Wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep this up every week in October, but I’ve found another way to tie in classic monsters with the shambling horrors that can appear in early drafts of our stories. This one’s called the Franken-Plot, and it comes forth when man seeketh to become greater than the gods themselves. It happens when writers get ahead of themselves.
The original Frankenstein’s monster was a tragic tale of both hubris and pathos, of man’s imperfections in the face of divine creation, and likely one of the origins of the infamously keen observation never to underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups. So, too, is Franken-plotting the result of both our author-hubris as gods of our own creations, and our human imperfection.
Frankenstein’s Regency-era understanding of science and electricity led him to create, by means unnatural, a creature in his human, imperfect image. Naturally, when you are engaged in practices of an unnatural nature, the monster ran amok, rampaging through the castle and in general, bringing up topics of uncomfortable conversation, like the hubris of man and science in the face of the natural order of things, and the responsibilities of man as creator to his creation.
In Franken-plotting, we as authors are already aware on many levels of our responsibility to our creation…but Franken-plotting is the result run amok, along with a plot run amok. We introduce elements of great gravitas into our stories, and then pile it on in an effort to underscore that gravitas when a simpler path might be the better one. Stick with a single corpse when reanimating, please, and leave the Abby Normal brain in the jar.
Bring Me The Brain
Frankenstein’s monster became a monster primarily because his creator did not fully understand how creation worked. The Laws of Unforseen Consequences are many and varied, and you can’t keep blaming your Igors every time your monsters get away from you. Igors are quite competent, otherwise all the mad scientists wouldn’t want one. The worst kinds of Franken-plots come when we’ve misplaced the brains of our outfit.
These kinds of Franken-plots come when we haven’t thought through the complications we’ve engendered with our initial conflicts, or all the facets–both intentional and unintentional–of our characters in conflict. Sometimes we spend too much time working on the details of finding the exact cadaverous hands only to find that our creation needs legs to get off the ground. Or we’ve spent too much focus on the limbs of the creature when its motor skills really end up leaving something to be desired. or the worst–we’ve wasted waaay too much time gleefully cackling, “It’s alive! Alive!” and we failed to realize that it’s no longer under the sheet on the exam table!
And then the angry villagers come with the torches and pitchforks of terrible reviews. If you’re lucky, the angry mobs are your editors and beta readers, rather than general readers and paying customers.
But if you’re going to pursue your mad vision, you owe it to your readers to do all your homework and really get to know your test subjects. If you’re going to defy the laws of nature, then you had best make sure that you know them well enough first.
(I just want it out there for the record that Sting will always have a free pass to reanimate corpses in my basement as long as he wears the waistcoats and cravats and tight riding pants, mmkay?)
Mad Science Dropouts
Most mad scientists earned their monikers first from their teachers, who presumably threw up their hands in frustration and muttered, “I just can’t teach you until you quit those experiments on the other students!”
You can avoid the torches and pitchforks by really understanding and knowing your plots and subplots. It’s not enough to sew body parts together–you have to understand lymphatic systems, cardio-vascular networks, and neurology if you want your creation to achieve life…and entertainment.
That means you’ve got to harness that spark that’s inspiring you, and not let it run amok through the countryside, scaring the villagers and kidnapping young, single women.