Writing the Gothic

Yesterday evening I went to an event of the Royal Society of Literature. I’ve been a member for several years now and would recommend membership to all concerned with reading and writing. Even if you can’t always attend the events, the RSL Review keeps you up to date with events and life at the RSL. My copy of the Review dated Summer 2018 has an article about Virginia Woolf and the celebration of  Dalloway Day that June. This year’s Dalloway Day is to be held again in June and I have every intention of taking part.


But yesterday we were listening to writers Sarah Perry and Kate Mosse, chaired by Shahidha Bari, talking about writing the modern Gothic. Apart from my aim to attend as many of the RSL events as I can, I was especially interested in this topic as I have a novel to re-draft. This re-write will be my next writing project after successfully launching The Baby Box, a memoir of the mid-sixties.

Several years ago, I followed an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. My aim was to write a gothic novel. The gothic elements were the setting, a Jacobean house by the sea, and two of the characters. One of which was Granny Hastings, a wiry old lady, who wore only black, had wild wisps of hair escaping from the bun at the back of her head and escaped her unhappy family by drinking too much stout and dancing Knees up Mother Brown on her way back from her local, The Kicking Donkey.

The first draft ended up being a family saga of a hasty marriage made at the end of WWII, with an ignored girl-child who was befriended by her weird uncle in the attic of the Hastings house. Too long and completely off the original point. Apart, perhaps, from the uncle in the attic.

Now I know that modern Gothic novels explore our unknown fears, that nature is forbidding territory, Gothic novels include revenge but also a resolution, they have a moral point and must be anchored in the familiar.

So the reader’s fear that the girl/uncle relationship might end in sexual terror, which worried me, shouldn’t. That’s fine. I know that by the sea and in rock pools aren’t wonderful places for children to play, their rough waves and scaly creatures are threatening. I have learn that to include unbelievable letters, written by or to the protagonist, is a good plot device.

This Writing the Gothic has now interested me to the extent that it will be the topic for next week’s blog.

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5 thoughts on “Writing the Gothic

  1. Laura L Engel says:

    I always enjoy your posts. Today I had to smile. My Grammy was Grammy Hastings. Her maiden name was Louella Hastings aka Grammy. Not quite the character you described, but one of the main characters in my life and in my memoir in progress. I just ordered your book The Baby Box… I too was an unwed teenage mother in the 1960s and am writing a memoir. Cannot wait to read your book. 🙂


    • janehaywardwriter says:

      Fine. I’m sure you will receive it ok. Your geographical home is interesting for me. I did have an order through my website via Paypal to send to Texas. On the total deal with postage, my net gain was nil. But I knew this person quite well so that was fine. I’d always advise those in the USA to order through Amazon. I’d have thought there were many differences in our situations back then but I’d love to hear about them so if you publish your memoir please put a comment to that effect on my website. Best wishes, Jane


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