Thursday, May 28, 2009

Anatomy: Even squishier than you'd think

Posted by: Jessa Slade
Currently working on: Revising Book 2
Mood: Working on revising that too
Anybody who had to dissect a pig heart in junior high knew relationships were gonna be a bitch. Turns out, all those grade school years of perfect paper hearts and somewhat less pefect but much sweeter Red Dye #5 frosting outlines at Valentine's Day were a lie. Hearts are actually fibrous, misshapen lumps of flesh, working way too hard and prone to far too much damage.

On the plus side, you could do fascinating things to them with a sharp scalpel and an electrode.

Lest that come across as budding psychopathology, let me assure you it was excellent advance training for a one-day romance writer. (Yes, I realize the jump from psycho to romance writer is shorter than a hopscotch square.) Not only is writing a book often a messy and blood-soaked affair, but add the element of a love story and the potential for arterial spray grows exponentially.

As a romance writer currently in revisions on my second book, I feel (or so I grandiosely imagine) all the pressure of a cardiac surgeon with the patient coding on the operating table beneath my hands. I've got a perfectly good body lying here -- the bones of story structure are solid, the muscles of the plot are well toned, the skin of words holds everything in place. Rather attractively, if I do say so myself.

And yet, without that beating heart...

Fortunately, I learned the second part of the anatomy lesson from Frankenstein, who taught us all you need is a little sizzle and you can light up that corpse to sing and dance. Sure, you still get that whole running amok thing to deal with, and then the villagers coming with torches, but you do what you must for the story.

So like any scientist, you can study. You can assemble all the requisite pieces. (And Eye-gor was right; an Abbey Normal brain is perfectly fine.) Go ahead and lay them out on that clean white paper. Then pull down your goggles and fire up the electricity.

Lab whites look a lot like writers' jammies if you squint.

4 comments:

Genene Valleau said...

LOL, Jessa! I love your blog posts!

Glad all I had to dissect back in the "olden days" when I was in school was a frog and my lab partner did most of that. I was--and still am--quite squeamish about cutting into body parts. (I don't even like to think about how a hamburger is actually made.)

Oops, gotta go! I think the villagers are here...

Susan Lute said...

Yes, the nurse got out of dissecting cadaverous parts in high school and in training...though I don't think that's really part of a nurse in training's curriculum :) Thank god.

I've spent the better part of too many months to mention dissecting my current manuscript, and believe me, I think a pig heart would have been much easier :)

therese said...

"... jump from psycho to romance writer is shorter than a hopscotch square." How truly squishy we all are!

I love the way you turn phrases and am so jealous you got to dissect a pig heart in junior high. I got to do an earthworm and a frog, in high school. That was at an All Girls Catholic HS in Ohio, which may account for the boring availability of specimens. And yes, I was the lab partner that wanted to do the whole thing.

Hm, there's no arterial spray in my books and I've never sizzled a corpse to life (yet). But I am adding bones, building muscle and smoothing skin, to make it quiver to the touch.

Now I'm off to run amok and light the villagers torches!

Jessa Slade said...

Ah, the fun to be had with Bunsen burners... My XY's shop class had us beat for shenanigans though; his classmate made Chinese throwing stars. You can guess how quickly one of those ended up in the back of somebody's head.