Wednesday, October 2, 2013

When to Consult a Medical Expert by Jordyn Redwood

Author (and nurse) Jordyn Redwood has a blog on which she treats writers to important information with regard to medical issues. I asked her to share some aspect of research strategies when it comes to this topic. -- Sandy  

Jordyn: Although I’ve always helped authors along the way with medical questions, it’s been one of my primary focuses for the last three years or so since the invention of Redwood’s Medical Edge—my medical blog for authors.

The reason for creating my blog was the multitude of published works I read that were loaded with medical inaccuracies. Not just a few here and there but time after time things were catching my eye.

In a pod-cast interview, the interview asked if these medical mistakes would be enough for the average reader to pick up. To be honest, I’m probably more sensitive to these errors after spending 20 years in nursing but some are mind-numbingly obvious. Such as saying the spleen is on the right side. Such as calling a collar bone a shoulder blade. You don’t have to have a medical degree in anything to pick up on these missed anatomy issues.

Writers, I think, are confused as to when it’s beneficial to consider consulting a medical expert. And I actually mean more than asking Uncle Joe who has worked as a dentist when you need information about delivering an infant.

Not the best option.

An author who is also a medical expert is your best bet because they know what will overload the reader, they know what is too medically complex for a non-medical author to pull off, and can help you with the nuances (the language and the interactions) from having worked in the field.

But when is it best to consider plucking down a few hard earned dollars to work with a medical consultant?

Here are my thoughts.

  1. You need a medical condition that fits a certain set of symptoms. Often times I get queries from authors along these lines and perhaps they’ve tried to find something on their own but just cannot decipher the medical language to know, for certain, if it fits. “I need a fatal condition for a child that won’t be immediately obvious but could put the child in peril around three months of age.” Believe it or not—a metabolic disorder fits this criteria. 
  2. You have a medical scenario in mind but aren’t sure if it’s reasonable. This happens frequently and is probably the most dangerous position to work from. Let’s take a look at the following example. “My character has been in a car accident. The car has rolled three times. The injured character was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown 100 yards into a swift moving ravine where he almost drowned. He was rescued and required only a minute of CPR to revive him. I need him home from the hospital that night.” Or the opposite is true. “I have a character that fell down the stairs and I need him to be in the ICU for three days.”
Both of these situations set up implausible medical scenarios. The car accident victim is going to be too injured to go home that day. Someone who requires CPR after nearly drowning is going to be watched, at a minimum, overnight. In order to get admitted into the ICU a patient has to be pretty sick so the simple fall down the stairs is likely not going to injure the character enough.

  1. Come with an open mind but with a needed result for your character. What I prefer to know is your end game with an open mind to the medical scenario. “I need a character to suffer an injury from a fall that would land them in the hospital for a few days in the ICU and I’m fine with a few extra days in the hospital but I don’t want them to have any residual injuries.” For you, I would pick an epidural hematoma.
  2. You have a pivotal medical scene. I consulted once for an author who had a child dying in the Pediatric ICU from leukemia. This is something you want to flow nicely for the reader. If at any moment they pause, look away from the page, and think about the accuracy of what you’ve written—you’ve taken them out of the story bubble and perhaps their trust in you has fallen. Perhaps you’ve even lost a reader. 
I once read a review from a fan of historical fiction that skewered an author for writing a completely inaccurate historical scenario in the third book of the series. The author not being historically accurate became a trust issue for this reviewer. He then doubted the previous two books and swore off reading anything else from the author.
Don’t let this happen to you. Consult a medical expert if you find yourself writing in these scenarios. It’s likely not as expensive as you think.



Have you ever read a novel with a medical scene you found implausible? Did it ruin the story for you? Have you employed a medical consultant to help with your research? What is most interesting medical issue you've dealt with in your novels, and where did you go to get your information?



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Jordyn Redwood is a pediatric ER nurse by day, suspense novelist by night. She hosts Redwood’s Medical Edge, a blog devoted to helping contemporary and historical authors write medically accurate fiction. Her
first two novels, Proof and Poisongarnered starred reviews fromLibrary Journal and have been endorsed by the likes of Dr. Richard Mabry, Lynette Eason, and Mike Dellosso to name a few. Proof was shortlisted for the 2012 ForeWord Review’s BOTY Award2013 INSPY Award and the 2013 Carol Award. You can connect with Jordyn via her website at www.jordynredwood.com.


Peril Synopsis (From CBD): Medical mystery thrillers with a chilling diagnosis—the only cure is to keep reading! Dr. Reeves implants superior memory cells into soldiers’ brains with amazing results—until negative symptoms appear. When his daughter is taken hostage by enraged research subjects, can he discover the answer they demand before Morgan’s life is in serious Peril

4 comments:

  1. Jordyn, one of my pet peeves is finding an implausible medical scenario in a book. You and I have both discovered this, even in the books of a NYT best-selling author.
    Another is when someone posts a question on a writer's loop, asking for advice re a medical scenario from the participants there, instead of going to an expert. That's why I like your blog so much. Another source is the blog of Dr. D P Lyle (dplylemd.com).
    Thanks for what you do.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for stopping by and all your support, Richard. Yes, posting to the writer's loop is a favorite of mine, too-- a little like the blind leading the blind.

    It's not bad if you're looking for someone to relate a personal experience related to a medical condition but not great for the medical response.

    ReplyDelete

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