It wasn’t until 2011 that (by serendipity) I picked up the book and read the synopsis printed on the back cover. My son had talked me into going into a used bookstore. We were getting ready to move; the last thing I needed was yet another book. Our bookshelves were overflowing as it was. But, as he browsed, I wandered to the Classics section. For some reason, I picked up Frankenstein. I was about to put it back when I noticed the words: Not many people know the creature spoke. My insatiable curiosity had been aroused. I immediately wanted to know what such a being would have to say! I turned to the first page and started reading. Needless to say, I bought the book. Since that day, I have purchased several copies—in both hardback and paperback. Not because I wanted to have several copies, but because each book had its own Forward.
Some of the Forwards tried to explain Mary Shelley’s psychological reasons for writing the story; others talked about her life before and after the novel’s publication. Some analyzed the story. (The strangest theory was the whole thing took place in Victor Frankenstein’s head. There was no monster at all. He somehow snapped, killed his own loved ones and then created a ‘monster’ to keep from realizing his own horrible deeds!) Some of the theories I agreed with, others were not as clever or thought-provoking. Either way, I was hooked on perusing the Frankenstein books for new information.
I began reading it on a cross country trip. I devoured the book. I remember I’d get to a point in the story that would set my imagination alight. I’d read entire sections to my husband as he drove us to our new home. I probably drove him crazy, but when I get obsessed with something there is no stopping me.
I remember thinking—what would’ve happened if they would’ve welcomed him into their lives, given him shelter and provided him with the sense of belonging he so greatly craved? A silky web of a story began in my mind. I wondered what would’ve happened if the family had shown him love and acceptance only to abandon him for some reason later on. I thought maybe that exceptionally poignant rejection might send him into the tailspin, which would put him on the course for murder and revenge. The idea was, in my mind, that he would need to know how it felt to be loved in order to so passionately lament being denied the thing he craved most.
This chapter is full of emotions. The reader knows the creature is compassionate, but through Victor’s eyes we see a terrible abomination. The contrast tore at my heart.
Once I had an idea of who would give the monster love—and why she’d eventually take it away again, I opened a blank Word.doc and began writing from the point where the DeLacey family flees in fear after seeing the creature. The words flowed easily; I let the story develop organically. I never write from an outline. I’ve tried. I end up veering away from it early-on, so I simply let the ‘universe’ tell me a story. I write what I see taking place in my imagination. It’s almost like a movie playing in my head. I’m merely the conduit from which the story enters the world. Sometimes my fingers are struggling to keep up with what’s going on in the ‘movie’ in my head. I’ve been blessed with a powerful imagination.
Each of my characters also has a Meyers-Briggs personality profile that I keep on hand to determine how that type of personality might react in any given circumstance. I write ‘character files’ which have background stories that never make it into the book, but are important for character development. I love creating character profiles!
Dr. Frankenstein himself is not German though—a common mistake. Dr. Frankenstein is from Genève. He’s Austrian. The confusion comes from the fact he attends medical school in Ingolstadt, Germany. That is where he begins to experiment in trying to reanimate dead things. However, in Shelley’s novel the monster learns to speak, read and write French since the DeLacey family emigrated from France to Germany.
Whenever this happens, I’m aware that I’m not letting the character develop organically. He surprised me. I did NOT expect Angela and Antonio to fall in love. But, once they did, things made sense. Shepherd had a birds-eye view of how love develops, deepens and becomes something ethereal. The resulting storyline was better than the way I’d originally imagined it. I have never regretted letting the ‘universe’ dictate who characters are. It’s when I ignore the signals and try to force something that the writing goes awry. I’m very aware of this phenomenon when I am writing new characters.
Nevertheless, in my opinion, our bodies are merely the carriage which move us about in this life. The essence of a human is not found in the bones, the blood or the brain of a person. The ability to empathize and identify with fellow beings is uniquely human. Animals may have a lesser ability and lots of natural instinct, but it’s different with humans. We (as a race) are capable of great evil and incredible goodness. What we choose to do is what propels us toward light or away from it. That is why Shepherd questions whether he has a soul. He innately knows the soul is the lifeline that tethers us to God.
However, at the end of the book he moves from the noble side of humanness to the worst of human comportment. He sets his heart on revenge. He’s decided to commit multiple murders in order to make another man suffer. He has demonstrated the ability to choose—a uniquely human opportunity.
He didn’t understand why God took them away at the end. He becomes angry at both God and Victor Frankenstein—feeling abandoned by both. One of whom he will emotionally and physically destroy. In doing so, he effectively is rejecting the other.