How Does the Wilderness Evoke the Gothic Feel?

I love gothics. Give me an old mansion or castle and a heroine in peril, a cup of cocoa and I’m set for the night. I sometimes wish we had mansions or castles around here but they are in short supply. But there is plenty in this area that gives the same feel as gothics. There is the wilderness.

I live in the wilderness. Okay, it’s not as wild as a few years ago. I can even drive to a Walmart without using a tank of gas. Or even half a tank. When we first moved to this part of northern Minnesota, you could shoot a cannon filled with scatter shot down main street any winter day without worrying about hitting anyone. Now you’d end up in jail charged with murder.

But go just a short distance from town and you’ll still be in those same forested areas I learned about when we first arrived, completge with five kids and a dog.

You can get lost in those woods now just as easily as you could back then. Well, almost. One recent topic of heated discussion in town and county meetings concerns whether or not to position cell towers throughout the forest even though no one lives there. Why? So teenagers with little sense and tourists with even less who go recklessly into the forest without taking precautions against getting lost can call for help if something goes wrong. Those against littering the forest with cell towers say anyone stupid enough to expect cell service in a place where no one lives deserves whatever fate metes out.

Because the forest can be dangerous. Fatally so. It can also be beautiful. And adventurous. And willful. And ever-changing. And seductive.

Look back over those descriptions. Dangerous. Beautiful. Adventurous. Willful. Ever-changing. Seductive. All of these words also describe the castle or mansion in almost every gothic novel ever written. The only difference is that those places were built by man while the wilderness just is.

I have long believed that single fact amplifies the effect of each adjective when used to describe the forest. Because no one planned the dark reaches of the forest.  They just came into being. Somehow. 

They just are.   And they are my favorite setting for both short and long romance fiction, be they short stories, novellas or novels.  Add a touch of fantasy or magic as I sometimes do and the result is a story that fits nicely into the gothic genre even though no castles or mansions are involved.

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