Friday, June 1, 2012

The Rogue Medical Character

The dream of getting published has been a long one for me. And today, that day, has arrived! The day I've longed wished came true.

To celebrate, anyone who leaves a comment on my blog during this weeks posts will be eligible to win a free copy! I'll also be drawing from my followers/subscribers lists as well. So, plenty of places for you to win. Drawing cutoff will be Sunday, June 3rd. Winners announced Tuesday, June 5th. To claim, you must e-mail me with your info so definitely check the June 5th post. Must live in the USA.

Then, there's always where real life and dream life meet in some sort of fantastic collision. What you expected is far from what happens. Both good things and bad things.

Mostly good things.

Running a medical blog for authors is a great source of fun. But even I'm not a medical expert in all areas. My first novel, has an OB physician as a major character. Now, I have never been an OB nurse nor do I have any desire to be. That's why I had other specialists review my novel to make sure everything was authentic and not just the part that I knew about.

The best medical expert to get to review your work is someone actively working in the area currently. These are the experts I sought out and through that process I learned some important lessons that I'd thought I'd share here.



If your novel has some heavy medical aspects, it is best to have it reviewed by someone who works the area. I recently reviewed a manuscript for someone who was writing about diabetes. The character was newly diagnosed and she had done some research to try and determine what the treatment would be. Let me give some kudos here and say she was close. But close is like not scoring a touchdown when you're on the one yard line. Wrong route giving insulin. Hanging clipboards at the end of the bed (which is not done anymore people!!) and not providing for rehydration which is the #1 therapy for DKA. It's the little details that will trip you up.

People don't want their profession to be disparaged. Now, as a writer, I understand characters needing to do bad things for the sake of the plot. So, how do you handle a medical person gone bad without people practicing in that profession lighting your manuscript on fire?

I recently read a contest entry where the author had two nurses doing very bad things to a patient. Even the "bad" nurses I know would never do the things these nurses were doing-- very demeaning things.

Here is how I've determined the best way to handle the issue. You must have one character in the profession in the scene who points out the bad behavior and shows how the real medical person is going to act. It's the seasoned charge nurse that comes into the room and dresses down the two horrible nurses. Now, beauty of this, adds conflict! Particularly if the patient is awake (which in real life should never happen in front of a patient.)

It's okay to have bad, rogue, medical person as long as another character in the story is pointing it out. Then, the reader will know you know what you're writing about.

What do you think? How do you handle rogue characters without people in that profession being offended?

23 comments:

  1. Congrats on your book being published Jordyn! Hope it sells a million copies :)
    cheers,
    Maree

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  2. Good point about the mistakes a character might make. Having someone in the story point it out is a good idea.
    As for writing medical fiction in general, I strongly warn those with no medical knowledge to get their work checked by someone in the field. I have 36 years experience practicing medicine, research every aspect carefully, and still get taken to task from time to time by a reader because my character does it differently than what they've observed. I've been around enough different hospitals to know that, like children and brands of coffee, there can be differences.
    Thanks for your post, and congratulations.

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    1. Thanks, Richard. Definitely my recommendation, too. Have an expert review your scene. I had an OB nurse review mine. Too specialized an area.

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  3. Great advice to have a positive medical person enter the scene(s) so that the 'bad' people are shown to be making the wrong decisions.
    Thanks, Jordyn and good luck with "Proof." :-)

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  4. Congratulations, Jordyn. I read the Amazon preview and it looks great.

    As for your question about creating 'bad' characters without disparaging entire professions, I think that a writer can't worry about that, at least not overly so. Any professional person has got to realize that there are bad eggs among their colleagues. Simple statistics tells us that. So if a writer chooses to make their antagonist a doctor or a nurse or a baker, we readers have to realize that's not an indictment of an entire profession, it's just a (hopefully reasonably accurate) single character.

    The line would be crossed when an author chooses to depict an entire profession as evil. But I think most readers would recognize that as unreasonable, and simple market forces would punish the author. These things sort themselves out, is what I'm saying.

    Anyway, that's my two cents. Best of luck with the book, and thanks as always for keeping us honest when writing about medicine.

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  5. Congratulations, Jordyn! I read the blurb for Proof--very intriguing! Makes me want to read it. Science says he's innocent, but she knows he's not--fire-cracking!

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    1. Charmaine, I hope you'll check it out. The first five chapters are at my website for FREE! Here's a link: http://www.jordynredwood.net/resources/

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  6. Congratulations on your book's release. Must be a wonderful feeling. And great cover!

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    1. Thanks so much! How's the writing life been going for you lately?

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  7. Congratulations, Jordyn! May you have many more release (and re-release) days! IMHO, there are so many medical procedures that may cause pain (debridement, IV insertions with collapsing veins) that a person (tech/nurse/doctor) doesn't have to be the Big Bad to introduce conflict. How the medical professional responds to the patient's pain can also be used to heighten tension, and again, it's not a Big Bad, it's just how that person reacts/responds. Are there people who may be less than stellar in any profession? Yes, but there are also many, many good people who have a lot of responsibility on any given day who are only human. I think that gives the story more depth and texture, and makes it more interesting as well.

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    1. Great points, Shandiss and thanks so much for leaving a comment.

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  8. Me...pick me! **jumping up and down**

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  9. Hi Jordyn,
    I have to side with Worden. As a thriller writer I find all kinds of people, both good and evil, in the world. Those that are evil are often the same people who end up as nurses, doctors, dentists, teachers. There's always the dark side that lives in all of us. Being able to look at that right in the eye is what keeps us caring and human.
    Great post. I want to win your book, or else I'LL BE FORCED TO BUY IT:)
    BETTE

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  10. The writing life is good, but I still need to find that balance between social media and actual writing. :)

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    1. Oh...my friend. I can totally relate to that. I'm still trying to find the balance myself.

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  11. This looks like a great book - going to add it to my Amazon Wishlist!! It is so great that you have this blog for authors. I write Romantic Suspense, but at times I need some medical things and find myself getting lost in some of the research. I will definitely be coming here and might even be posting a question or two!! And I think this is a great place to get some ideas for future writing pieces!!!

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    1. Hi Michelle!

      So glad you like the site. Yes, I will take your questions, too. Please, feel free to e-mail me with writing related medical questions. It's one of my most favorite things to do.

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  12. I'm so glad I found this website! I always have a medical angle in my stories and while I've had a lot experience with hospitals and doctors, it's good to have somewhere to go when I'm not familiar with a procedure. I'd love to win your book!
    pat at ptbradley dot com

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment P.T.!

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  13. I do hope I'm not too late to enter to win your book giveaway. I've not read your work and would love to read this one. If I win the book, I'd read, pass along to my nursing daughter-in-law, my daughter who is a nurse, and then to the Alamance Christian School library shelves. Here is to my hopes!!!!

    godleyv at yahoo [dot[com]

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    1. Vera,

      I love to hear that you have sooo many nurses in the family! What area do they specialize in?

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