How I ended up with a Loony Literature Laboratory.
In parts one and two, I described how I had been inspired by Mary Shelley and her novel Frankenstein. I also tell how I want to use our literary heritage as a springboard to get others, particularly children, to write creatively.
So far, I had a twenty five minute play which was about Mary Shelley meeting Frankenstein when she was running away from the debt collectors. This idea emerged from two different aspects of my research. I was fascinated by Mary Shelley’s life and wanted to use part of that. The idea of Frankenstein meeting his maker beautifully echoed the scene when the monster came alive and Frankenstein, his creator, was repelled by him. To bring my ideas alive for the children, I needed a laboratory and a monster to lie on the table.
I acquired skulls from a car boot sale, a large amount of vintage bottles from an auction house and various body parts (fake, I hasten to add,) off the internet. It is amazing what bargains are to be had – perhaps no-one else wanted the stuff. I thought about building a monster but it could not think of an easy way to do it without it costing me a small fortune. I then hit upon the idea of getting a shop mannequin and putting blood and warts upon it. When I priced them up, they all seemed quite expensive until I saw one for sale on the internet from Oxfam. I bought it quickly in case anyone jumped in before me.
My parcel arrived and I am ashamed to add I could not wait to get him laid out upon the table. Now, I am not an expert on mannequins, that is my excuse for my extremely stupid error, but I did not realise that they did not all lie down flat. In the photograph on the internet, the mannequin was sitting up – I took it for granted that he would also lie down – wrong! When I laid him down on the table he rolled and his legs stay bent. It occurred to me that the only way I could use him as the monster was to have him sitting up in a chair. I would have to change the play slightly but I still wanted a monster lying on the table.
Do you ever get the sneaky suspicion that someone is laughing at you? Well, I imagine Mary Shelley having a good, old, snorty laugh at my expense. It was almost as though, she was looking down from above and saying “don’t think you are getting away with it that easy – I had two monsters in the book.” Of course, I had to have the monster’s bride. After my experience with Vincent – that’s the name of the mannequin, I decided to build the monster’s bride myself.
It was suggested to me to use a frogman’s suit as had been done for Doctor Who’s original Cybermen. Unbelievably, as this was suggested, one came up for sale at the local auction house. So there I was once again, waving my paddle with vigour and landing another fantastic bargain. Don’t ever underestimate how many old clothes it takes to stuff a frogman’s suit. I was desperate to get it finished and in the end shoved everything within reach into it. Unfortunately, that exercise returns to haunt me when I can’t find a certain skirt. I eye the monster’s bride and wonder what she is hiding in there. By the time I came to stitch up the arms and legs, my own arms and hands were aching from the constant compressing of old garments.
The next part of the monster’s bride was easy. That is, apart from struggling to put a pair of black fish net tights on a stuffed, floppy frogsuit. I dressed the body and attached a gory hand and foot. All that was missing was a head. The internet is fantastic for masks. I bought an alien looking mask and stuffed it with bubble wrap. Two small, blue, plastic turtles fitted nicely behind the eyes. The monster’s bride was born.
This post has mainly been about creating physical monsters as opposed to writing something on the page; the reason for it is to demonstrate the writing journey. Making the monsters has been part of a journey which has inspired me to write a play, a work in progress children’s book and is the genesis for many creative writing workshops. Allowing myself to be playful is allowing myself to be creative.
- Let’s Talk About FRANKENSTEIN 1 (loonyliterature.com)
- My Frankenstein Journey 7 – A Creative Writing Journal (loonyliterature.com)
- Let’s Talk About Frankenstein (2) – Walton’s First Three Letters. (loonyliterature.com)
- Mary Shelley: Frankenstein’s mother (independent.co.uk)
- My Frankenstein Diary 5 – a Creative Writing Journal. (loonyliterature.com)
- Mary Shelley (petitefeministe.wordpress.com)
- 2011 in Review: #931: Frankenstein – Mary Shelley (bridgetsbooks.wordpress.com)
- Frankenstein: It’s Complicated (comppost.wordpress.com)
- “Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ (bronzefish.wordpress.com)
- Mary Shelley: Frankenstein (1818) (manonmona.wordpress.com)