Tuesday, 17 July 2012

How to become a millionaire novelist, Part 8: The Gothic Treatment

Not part of canon technique, yet seems to be in fashion. My Immortal makes use of this (the heroes are all Goths and bisexual vampires), Twilight has vampires and werewolves (not Gothic but with elements that claim to be Gothic), and Harry Potter (which is too good for this post) has supernatural elements. Fifty Shades is not Gothic, but a sullen silent antihero in the Byronic mould and a crazed ex-girlfriend with a gun is arguably a realistic form of Gothic horror.  With too much romance the reader longs for action and suspense, because you know very well the guy is going to get the girl, or rather the other way round.

There is something mysterious in the supernatural, as vampire fans can testify. Since the vampire market is overflooded it may be worthwhile to try something new. Werewolves have been taken. I suggest a zombie hero - as an antihero to Mr Darcy the zombie slayer from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. His dark secret is eating brains, and he longs to eat the heroine's brain because she is so intelligent and he longs for eternal inspiration - an interesting twist on longing for eternal youth. Or try a time-traveller. I believe that theme was explored in that famous silly "literary fiction", The Time-Traveller's Wife, where the hero can't always be with the heroine as he inadvertently time-travels due to a mutation. We could always wait till Audrey Niffenegger has snuffed it before seizing the chance, (or else face plagiarism charges). This is why I refuse to read modern fiction: so I can't be charged for plagiarism because I have no idea what occurs in the publishing world in the last 50 years.
The Time-Traveller's Wife. Doesn't look remotely Gothic does it?

Let's omit the mutation bit. The hero is a time-traveller because it is his job to fix errors in history (like Shakespeare being murdered or something). However his duties cause him to change history, resulting in the non-existence of the heroine in his time (she does exist in another time-dimension, and by now I'm sure your head is spinning in circles). This is good marketing because you can then classify it as sci-fi or fantasy, which is more highbrow than romance (mainly because it has fewer readers put together than romance alone.) It is a truth universally acknowledged that the number of readers of a genre increases with decreasing intelligence of the said genre. More intelligent readers or (what is more likely) readers trying to look intelligent will buy the book because it looks highbrow, in addition to the idiots who fell into your trap. Here's something amusing from Wikipedia:
The novel, which has been classified as both science fiction and romance, examines issues of love, loss, and free will. In particular, it uses time travel to explore miscommunication and distance in relationships, while also investigating deeper existential questions. (On Time Traveller's Wife).

What, you say, is Gothic in this? Didn't you know, dear readers, that any romance with supernatural elements now is called Gothic by its author?

One must praise Miss Niffenegger's striking ability to extend the pages of a book without much plot.  It takes  talent to do that and yet make the work readable. Jeremy Bentham was long-winded and unreadable.  I googled Time-traveller's wife and it turned up as Fantasy as well as romance.  It didn't take me long to read more than half the book, an accurate indicator of how cerebral a work is. George Eliot on the other hand takes months.

Ancient time frame romances are less likely to be copyrighted as the authors of that era are all dead and gone. On the other hand readers love the present. Let us compromise by having the hero and heroine have a romance that crosses time and space. They write letters to each other which develop into friendship which develop into love ... still, there's no physical contact, and contemporary readers like having the rough and tumble in the haystack. In that case you might have to introduce spirit travelling. There is nothing more ghastly than ghostly sex, still you can't deny it's attention-grabbing.

Worse come to worse, steal from Shakespeare. Everyone has done it, including SMeyer. Shakespeare is the god of literature and no one can challenge him. There's some fantastic elements: see Winter's Tale and The Tempest, which are arguably two of the most boring plays I have known.  Stealing from a historical source is yet another way to say you're intellectual.

I believe I read this somewhere, that the hero was magically enslaved by some evil witch and the heroine had to save him. I think it's from Tam Lin. Reverse the gender roles because we love damsels in distress. As a matter of fact, you can see the Tam Lin strain in Fifty Shades, because Christian was the bondage partner of Mrs Robinson and Ana fears losing him to her.

For a more modern equivalent, try situating the scene by an Egyptian tomb. Those places I hear are riddled with ancient curses.

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