Here’s what I’ve determined to be essential when labeling a book a medical thriller.
1. It must have one of these three elements:
b. The setting is a hospital, clinic, etc.
c. There is an inherent medical mystery.
3. They take a known medical situation and put a twist on it. This is what, perhaps, makes a medical thriller so scary. You can understand the potential for it to happen—particularly when the news highlights stories that you’ve read in a book. Here’s a recent headline that got my writer’s wheels spinning. South Korean officials found pills from China filled with crushed infant remains. At first I thought, surely—this is one of those internet conspiracy theories but I found it referenced in more than one reliable source. What do you think of that? What medical plot could be born from this true life story? I’m keeping mine a secret—for now.
My debut novel, Proof, examines the real life possibility of DNA testing setting a guilty man free. What does the criminal justice system do when the gold standard of criminal prosecution fails? What does the victim do?
4. It is helpful, possibly mandatory, to have a medical background. To pen an authoritative medical manuscript, medical training and having worked in the medical field are paramount to giving the manuscript an authentic feel. Writing from a medical angle is difficult. Interpreting the language, knowing those special nuances, and knowing how these systems work is essential to a good novel. If you’re trying to write a medical thriller and have never been involved in the medical field—I highly suggest you pay a medical type to review your work. Of those well-known medical thriller writers—I couldn’t think of one that didn’t have a medical background. Can you?
What do you think are the essential components of a medical thriller? Can you think of a well-known medical thriller writer that didn’t have a medical background?
This piece originally posted on Nike Chillemi's Crime Fictionista Blog.