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The Frankenstein Technique: How to Write A Book like a Mad Scientist


Writing will never feel original to the author. It’s more like the awkward stitching together of ideas, encouragement, and desperation. Ask any of us how we found our stories and we’ll say “I took inspiration from my own life” or “I was watching this show and loved this character” or even flat out “it’s a modern day Robin Hood”. Here’s how I think of it:

Imagine a table. Not a dinner table (gross) but a metal slab right smack in the middle of a creepy tower. Lightning strikes through the windows and the mad scientist stands, laughing with a syringe in their hand because they got a wickedly enticing idea. What if they put this human heart with that decapitated head, added details they'll figure out later, and created life? Muhahaha!

That describes the brain of an author with a fresh idea. You take something you experienced, add random inspiration which spoke to you, and decide you won’t sleep again until those ideas have a heartbeat of their own. The following evil laughter might be more literal than you’d expect.

The mad scientist collects body parts for their work. This arm will do well. What to do with the liver… Wait, why are there two spines? They choose to worry another day. Where can one pick up a patella?

This is the research. I can’t explain the weird but fun experience that is scrolling through faces on Pinterest and going “yes, that face matches with her personality. Now, for how (and more importantly why) she styles her curls…” The worst part is when I can’t find the right search words. Even though I’m searching for one specific thing (if I knew what I wanted I wouldn’t be looking in the first place), I end up spending twenty minutes staring at long, wavy blonde hair which won't work for what I need. Then I research my character's interests because I know nothing about theoretical science but my lead characters does so I’m perusing published papers online for the exact terminology he’d use… It can be a spiral and I always collect more facts than I’d ever use but it’s better to have spares.

Once the mad scientist has obtained and prepared the body, they put it together. Like gooey puzzle pieces, they’re stitching layers upon layers so the parts work as one when it comes alive. It doesn’t matter if the scientist starts with the brain or the lungs or the feet as long as everything works in the end.

And so goes the writing. Sometimes I start in the beginning and go chronologically through the whole manuscript. Other times, I write what I need, move them around until they make chronological sense, and then connect them, creating back stories, exposition (which fingers crossed never feels like exposition), and foreshadowing. One time, I started my story with the climax and had to backtrack from there. A lot of writers get stuck on the technique. Where should they begin? How do they transition through the scenes? I get hung up on those type of questions. Thinking I’m doing everything wrong and that it’ll never work, when in reality I’m creating something that’s never been made before. How could anyone else know how to build it better than me? Should you ask for advice? Yes. Study the masters of the craft? Always. But only the authors themselves can bring life to their little monsters. The more you listen to your intuition, the more you’ll love what you created.

Last comes the final moment. That epic, lightning strikes a metal rod, shocking a heartbeat into the still body until, with a moan and a crack of the back, it stands. Not pretty. But enchanting. Full of scars and stitches and pieces that are now one whole. Only the scientist knows the battle of getting those lungs to fit into that ribcage. Of the sweat and strain and tears that went into this grotesquely bewitching creature.

Because stories aren’t meant to be pretty. They can describe beautiful scenes. Make you smell roses and the beach or experience 18th century city life. But authors have a collective goal. One thing that, if reached, means the writer truly succeeded. It must be haunting. When you look at the cover, you groan and think “remember when-?” You force your friends to read it because they must read that scene because you have to talk about it.

You should love your monster. Ugliness and all. And sure, if you don’t, your words most likely won’t show up at your wedding, kill your bride, and terrorize you until die. (And if it did, you took this metaphor crazy literally. I commend you on your scientific breakthroughs and will attend your funeral.) But if you accept your creation, it’ll love you back with every word and chapter. Take your work to the doctors (editors), get it checked up so you know everything works. Then wrap that baby up in a delicious book cover and share it like Rafiki on the cliffs of Africa when Simba was born. Brag and scream your pride to the world in any way you can because you did it! And isn’t it amazing? That living story. It’s not just your little monster anymore. Readers can experience it themselves and create their own theories about it. That’s the best part of being a mad scientist. Er- I mean writer.

Want updates on my own “little monsters?” Subscribe to my email list and follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to hear the latest on my books. If you haven’t read A Penny Lost yet, do so now because the sequel, The Me in Memory, is coming out soon!

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