Writing from the Subconscious Mind


Writing the first draft of a story or novel is the time when the subconscious mind seems most active. Though I write a loose outline, just a little treasure map to see where I’m going, it is when I am deep in the story that surprises erupt and I find threads coming together in a way could not have consciously planned. If you love to explore the deep mind, perhaps tapping into ancestral memories, past lives, or spiritual dimensions, family secrets, and occult mysteries, the Gothic tale provides the keys to many doors. Gothic tales have always been melodramatic, emotionally fraught dramatizations of haunted and suppressed psychological states. What cannot be spoken of plainly, in the light of day, may be expressed through a language of symbols.

The Gothic genre benefited greatly from the Freudian analysis that brought us the works of Angela Carter and Tanith Lee, my tow mentors, whose use of language is dark, poetic yet uncannily real. Freud gave life to the symbols that surround us, suggesting they are signs from the deep self, showing us what we fear to speak.


The novel I am wrestling with now is one I have been wrestling with for 10 years.  The working title, as some of you may know, is The Demon Lover. Its an overused title, but that’s what it’s about. Its based on real supernatural experiences that I have had, and I’ve had many, couched in the plot of a classic Gothic Romance. Not a modern Formula Romance, but the style developed by the Brontes and Daphne DuMaurier, in the age before we were addicted to the screen,  when we were in love with words and images that opened up our own imaginations.

In The Demon Lover, There are two female characters, one, Madeleine Dashwood, 27, the other Eavan Bertrand, 13, both mysterious ladies whose lives have been shaped by their psychic abilities. This is a story where water plays a powerful role as pool, as rain, a river, then finally the ocean, as bringer of transformation and death. The water imagery invoked the enigmatic figure of Ophelia who then attached herself to both of these characters. I didn’t plan this—-I’d originally though of Eavan as the Ophelia figure—- but it fits so well as a link between the two, sending a resonance throughout the story that I could not have contrived.


Her clothes spread wide and Mermaid-like a while they bore her up….

As you can see, the character of Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, continues to inspire artists.  She was indeed a creature native and indued Unto that element….

Water symbolizes the subconscious, for what we see on the reflective surface of a lake, or in the waves of the sea, is less than a fraction of what lives below. Entire worlds exist in darkness, completely invisible to us unless we submerge ourselves into their depths. For characters like Ophelia and in my novel, Eavan, who are not of this world, it is natural to associate their leaving of it with water.


Millais Ophelia

A disturbing re-interpretation of Millaiss famous Pre-Raphaelite Ophelia



Fabulously done by Dorota Goreka


The idea of feminine passivity, the dream state, and even madness are evoked on the character of Ophelia. These states are also traditionally symbolized by water. Ophelia embodies the mermaid, the morgan and the water spirits that drag men down under the waves. All of these beings drawn on  the power of emotion to throw over the human will, or swamp the conscious mind with illusions, delusions, and desires.

But are they illusions? Or are they the forces of nature, full of life and death energies and endless creation?




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