Friday, 19 October 2012


A scene from 'The Barretts of Wimpole Street' (1934 film, directed by Sidney Franklin, starring Norma shearer, Frederic March and Charles Laughton).

I read very widely, and in various genres, but there's something about the Victorian era that has always excited my imagination. 

I think that fascination stems back to when I was a very small child, sitting next to my mum on the sofa on rainy Sunday afternoons and watching all the old black-and-white films, such as Fanny by Gaslight, or Great Expectations, Wuthering Heights, Madame Bovary, or Jane Eyre, or (a particular favourite of mine, which probably had as much to do with Elizabeth Barrett Browning's pet dog) The Barretts of Wimpole Street. 

Later in life I studied Nineteenth Century literature and have now read the original books - or else the true stories upon which those films were, often somewhat loosely, based. But I still thrill when I watch them again and enter their murky candlelit words, full of simmering menace and thwarted romance. The 'filmic' interpretation of plot continues to have some influence because, very often, when I am writing, I'll try to visualise a scene as if it is playing out on a stage. I might even close my eyes, imagining myself as a character, their dialogue spoken through my lips - an extreme form of method acting, I suppose. 

Of course, writers are their own drama's directors. A novel's characters must obey whatever their god- like creator dictates. And when it comes to Victorian plots, any one of a novel's characters might find themselves being pushed through such twisted, convoluted hoops that they - not to mention their readers - are left teetering and gasping on the edge of the sheerest cliff hanger plots. 

And that's another useful thing when it comes to constructing Victorian plots. The author can place any character in the most perilous of situations, where personal isolation (with no telephones, radio or television, and with many areas poorly served by any public transport) loans itself to a devious manipulation that would never work in the present day.

So, that's my chosen genre: gothic Victorian plots which are full of dramatic dark secrets and lies. 

I'd love to hear what yours is - and why.   


  1. I write in a number of different genres, but I agree that I also tend to watch a scene in my head as I write. I also like to have a trailer for my story playing in my head as it gives me an idea of pacing and plot.

    I also love The Barretts of Wimpole Street - there is a morbid glamour in reclining on a sofa clutching a spaniel...

  2. I love gothic Victorian too! My WIP is part historical, part contemporary and the historical part could certainly be construed as gothic Victorian. Might have been ever so slightly influenced by your Somnambulist novel... *blushes*

  3. Kirstly, I'm also interested in writing in other genres - when the Victoriana is out of my system.

    A time slip contemporary/historical sounds very interesting, womagwriter - and delighted to have offered any inspiration. I find myself inspired all the time, and often by the strangest things. But, I think that's the subject for another post.

  4. Hi Essie

    still having trouble posting comments with wordpress choice below fyi - not sure why...

    anyway, I posted a little while back quoting a great article in the Guardian - as to why Victorian books often are used as film, because of the sweet taboo (oh dear, Sade song now in my head).

    I wonder, do writers set out to write in a genre or does a story just decide to be written that way ( regardless of genre)? Does a writer set out and go 'today I am going to write in this genre' or is the story the pulse? Just wondering...

    Looking forward to reading this new blog.