October 30, 2008 at 1:00 am (General, Marcia Colette) (, )

This time of year brings out all of the scary things and creatures of the night.  I especially LOVE old movies around this time of year because that’s when the gothic movies are most likely to come out and play.   

For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out what made gothic stories so special.  Then, my mother turned me on to the movie Psycho at…well…I was very young at the time.  But even then, I think I subconsciously knew what it was.  It’s all about the house, baby.  Or in some cases, the castle.  Okay, perhaps not all about the house, but it plays an important role.  And you can’t forget the characters either.  After all, they’re the ones who will make or break a story.

I’m sure there’s probably more to it than that, so let’s dissect for a moment.  When you have some big, spooky house in the background that elicit fear from the characters within the story, there’s a good chance that you have a sweet, suspenseful read on your hands.  Most of the time the supernatural is involved and there’s one character who has power over another, tormenting their poor victim with their madness.  The atmosphere is dark and oppressive with some mystery involved. 

The gothic effect gets really good whenever we have a vampire, witch, or demon involved, but the house is a major character, too, and all it does is just sits there.  If it’s haunted or is near a cemetery, even better.  I love to read about the spiders creeping around on the webs, the shadows coming to life, and the deep halls extending like a throat into the stomach of the house.  A lot of the creepiness isn’t just in the characters, but it’s in the details.

Some of my favorite gothic movies/books are novels by H.P. Lovecraft, Beauty and the Beast, Rose Red, Gaslight, Dark Shadows, Frankenstein, The House on Haunted Hill, and Rebecca.  That’s a pretty wide stretch when it comes to what’s gothic, from a cartoon to mystery to horror.  I guess it’s fair to say that not every gothic story has to be blood, guts, and gore, though it’s the paranormal ones that keep me on the edge of my seat. 

I could be wrong, but I think gothic romance is making a comeback.  It doesn’t matter so much if it’s historical or contemporary because it’s all about the thrill and the who-done-it’s.  I, for one, have my fingers crossed, my popcorn ready, and the lights on.  Toss in a vampire or a werewolf and I am so there.

Anything I’m missing?  What does or doesn’t do it for you when it comes to all things gothic (romance, horror, suspense, etc.)?

PS. Happy Halloween!!

~Marcia Colette


  1. Savanna Kougar said,

    Hi Marcia, wonderful scary analysis. I hadn’t realized how much the gothic mansion/castle does play a major character role.
    There’s only a few stories I like in this genre. However, I love the premise of what could be created…yeah, werewolves, vampires and even manifesting ghosts…

  2. Marcia said,

    Hey back at ya, Savanna. 🙂

    I admire authors who can weave the house/castle/mansion into their story and make it just as real as the characters. Granted it’s not alive, but it certainly feeds into the mentality of the owner. I think that’s why gothic stories just have this creepy, weird vibe about them that I love so much. Throw in a paranormal angle and it’s on, baby! Oh, yeah!

  3. Lou Gagliardi said,

    Don’t forget Dracula, Marcia. That’s considered Gothic too.

    I don’t know, depending on the book, romance bothers me in a Gothic. Unless it’s truly eternal love, or something, it irks me.

  4. Keira from LoveRomancePassion said,

    I believe you are right.

    Gothic romance > Mystery/Suspense/Thriller romance. The level of intensity and setup is different.

    Gothic romance heroes are also pretty Byronic.

  5. Kath Calarco said,

    Gothic brings to mind gargoyles. There’s nothing creepier than a cement fanged head illuminated by lightening.

  6. Karin said,

    Frankenstein is also one of my favorite gothic novels. And, even though it isn’t terribly dark but is more a parody of the gothic style, I really enjoy Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. I probably like that as a gothic because I’m not a big fan of scary stuff, so it fits me perfectly.

  7. Teresa D'Amario said,

    You know, Christine Feehan’s Drake sisters centers around their home, and it’s magical… set along the cliffs of a northeastern city, I feel it’s a gothic style home….With a personality!

  8. Marcia said,

    Crap, Lou! I thought I put that one in there. Dracula is HUGE on the gothic elements. I also think it can work in a romance, but the author has to be careful with how they craft it. After all, I doubt anyone would fall in love with a madman.

    Definitely, Keira. I believe the intensity is key to defining genre of gothic romance. It’s pretty much paranormal, where it can branch out in many different subgenres and still work.

    YES, Kathy!! How could I possibly forget gargoyles? I LOVE gargoyles. Well, perhaps not those ones with the squashed faces and tongues hanging out. 😉

    Karin, nothing wrong with that. That’s why I included Beauty and the Beast for my non-scary gothic. Look how awesome that story turned out to be. 😉 No scariness necessary.

    Teresa, as long as the house has personality and it’s gothic in style, that counts. At least, to me it does. I’ll have to look for that one. There are so many of Christine Freehan’s books out that I’vve lost track of which ones I’ve read. 😆

  9. edie17 said,

    My book DEAD PEOPLE has a haunted old house with secret rooms. I had a lot of fun with that. The house was a character right from the beginning.

    I don’t like horror much, unless it’s really well done, but I do like romance and suspense in a Gothic.

  10. Beth C. said,

    I never got into the scary movie thing. I’d much rather be scared by a book. I read Poe and Alfred Hitchcock. You can read them this time of year and no one looks at you weirdly. I do think of my early years in the brownies and girl scouts when old ghost stories were told (inside around a flashlight, but hey I was a city girl)

  11. Marcia said,

    Ooooooooo, Edie! The more I hear about DEAD PEOPLE, the more I want my hands on that book. Here’s to hoping it finds a publishing home with AT5! 🙂

    Beth, Poe has always been one of my favorites around Halloween. The same goes for Alfred Hitchcock, too. And don’t feel bad about the ghost stories around the flashlight. City girl here, raising her hand with yours. 😉

  12. Teresa D'Amario said,


    Well, in CF’s, the house doesn’t show it’s true personality until the 4th book I think it is… Maybe the 5th in the Drake Sisters. It scared ME, that’s for sure. LOL

  13. Melissa Carmichael said,

    I don’t do horror or slasher movies. I prefer reading scary books like Steven King or Hitchcock. As for a house being a character, I thought the house in Poltergist was a major character in the story.

  14. Marcia said,

    Teresa, I think that’s why I missed it. I think I got to the second or third book before I got sidetracked with something else. I’m soooooo behind on my series books.

    Excellent point, Melissa. While I like horror, I don’t like slasher movies either. Give me the suspense of a good gothic horror movie and leave the bloodletting to leeches. That’s why I stick to the tried and true of he B&W versions of Psycho and The House on Haunted Hill. Also, the house in Poltergeist is definitely an unforgetable character. 😉

  15. Terra said,

    I think you’re right Gothic is making a come back 🙂

  16. Marcia said,

    And I, for one, am thrilled about that, Terra. 😉

  17. opheliajasmin said,

    That’s so true about the house! I used a house I used to live in as the starting point for my own gothic fiction. That way all I had to do was shut my eyes and remember the heebie jeebie vibes. I look back on that house as being like a person I used to know – it had such a strong presence. The comments on houses as characters really resonate.

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