Monday 24 October 2011

Frankenfiction by Dr F.

Today's piece is by Jill Marsh (masquerading as Dr F). Jill writes international novels featuring DI Beatrice Stubbs, as well as clever short stories, humourous articles, and think-pieces. Whatever she writes, she is always sharp, witty and passionate. Jill has the sort of mind I'd love to have but am too lazy and apathetic to acquire!

Here she tells us how to write that novel - or maybe not...

Frankenfiction by Dr F.

Yo! Thinking about this book-writing how-to, what-not-to, where-to an’ all.

Listen up - it ain’t all that complicated.

Here’s the deal – Mary Shelley had the right idea. Frankenfiction.

Other words, Make Yo Own.

Get yourself a skeleton, yeah? Slap on some flesh. Wrap it all in skin and then animate that ugly mother. That, my friend, is how to write a book.

Whassat mean? I hear you snap, all whip-smart and sassy.

OK, let’s break it down.


Research: One word – Wikipedia. Find it, use it, check it, cut it, paste it, quote it and change it a bit in case of lawsuits.

Backstory: Know your story world. And share every itty bit of it with the reader. Start with a tense stand-off between two gunmen or a nun facing the noose, then go into a well-massive flashback involving Satanism, child abuse and cruelty to croissants.

(Not meant to be prescriptive – any pastry product will do.)

Plot: Not rocket science, my friend. Even if you’re writing Apollo 39. Beginning – something’s gonna happen. Middle – it gets way more complicated. End – guy beds gal, goodie shoots baddie, maverick saves world (unless your book is French – then you’re gonna need a shopping trolley and some spoons).


Character: Give your reader familiar points of reference and let them fill in the blanks from their own imaginations. The butler, standing in the half-light, looked somewhat like Alan Titchmarsh after a colonic irrigation.

Dialogue: The thing about dialogue is that is has to sound like people talking.

St John, I have decided to give you access to my undercarriage after your respectful attentions to Papa” works just fine for Corsets-in-Dorset.

Deep breath, Leroy, you’re goin’ in.” More your undersea tales for pre-schoolers.

(Be imaginative with speech tags. Said is dead. Go wild with purred, squeaked, growled, rocked, whinnied and regurgitated. Or spat.)

Pace: This is, like, well important. Best thing for pace? Start with some buttock-gripping stuff in the first bit, slack off for popcorn and then end with a massive fight. Even for rom-coms, but use ice-cream instead of grenades.


Imagery: An essential weapon in the writer’s arsenal. Metaphor = like.

Graham screamed like a blackboard with its tail in a mincer. Similies are as easy as falling off a dog - just don’t use clichés, especially if you can’t do the accent. Plunder your thesaurus, unless you’re vegetarian.

Language: Share the wealth of generous description. Adjectives are herbs to the bland potage of your prose. Especially if you alliterate. His cadaverous, cold eyes crept covetously over her crimson clutch. Adverbs, administered with caution, sauce up any tired old missionary position. “I’m most dreadfully sorry,” apologised the profuse physician, ideologically.

Red herrings:

Readers love it when you flag up that spooky monkey’s paw, the locked attic, the buried letters and NEVER REFER TO THEM AGAIN. Really makes ‘em think.


Once your Mum’s read it and said ooh-it’s-very-good-dear, send it to an agent, who will get you a well-massive publishing deal and film tie-in.

Top tips

Photocopy a standard letter and hand write the name

Do twenty at a time on yellow paper

If you gotta personalise your queries, let ‘em know you mean business by dissing their other clients.

And credit Dr F. in the acknowledgements. You’d be nothing without me.

Read more of Jill's work: jjmarsh's blog

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

JJ, that is a well-massive blog. I only wish it was - well - MORE massive! Sue