STRUCTURE OF THE GOTHIC TALE

What is the difference between a Gothic tale and a Horror story? Intent. Seriously.

Structure of the GOTHIC Tale

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What is the difference between a Gothic tale and a Horror story? Intent. Seriously.

Both Horror stories and Gothic tales delve into the realm of emotional trauma such as revenge, abuse, and hate--including, if not especially, sexual trauma. However, the darkness in a Gothic tale is not expressed or defined by graphically detailed, and gruesome, violence as it is in a Horror. Though violence is often featured in the Gothic, it is NOT the main focus of the story. The drama of Despair is the vehicle of the Gothic where a Horror story is driven by the action of Violence.

In a nutshell...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Horror = Action story
Gothic = Drama Story

While both Gothics and Horror are tales of the spiritual and/or psychological reality of the human psyche, Horror stories deal with the monsters that can lurk within our friends and neighbors. Gothics, however, deal with the monsters within ourselves; the hidden, self-destructive side that we don't want to admit exists within each of us.

This means that the unlike the Horror plot-line, which is simply a gory adventure story that follows the common Heroic Cycle plot-line, the Gothic plot is far more complicated; emotionally complicated.

The Gothic Plot
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Act 1. Rise
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1. Character is Valued/not Valued
- Leading to Underestimated Talent
--- Triggering Pride/Shame
----- Which causes an Emotional Issue to form.

2. Incidental/Accidental Accomplishment
- a - Draws the wrong kind of attention
--- The Monster
- b - Also creates Envy in someone close
--- Friend / Family member / lover / coworker

3. Encounter with the Monster (symbol of Emotional Issue)
--- Contamination or Gift

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Act 2. CRASH
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1. The Sincere Mistake
--- Pride represents an irresistible Challenge.
- a - To the Envious
- b - to the Monster

2. CRASH --> Monstrosity unveiled
--- Anger leads to a Ruinous Victory
----- They win the battle, but their monstrous nature is Exposed.
--- a --- to their loved ones
--- b --- to their enemies
--- c --- to themselves

3. Departure from Society
--- Regret triggers Escape from Society
----- or Removal

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Act 3. Fall ( Stages of Grief & Transformation)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1. Dangerous territory
--- Denial = belief that they
----- Are an Outcast / Abandoned.
----- or Deserve to be an Outcast / Abandoned.

2. Meeting with the True Monster
--- Anger = Love-Hate Relationship
- a - with the Monster
- b - with the Envious
- c – with their own monstrous nature

3. Threats & Promises
--- Negotiation = Temptation & Persuasion
- a - from the Monster
- b - from the Envious

4. Surrender & Sacrifice
--- Despair = Submission & Adaptation
- a - to the Monster
- b - to the Envious
- c - to their own monstrous nature.

5. Escape / Rescue
--- Acceptance = Deliberate release of the Beast Within
- a - They rescue themselves, but at the cost of their humanity.
----- Giving birth to a new core Value. (Pride / Shame)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Act 4. Return to Society
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1. Unfinished Business with Envious and/or Monster
--- Hiding in plain sight

2. Confrontation with the Monster
--- Deliberate Transformation
- a - to Protect
- b - for Revenge

3. Conclusion
--- Willing sacrifice to take down Monster
----- Which ends in
------- a New Life
------- or a Heroic Death
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

'Fall of the House of Usher' by Edgar Allen Poe, is a Classic Gothic tale. However, at first glance the story doesn't appear to fit this pattern at all, until you realize that the point of view character, the narrator, ISN'T who this story is about. In fact, he barely affects the plot at all. The story is about Roderick Usher, the last heir to an old decrepit family mansion. The narrator is merely a witness to Usher's final decent into madness (Acts 3 and 4).

Oddly, 'The Count of Monte Cristo' by Alexander Dumas, IS a Gothic! It follows the plot pattern perfectly and it covers the most common and devouring psychological monster of all -- revenge.


The Gothic is about TRANSFORMATION.


In the average Horror story, the main character usually gains some form of outside help and / or finds a weapon to defeat their monster. In a Gothic, the main character must transform themselves into a weapon. They must become a monster to defeat their monster, then learn to live with the aftermath of their transformation.

This is why 'Phantom of the Opera' is simply a Horror story. NONE of the characters transform. Christine Daea, the main protagonist does not change herself to deal with her monster. She gains outside help, a protector who basically does all her fighting for her.

On the other hand, the movie 'The Matrix' is very much a modern Gothic. Neo must transform himself into someone and something completely alien to his original geeky character in order to survive.

Another Gothic movie, though it appears to be a Western, is 'Ravenous'. In this story, the cowardly Cavalry officer protagonist must accept full transformation into a wendigo, a Native American cannibal monster in order to have the physical strength to defeat the wendigo stalking him.

The other key difference between Horror stories and Gothic tales are the monsters. Unlike Horror monsters which are simply opponents to be defeated, each and every Gothic monster is in fact a metaphor for a spiritual or psychological issue. In most cases, the Setting is too.

Common Gothic Settings & their Meanings
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1) Old Mansions = Inheritance issues
2) Abandoned Houses = Forgotten Family issues
3) Antique Shops = Curiosity (nosiness) issues
4) Modern Corporations = Job / Business issues
5) Old Factories = Unemployment issues
6) Modern Suburbia = Adult Peer pressure issues
7) Quaint Little Towns = Hidden Community issues
8) Schools & Colleges = Childhood / Peer-pressure issues

Common Monsters of the Psyche
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1) Ghosts = Guilt
2) Vampires = Addiction
3) Witches = Wishes gone bad
4) Sorcerers /Scientists = Insanity
5) Werewolves = Rage
6) Urban Faery = Rebellion
7) Man-made monsters = Personal Mistakes
8) Zombies = Peer Pressure
9) Ogres / Trolls / Giants = Bullies


The Gothic Hero
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The main character, the one telling the tale always starts out as a fairly nice, normal, and decent person. Why is that?

Because Gothics are about how the individual deals with being transformed into their own worst nightmare. In other words, how they deal their own monstrous issues. It's all about the battle within. The climax of the Gothic isn't the battle with the monster that needs to be slain, it's how the main character chooses to deal with their own monstrosity.


The ENDING of a Gothic Tale
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ---
There are only two options when facing a dark issue of the psyche. Interestingly enough, either option can lead to Destruction or Redemption.

1) Acceptance
- a - Empowerment
- b - Addiction to power = Insanity
- c - Coexistence / Balance of dual nature

2) Rejection
- a - Search for release / escape / *cure = Insanity
- b - Search for control = Empowerment
- c - Denial / Ignoring it = Insanity

*Note: There is NO CURE for a Psychological Issue in real life. You either Adapt to it, or Succumb to it. Medicating it only Represses (covers up) the issue. It does not Fix it. Sooner or later the medication WILL stop working and that issue WILL resurface. Ask any psychologist.


In Conclusion...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Gothic tales are metaphors, proverbs, and fables of goodness versus evil that describe the spiritual and psychological challenges of the human soul. They are modern-day, un-sanitized, fairy tales filled with the horrific punishments that the original fairy tales held:

- Punishment for the wicked...
- Empowerment for those trapped in darkness...
- Redemption for those who have learned to adapt to the living, breathing shadows, within themselves...

They also conclude exactly like any other fairy tale. The Brave save the day, the Foolish die, and the Guilty are Punished, usually horribly.

"But real life isn't so neatly tied. Bad people get away with doing bad things."

True. Real life ISN'T so neatly tied. Bad people DO get away with bad things. That does not change the fact that Evil IS Bad and the Wicked SHOULD be punished, even if it only happens in a story.

Enjoy!

DISCLAIMER: As with all advice, take what you can use and throw out the rest. As a multi-published author, I have been taught some fairly rigid rules on what is publishable and what is not. If my rather straight-laced (and occasionally snotty,) advice does not suit your creative style, by all means, IGNORE IT.

Posts

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What were your sources for this? I'd like to learn more by myself.
author=Avee
What were your sources for this? I'd like to learn more by myself.

My sources are the books and movies I mention in my essay. I figured this out myself by actually reading those books, and watching those movies (plus many others,) with pen and paper in hand, outlining what I saw until the patterns became clear. If you look at the stories and movies I mention, you can see the patterns for yourself. Seriously.

I did this research because I had no other choice. It's not mentioned in any writing book, or taught in any class. As a multi-published author, (have been since 1980,) if I don't get my genres right, I don't get a paycheck. :)

I just happen to like sharing my knowledge.
author=ashen_heaven
Helpful stuff! Thanks for sharing! :)

I'm glad you like it. I like sharing.
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
9219
Both Horror stories and Gothic tales delve into the realm of emotional trauma such as revenge, abuse, and hate--including, if not especially, sexual trauma. However, the darkness in a Gothic tale is not expressed or defined by graphically detailed, and gruesome, violence as it is in a Horror. Though violence is often featured in the Gothic, it is NOT the main focus of the story. The drama of Despair is the vehicle of the Gothic where a Horror story is driven by the action of Violence.

I actually partially agree with this.

However so much of what truly defines a Gothic work are aesthetics. More, perhaps, than any other genre, a Gothic tale can be identified just as much by what it looks like as by the formula that the plot follows or the arcs of the characters.

*Note: There is NO CURE for a Psychological Issue in real life. You either Adapt to it, or Succumb to it. Medicating it only Represses (covers up) the issue. It does not Fix it. Sooner or later the medication WILL stop working and that issue WILL resurface. Ask any psychologist.

Actually, I think that some psychologists and most psychiatrists (key difference) would disagree. If you were to change your wording to "Medication only Treats the issue, it does not Cure" it , I wouldn't find it nearly as objectionable.

They also conclude exactly like any other fairy tale. The Brave save the day, the Foolish die, and the Guilty are Punished, usually horribly.

In my own reading, I certainly haven't seen a 1:1 ratio between Gothic stories and happy endings.

As a multi-published author, (have been since 1980,)

Hmm. Morgan Hawke's bio says that she got her start writing filth in 1998. What were you publishing in the 18 years before then, and what made you turn to porn after nearly two decades as a published author?
author=Max McGee
*Note: There is NO CURE for a Psychological Issue in real life...
... "Medication only Treats the issue, it does not Cure" it ...
So sorry, but I don't see the difference between what you wrote and what I wrote beyond tone. The key point, yours and mine, is that: There is NO CURE for a Psychological Issue.

author=Max McGee
They also conclude exactly like any other fairy tale. The Brave save the day, the Foolish die, and the Guilty are Punished, usually horribly.
In my own reading, I certainly haven't seen a 1:1 ratio between Gothic stories and happy endings.

Huh... Did I mention a happy ending in there? I don't see one... From my research, Fairy tales, especially the older, original tales, didn't end happily very often.

author=Max McGee
As a multi-published author, (have been since 1980,)
Hmm. Morgan Hawke's bio says that she got her start writing filth in 1998. What were you publishing in the 18 years before then, and what made you turn to porn after nearly two decades as a published author?
I was writing horror. I changed to smut because smut actually sells well enough to pay my rent. It's a lot more fun to write too. :)
author=OokamiKasumi
author=Max McGee
*Note: There is NO CURE for a Psychological Issue in real life...
... "Medication only Treats the issue, it does not Cure" it ...
So sorry, but I don't see the difference between what you wrote and what I wrote beyond tone. The key point, yours and mine, is that: There is NO CURE for a Psychological Issue.


There is a world of difference, and that tonal difference is "medication is a valid form of treatment" vs. "medication is a form of repression and ultimately solves nothing". Medication and mental illness is absolutely not a question of repression; the way I read it you oversimplify the issue to the point of making dangerous assumptions. I don't even have a medication-centric treatment philosophy, and this STILL manages to go against so much of what I believe in.

As for the rest of the article, I consider horror a very broad genre(okay off the top of my head, you have psychological horror, zombies which totally warrant their own corral, slasher films, gorn, occultic detectives, Lovecraftian, J-horror, K-horror yes they are two different things), way too broad to accurately compare it to a genre as specific as the gothic novel.

the Horror plot-line, which is simply a gory adventure story that follows the common Heroic Cycle plot-line, the Gothic plot is far more complicated; emotionally complicated.


Horror isn't anywhere near so clean-cut. This definition sounds closest to the slasher film, which is a very specific subgenre of horror. A lot like how gothic horror is a very specific subgenre of horror.

I know you say to ignore your advice if it doesn't suit one's personal style; I hope you don't consider this a buffer against criticism.
author=PentagonBuddy
author=OokamiKasumi
author=Max McGee
*Note: There is NO CURE for a Psychological Issue in real life...
... "Medication only Treats the issue, it does not Cure" it ...
So sorry, but I don't see the difference between what you wrote and what I wrote beyond tone. The key point, yours and mine, is that: There is NO CURE for a Psychological Issue.
...the way I read it, you oversimplify the issue to the point of making dangerous assumptions...


Um, this essay is for Fiction, not reality. Of course I over-simplified it. LOL! This isn't meant for assisting psych patients. This isn't a medical journal, it's a model for making Stories.

(And I'm not making assumptions. I deal with my own mental issues without medication, thank you very much. I can't write a damned thing on it. It messes with my mental clarity and my creativity. I learned to adapt to the fact that I can only be around people for short periods of time. I live alone and work from home where I can keep my issues safely under control, and out of sight. However, this also means that I can't touch alcohol, or any other substance that loosens mental control. No parties for me. Even so, I'm happy and no one gets hurt when my control slips.)


author=PentagonBuddy
As for the rest of the article, I consider horror a very broad genre ... way too broad to accurately compare it to a genre as specific as the gothic novel.


Horror is an incredibly broad genre, but when broken down to it's most common components, Horror is about finding and killing monsters. (Your basic adventure story.) Gothics are about Being monsters. A story about killing a monster is extremely simplistic compared to a story about being something everyone else wants to kill -- including yourself.


author=PentagonBuddy
the Horror plot-line, which is simply a gory adventure story that follows the common Heroic Cycle plot-line, the Gothic plot is far more complicated; emotionally complicated.
Horror isn't anywhere near so clean-cut. This definition sounds closest to the slasher film, which is a very specific sub-enre of horror. A lot like how gothic horror is a very specific sub-genre of horror.


I'm going to have to disagree, but that's okay. Different opinions and different approaches is what makes these genres so remarkable. Horror and Gothics are among the few genres that you can add any other genre to, and come up with an amazingly broad range of results.


author=PentagonBuddy
I know you say to ignore your advice if it doesn't suit one's personal style; I hope you don't consider this a buffer against criticism.


LOL! The only buffer against criticism is Not Posting. :)
Okay and I didn't ask a thing about your medical history. Bravo for you on having such amazing control you can make it through your life without any kind of outside influence. If only we were all so blessed! I have a completely different set of "mental issues"; I really don't like talking about them in public. I'm trying to think of how I could actually respond and not go into uncomfortable personal territory, but am drawing blanks. Probably best not to respond at all in this case, seeing as how I don't want to go into said uncomfortable personal territory.

As for literary quibbles, I feel that's going to boil down to "MY learnings say this" vs. "MY learnings say that".

(Alternatively I could post a silly .gif saying PEACE OUT, YO, but that would probably be rude.)
author=PentagonBuddy
... I don't want to go into said uncomfortable personal territory.

I understand perfectly. I say we drop that topic altogether.


author=PentagonBuddy
As for literary quibbles, I feel that's going to boil down to "MY learnings say this" vs. "MY learnings say that".

You have a valid point there. How about we agree to disagree on certain things and leave it at that?


author=PentagonBuddy
(Alternatively I could post a silly .gif saying PEACE OUT, YO, but that would probably be rude.)

LOL! I wouldn't see that as rude at all.
-- For the record, you've actually been rather polite during our debate. Thank you, and my apologies if I was more abrupt and confrontational than I needed to be.
I really liked this list, but you're going to have to give better reasons for listing the Matrix as a modern-gothic film. The roles of transformation and character development are themes universal to any great fiction story, regardless of genre. Peter Parker goes from geek to Spiderman, but that doesn't make it gothic. The Matrix is more closely related to dystopian cyberpunk literature than gothic-horror, it also completely lacks the aura and atmosphere of despair that remains the defining backbone of the genre.

Also, the horror as action element is not altogether accurate. There are plenty of horror novels that are not gothic with an emphasis on character rather than plot, films included. The French horror film Martyrs comes to mind, as well as the surreal classic, Possession. Neither of these films could lay claim to the gothic, but neither of them fall in line with the plot outlines you've given to what makes a horror story.

My point being, this is a great list for defining the difference between the two, unfortunately it is lacking in the sense that it thinks it knows everything, when there is so much it misses.

Concluding, if the gothic story is a morality-tale, then what pray tell you is the moral behind the Call of Cthulhu?

Mankind's endeavors are fruitless and meaningless and the arbitrary concepts of good and evil don't apply to ancient alien-gods?

Both genres are a bit more broad than what you've listed here, and people are merely better off just trying to tell a scary as shit story than looking out outlines previously laid down by their predecessors. You're better off thinking about what terrifies you, what the story means to you, and then writing it from that personal, frightening perspective.

Face your demons, and then scare us with them.

tl;dr: Good essay, but the research remains inadequate.
author=DorianDawes
I really liked this list, but you're going to have to give better reasons for listing the Matrix as a modern-gothic film. The roles of transformation and character development are themes universal to any great fiction story, regardless of genre. Peter Parker goes from geek to Spiderman, but that doesn't make it gothic. The Matrix is more closely related to dystopian cyberpunk literature than gothic-horror, it also completely lacks the aura and atmosphere of despair that remains the defining backbone of the genre.

Matrix is a Cyberpunk Gothic film, yes. To cite reasons and information; Neo goes from a geek to struggle through to fit the bill of some all-powerful being in the Matrix. When he's able to access anything and everything by the second movie, he starts to struggle and see how hard and monstrous he can seem to others, especially the way Anderson grows and gives him opposition. Anderson could be considered a look at the dark side of having all that power, letting it warp you entirely into that creature.

Spider-Man and most of Marvel is straight up action, rather than trying to psychologically mess with your mind and make you think. There are the odd dark comics that could/do dip into the Gothic, such as John Constantine, Hellblazer; Lucifer, The Crow, V for Vendetta, even Preacher.... It's different on a case-by-case basis. Parker knows without a doubt (most of the time) he is actively doing the right thing and pursues it with a clear conscience. Constantine is always uncertain on if he's going to accidentally kill or send someone to Hell every time he tries to help, and you get to see how it affects him and his choices and relationships. That's one of the differences I've seen.

author=DorianDawes
Concluding, if the Gothic story is a morality-tale, then what pray tell you is the moral behind the Call of Cthulhu?

Mankind's endeavors are fruitless and meaningless and the arbitrary concepts of good and evil don't apply to ancient alien-gods?

H.P. Lovecraft can be considered a Gothic Horror, but the sad truth is that it is a COSMIC HORROR. This means the entire meaning and point and frightening parts behind it are that we, as human beings, have no impact on the universe, the world around us, and no significance. We are just here by random chance and entirely on our own. Nothing in the universe gives a tinker's damn if we live, die or are even present. We are entirely insignificant to anything and anything. This, of course, frightens us because of our ego.

author=OokamiKasumi
I'm glad you like it. I like sharing.

Question, then? XP What is the difference between Gothic Horror and Gothic Romance? Just a love interest?

Ooh, also.... If I remember right, there's a specific cast of characters, like a Byronic Hero and an Innocent Maiden and such that is part of the classic Gothic archetype in storytelling. Any notes or thoughts on this?
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