If Mary Shelley Can Write “Frankenstein” During a Pandemic, What Will You Create?
As the terrifying dark rains thundered down on the mansion where Mary Shelley stayed in Switzerland in 1816 during the cholera pandemic, one of her traveling companions gave her a challenge that would change her life.
For most of the ill-conceived vacation, Shelley had simply been listening to her traveling companions.
Every night, she would pay close attention to the lively debates between Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley over just what the limits of man’s relationship to modern medicine might be. Together, they also spent their time reading exquisite selections of the horror genre — poetry, books and short stories.
Then one night Byron gave them all a task to complete.
Could they write something that was even better than what they had been reading thus far?
While Shelley wanted to write her own story, she had difficulty deciding what subject she should write about.
Every morning she was asked by the group if she had started writing too, and as she journaled later, “Each morning I was forced to reply with a mortifying negative.”
But one night as the thunder and lightning kept her awake, she opened her eyes to make out what appeared to be a terrifying vision hanging off the lake. It appeared to her a “hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine” it would “show signs of life.”
That vision, that bit of insight, changed everything.
The next day Shelley began her revolutionary genre-bending book, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, where she even incorporated the creepy Switzerland haunt where she was forced to stay as she wrote.
Published in 1818, her book is a lasting classic.
Which — keep in mind — she never intended to write.
Now, let me be your Lord Byron and ask you one simple question: What can you write that is better than your favorite work of fiction while you are quarantined from normal life?