Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Is There a Doctor in the House?

As writers, we get to experience things (well, at least in our minds) that many people don't. If we want our characters to fly in a hot air balloon, or experience cancer, or quit their jobs and abandon their lives, we can do it.

Sure, there's online research, to help us capture these unfamiliar things on the page. But there's also an enormous well of resources around us, if we'll only just take a look. Think of friends, relatives, people you know, who might be able to help, to give a first-hand account of something you're writing about.

In the book I'm currently editing, there's a scene in which a character has had an accident (he falls) and needs medical attention. I wanted to be as accurate as possible with the medical side of things. Cue my father, a doctor! Tonight, I had a conversation with him, in which we discussed the medical realities and questions that would need to be addressed with this character's situation. It actually turned funny, our conversation, when we both realized we were talking about a fictional character. It went something like this:

Dad: "If he has a concussion, head trauma, then it's important to assess his level of consciousness. Has he been attacked?"
Me: "No. He just fell. But he might have bumped his head. I haven't decided yet. Maybe, to uncomplicate things, I could have him not bump his head. I could just give him hypothermia. And maybe some dehydration."
Dad: "Okay, well, in that case..."

And so on. It was fun, discussing a character's health as though he was a real person!

So, as you're researching things/situations you've never personally experienced, look around at the people in your life. Are there experts there, right under your nose, who can give you inside information? Who can give you accurate assessments that will help you write the scene like an expert? If so, use them.

Trust me, they won't mind. Especially if, like my father, they're big supporters of your writing. They'll be more than happy to help, and to know that they were an important part of the process.


  1. Great post. My current WIP invovled a fair amount of research to capture the emotions just right.

  2. Thanks, Trisha! I agree, about getting the emotions just right - that's so important to do, even in the research process...