Setting Thesaurus Entry: Secret Genetic Engineering Lab

This post has been generously written by PJ Hoover, author (and Texas Sweetheart!) of the Forgotten Worlds Trilogy, a mythology adventure for middle graders. The exciting final book, THE NECROPOLIS is available now from CBAY Books!

The situation in Lemuria is rapidly deteriorating. In fact teleportation between the hidden continent and the outside world has become so dangerous, all agents and their families have been recalled.

Although Benjamin is psyched to be living in Lemuria full time, he knows he needs to find his last brother soon. However, between classes, a murderous half-brother, and complications with his friend Heidi, Benjamin can barely focus. Besides, there’s only one place left they haven’t searched—the hidden continent of Atlantis.

Setting Notes from PJ: When I chose the setting of a secret genetic engineering lab, in no way did I plan to duplicate the efforts already done for “Laboratory”. That list is awesome and comprehensive and a definite go-to for the standard lab.

But what sets apart a secret lab? And what about one where secret genetic engineering experiments have been going on? That’s what I’m going to focus on.


Retinal scanners, LEDs, test tubes, high tech note-taking equipment of choice (for THE NECROPOLIS, it’s the Thought Cache), secret levels, elevator doors, Bunsen burners, frustrated lab workers, coffee cups scattered around, snack containers, overflowing trash can, mutated creatures in various stages of development, glass specimen jars of all sizes, stainless steel (counters, cabinets), lab coats, labels, rooms with hidden entry.

Also, don’t be afraid to explore the darker elements of genetic engineering: bald heads, hair follicles covering skin, webbed fingers and toes, undeveloped features, flippers, green skin (or any color of choice), full-size bodies stored in gel, empty eyes staring back


Doors whooshing open, glass clinking, centrifuges (for stirring), hum of humidifiers, test tubes dropping, bickering between lab techs, scraping of animal claws on cages


Lab chemicals; formaldehyde (lots and lots of formaldehyde); cleaners; recycled, clean air; Strong coffee


Acid. Base, Salt in air, any snack of choice (be it jellybeans or peanuts), coffee (or drink of choice, even Amoeba Juice)


Slimy experiments, cold tables, hard tile underfoot, chilly air, glass jars under fingers, cold of refrigerator/freezer used for storage

Helpful Hints:

–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1:

“Are you leading us to Hell?” Benjamin asked as the halls seemed to spiral and loop back on themselves. How did anyone keep their sense of direction down here?

“It’s just around the corner,” Jack said.  And he teleported them into a room the size of a large cafeteria. “This is the stuff they don’t teach in Genetic Engineering 101.”

Example 2:

Benjamin, Heidi, and Cory gave them the short version. The really short version. It was obvious from Gary’s continued fiddling with the test tubes that he and Aurora had something else on their minds.

— Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.


Andy grimaced like he’d just taken a huge sip of Amoeba Juice. “No way. I’ve spent way too much time in there.”

Iva sighed. “It’s not that bad, Andy.” She headed back, grabbed his hand, and dragged him through the door.

“It’s horrible,” Andy said. “All we’ve done for the last two weeks is watch Gary and Aurora compare test tubes. ‘Oh, this one looks green’,” he mimicked. “‘Oh, this one looks green and slimy.’ ‘Oh, and look at this one—it’s green and slimy and chunky.’”

Benjamin laughed because…well…it sounded just like Gary and Aurora.


Benjamin felt the truth as sure as he knew he had ten toes.


Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, an online library packed with powerful tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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15 Responses to Setting Thesaurus Entry: Secret Genetic Engineering Lab

  1. Slamdunk says:

    Very well done. It is great to see the mechanics of making writing work.

  2. I don’t know why it surprises me but I’m always amazed to know you’re from Calgary. What a great place. I’m going to be there for the winter…brrr.


  3. Julie Musil says:

    Wow these are great! I felt like I was dropped in an evil lab, waiting for a mad scientist to start experimenting on me.

  4. PJ Hoover says:

    Thanks, Natalie! I need to find a way to use the science background more in my writing 🙂

  5. Heather says:

    I loved this! The science angle was fun!

  6. Great examples. With your science background, I bet it made it easier to design the lab. Thanks for sharing.

  7. PJ Hoover says:

    Thanks so much, everyone, for reading!

  8. So great, PJ. This kind of setting would’ve been impossible for Angela or me to provide. Thanks for filling in such an interesting blank!

  9. Seriously, even though I don’t know if I’ll ever write a story that has a secret genetic engineering lab, I just LOVED reading this posts!! So great! Thanks PJ!

    Now I’m off to read the amusement park post again, because my story DOES have one of those! Love this blog!

  10. cleemckenzie says:

    I love the futuristic techi stuff fused into a story that has dangerous characters and an intriguing plot. Your examples of words to create atmosphere are wonderful.

  11. Nathalie says:

    These posts are so informative and interesting. Thanks for boosting my muse and provoking some wonderful thought!

    P.S. This book sounds wonderful, something I’ve added to my TBR list.

  12. Ooooo, neat examples! Love the empty eye sockets and jelly beans, ha! Thanks PJ and Angela.

  13. Great job on this, PJ. Thanks so much for adding your knowledge to The Bookshelf Muse and the setting Thesaurus! 🙂

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  14. PJ Hoover says:

    Yay! Thanks for letting me hang out on your blog for the day, Angela!

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