinking of doing so? What were your main take-aways from the course? What course have you done recently that you found beneficial to your writing?

Writing, Writing Process

Writing In a Different Genre.

As an unpublished writer, I have the luxury of experimenting with what I write and how I write it. Recently one morning I woke up with an idea for a story title. I thought it sounded good – if I wrote in that particular genre. And therein lay the problem. Was my subconscious mind trying to tell me something?

For years I have struggled with this. No, I do not write romance, simply because I do not always like to see a happy ending. And right there are two important words – not always. So, sometimes I do like to see happy ever afters. In my teenage years I devoured Sweet Dreams Romance books, was introduced by a friend to Mills & Boon and enjoyed reading Jane Austen so much, back then I wanted to write just like her (yes, seriously). And just for balance I also read a lot of Stephen King (can you see my dilemma now?) 😉 This is why I believed my writing would be more suitable to women’s fiction, and my longest short story so far reflects that as there is no happy ending.

After I left High School, I wrote to Mills & Boon and received submission guidelines and a tape on how to write for them. Try as I might, I just couldn’t do it. I believed I could not write a romance, but perhaps the real problem for me was that they were too formulaic.

Perhaps, also, my greatest resistance to writing a romance is because I always looked at it in terms of the novel. As I enjoy writing in the shorter form and thanks to self-publishing, lately I have some ideas for romances of short story/novella length. It is a starting point to stepping out of my comfort zone and experimenting at the same time. Who knows if it will lead to something or not, but clearly such thoughts have remained repressed for some time. It just needed a little push. 😉

Do you write in different genres? Have you resisted writing a particular genre or are you happy to experiment? Has your subconscious told you something about your own writing and have you acted upon it?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

Writing, Writing Process

Emulating Other Writers

anne-hathaway-in-becoming-janeYears ago when I started taking writing seriously I wanted to emulate a particular author I was reading at the time. By this stage I had done a fair amount of reading and I was doing a couple of writing courses by correspondence. It may sound silly now, but back then I was a Jane Austen wannabe.

In High School, some of my reading involved books such as the Sweet Dreams series (which I bought by the truckload) and borrowing Mills and Boons romances from one of my girlfriends. I was smitten by the ‘love bug’. I began writing my own romances, but I soon abandoned them as my plots were paper thin.

After leaving school, I persisted with the romance genre, despite my poor writing efforts. Romance novels were popular; there must be something I was doing wrong. So I sent away for a tape from Mills and Boon on how to write a romance novel. I went over that tape a number of times; trying to work to their formula, but still I couldn’t master it. It was around this time that I had moved on to different reading material, such as Richard Laymon and Catherine Cookson – I even struggled through Lord of the Rings (and struggle I did, but I eventually made it to the end). I even read the Brontes, re-visited some Stephen King and an old favourite, a gothic romance named Dragonwyk.

I soon discovered I had moved away from being a Jane Austen wannabe. I could never really write a Mills and Boon; there was no ‘passion’ in it for me as a writer (although these days I may still try writing romance – never say never  😉 ).

It took a while, but I found that there’s no harm in emulating other writers when we start out. It helps us to learn our craft through reading; we discover our strengths and weaknesses, our likes and dislikes, our genre or genres, as well as finding our own voice. That’s the time when we need to stop emulating others. Just like there is only one Jane Austen, there is only one you. Let your voice be heard.

Have you found your voice by emulating other writers? Who was your ‘wannabe’ author? Have you tried writing in a genre that just wasn’t really your ‘thing’?

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Writing

Genre Writing – Gothic Fiction.

Recently I have been questioning what my chosen genres as a writer really are.  Then I experienced my ‘light bulb’ moment and wondered why I had not thought of it before.  I was about ten years old when I discovered Anya Seton’s Dragonwyck.  That book really reeled me in and I’ve read it many times since and it inspired me to read more within the genre of gothic fiction.

Gothic fiction combines both horror (psychological and/or physical) and romance.  There is a heavy emphasis on atmosphere in order to help build suspense.  Gothic fiction usually deals with past eras, using medieval settings or in more modern times Victorian England and pre Civil War Southern United States.

Gothic elements usually include some of the following:

  • Medieval setting, usually in a castle or 19th century mansion
  • An atmosphere of mystery and suspense
  • Supernatural or other inexplicable events, which can include ghosts, werewolves and monsters
  • Women in distress
  • An ancient prophecy, omens , visions, dark secrets
  • A tyrannical male, villains and Byronic heroes
  • Mad characters
  • Romance

Stories that are considered gothic fiction include The Mysteries of Udolpho, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Rebecca and of-course Edgar Allan Poe.  Some of the works by Charles Dickens and Stephen King are considered to be that of gothic fiction.  And who could forget Jane Austen’s take on it all in Northanger Abbey?

What I love about gothic fiction is that it combines horror, suspense, mystery/crime, the supernatural, history and romance – all genres I enjoy reading; it all fits under one big umbrella.  So that’s who I am – a writer of gothic fiction.

Do you enjoy gothic fiction?  Do you have a favourite?  If you’re a writer, have you experienced a ‘light bulb’ moment in your chosen genre/s?

Free image by Simon Howden courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Writing

Writing with Passion.

These past few weeks I’ve been doing a bit of ‘soul searching’.  Basically, after reading Get Known before the Book Deal, I’ve been concentrating on platform building.  This involves taking some time to work out my interests as a writer.

Years ago, I experimented with writing different genres.  One that I particularly remember was romance writing.  I read ‘how to’ books, listened to tapes, even joined the RWA.  I was foolish enough to believe that writing in this genre was easy, but I actually found it difficult.  Why?  I think it was because (pardon the pun) my heart wasn’t in it.  I wasn’t interested in the ‘girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl wins boy’ scenario: in fact it bored me.  Personally, I don’t mind reading romance in a story as part of the sub-plot, but the main story has to grab my attention and pure romance wasn’t doing it for me.

I grew up reading and watching suspense, mystery, crime and horror.  History always fascinated me as well, so by combining all these elements I have now come full circle.  I have come to understand who I really am as a writer.  In order to be successful as a writer, one needs to write what they are passionate about.  Anything else and you’re not being authentic and true to yourself.

So this Valentines’ Day, listen to your heart when it comes to your writing.

Are you following your passion as a writer?