Thursday, 29 October 2015

5 Key Elements of a Gothic Story.

As Halloween rapidly approaches and the desire for all things ‘spooky’ rises, we are going to look at the lure of Gothic stories. At this time of year we see the popular images of what we take to represent scary and fearful things eg ghosts, witches, vampires and the odd zombie thrown in for good measure. All of these can be traced back to the genre of Gothic Literature.

A Gothic story is a type of fiction that combines elements of horror, death and romanticism. It is a very stylized type of horror story. It generally contains these key elements:

  1. Creepy setting- usually a castle, old house, forest or somewhere remote.
  2. Weather- this is usually a storm or at the least heavy rain.
  3. Supernatural threat- in the form of a Vampire, ghost, witch, ancient curse etc.
  4. Isolated person or group- very often young or female in danger.
  5. The location is cut off from the outside world, and so help is difficult to get.

When did they become popular?
Gothic stories first became popular in the 18th century. The first ‘Gothic’ story is generally thought to be ‘The Castle of Otranto’ published in 1764, by Horace Walpole.

How did they cross over into Horror films?
With the growth of cinema in the early 20th century, Gothic stories gradually became adapted and made into Horror stories. Most horror stories conform to Gothic story standards. This and the fact that people like to be scared.

What would be a good Gothic story to read this Halloween (or any time?)

  1. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  3. The Turn of the Screw by M. R. James
  4. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  5. Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice
  6. My Sword hand is Singing by Marcus Sedgewick
  7. Twilight by William Gay*
  8. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
  9. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
  10. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

*This has nothing to do with teenage Vampires! It is a ‘southern’ Gothic story set in 1950s Tennessee and about a very creepy undertaker.

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Friday, 2 October 2015

4 Great Ways To Connect Through Storytelling.

I really love stories. And they are way more powerful than we realise. Our children’s ability to talk about the past and future is linked to success in school, learning to read & write, and to social success. And we all love a good story, right?

Last night I read The Little Red Hen to my four year old daughter for the first time. I picked it because I remember loving it as child myself & it really is a great story for imparting values around work ethic & consequences. Stories have many purposes: to entertain, to teach, to transmit values, to show ourselves in a good light. You don’t have to confine yourself to story books either. Here are some ideas for weaving stories into the fabric of your everyday life:

#1 Tell your children stories from when you were little.
They really love this! Telling your own stories is such a wonderful way of connecting with your children and showing them your understanding of the challenges of childhood. It’s such a relief to hear it happened to someone else too- no matter what age you are!

On a train one day, I overheard a mother tell her son a story of something embarrassing that happened to her as a child- she was at the swimming pool from school & needed to go to the toilet but was too shy to tell the teacher, so she went to the toilet in the pool and the whole place had to be evacuated! I loved her for sharing this publicly and it worked a treat to diffuse her son’s upset when the picture he was colouring in did not go his way. You should have seen the attention he paid her- he was hooked on every word. Don't panic, your stories don’t have to be this dramatic- see # 4 below.

#2 Write a letter
We live about 3 hours away from my parents by car & they aren’t online. I feel sad about the impact the distance has on their relationship with my little girl. One day, I decided to write to my father & ask him to send her stories from when he was a child. I also put in a stamped addressed envelope to make it even easier. A few days later, a letter arrived for her with a story called Grandad Bernard’s Trip to Tipp to Sell the Geese – it was so vivid and lovely and a precious keepsake for her. 

#3 Make it up as you go along…
I came across a lovely idea in a Donna Leon detective novel recently where at dinner time, one of the family threw out a storyline & the others took it in turn to run with it. You could have great fun with this especially for older children & have wild imaginings over dinner.

Here’s an example from The Golden Egg by Donna Leon: …. Chiara set her water glass down with a thump & said, ‘They all lived happily ever after’. ‘Clorinda’s eyes met Giuseppe’s, & together they gazed happily down at the baby’, Paola said immediately in a voice she pumped full of emotion.  I love the way Chiara begins the story with what we would think of as an ending. You’ll have to read the book to find out where they take the story- it’s worth finding out!

#4 It’s not about what you get, it’s about what you give
‘So, how was school today?’ Fine. What happened? Not much/nothing.’ Sound familiar? Try this. To get a story, you need to tell a story. So instead of asking questions tell your own story first & leave the door open for them to participate or share if they want. So, as I said above in #3, your story doesn’t have to have major drama.  It just needs to relate an event that stood out because it was reportable; something unusual that happened.

For example, one day when my little girl was two & a half, I went to the library on my way home from work & witnessed an incident where a boy called Bernard threw an egg at the inside of the library door. I told her about it when I came home. Well, I must have told that story 20 times over the following weeks. Every now & again, for many months, she’d say ‘Tell me about Bernard and the egg’. So a little really can go a long way!

So how can you weave more stories into your life? What happened to you today that you could tell your children to get a conversation going?

If you would like to learn more about Mary Pat's work visit: .

Dr. Mary-Pat O Malley-Keighran is a lecturer, author, researcher, speech & language therapist, and lover of all things to do with speech, language, and communication. She has over 20 years’ experience of working with families & 14 years of teaching speech & language students.

This post was written by our guest blogger Mary Pat O'Malley, speech and language therapist, lecturer and author.