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Medical Science in Writing


Guest Rustic Monk

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Guest Rustic Monk

I think we all know what I'm referring to by now. LOL. Zombies, of course. But this could apply to anything, any hospital, triage, field-surgeon scene. I'd imagine it'd be a little more intellectual than the girl in Girl, Interrupted talking about the aeorta ... in her throat. (It's in your chest.)

I guess it helps that one of my nursing student friends gave me the 2004 Nurse's Drug Guide. I intend to fully delve into subjects like γδ T cells, sodium ferric gluconate complexes and erythropoietin therapies. I know I probably went way over people's heads with terms like "glomerular filtration rate" and "hypostatic congestions".

(I was looking for the topic where someone replied that it's not the details that make the story, but the story around the details ... or something like that. But I forgot where that topic went to.) (The thing is, I want people who actually know about medicine to find these untested theories at least interesting, you know?)

The question is: How many heavy medical terms does it take for someone to become confused enough to just bite the f

uck

ing lollipop and throw the book against a wall?

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In classic writing and film terms the amount and style of exposition is more influential on frustrating, informing or boring the reader/viewer than the subject of the details of said exposition. The way the audience is told is most important.

In my experience, the answer is to entwine the exposition into the plot as much as possible.

Perhaps the lead character discovers the technical terms in a way that intrigues the audience.

An excellent example was one that kept me awake at nights by my mother describing the 1930s movie of the Mummy, in which the archaeologist was reading the scroll aloud with its life giving curse causing the Mummy to come to life behind him as he read it.

The audience thus learned about the curse and that it's power was working whilst they watched horrified at the archaeologist being murdered because of the curse he had just activated by reading it.

This kind of exposition is both informative for the reader/viewer as well as entertaining.

Consider the alternative of a class room of students being lectured about a subject by a professor being watched by our hero who then goes on an adventure that has nothing to do with the students or the professor. True, the subject of the professor's lecture is the setting of the story, but the way the audience learns of it is boring.

Worse of course is the technical footnote that explains everything.

Also these expositions can be clouded in interpretation so as to give a twist, albeit logical, by stories end.

In the case of your medical terminology, you might consider a number of ways for such things to surface as evidence of the Zombie condition or treatment, or simply to interact with people to affect or be affected by the zombie.

Given this way of dealing with the exposition for the reader then, it is possible to engage them in quite technical and complicated terms because you have made them want to know the meanings and relevance of these terms to the story.

Just my thoughts on it anyway. :applause[1]:

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DS has a fine use of medical information in Alone/Together (one of the Best of NIfty) in the second story arc, that starts about chapter 13 or 14. The author is well versed in the illness in the story, which I won't reveal here.

He is able to use very detailed information with quotes from medical notes.

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Writers Digest books have a series of books which delve into areas of special knowlege.

I have one called Body Trauma: a writers guide to wounds and injuries which covers how emergency medicine works and the various types of injuries/treatments that you might see in any ER. There are other books in this series that go into diseases, police procedures, finding/losing missing persons, etc. It's worth it if you want to try to dot all the "i"'s and cross all the "t"'s.

A little research goes a long way. Problem is that if one of your characters has a heart attack, they are jillions of heart attack survivors + their relatives and your story can quickly go south if things just don't seem right.

Best plan is to keep it simple. Let a doctor state a condition in laymans terms without geing into too much detail.

ie. It's 1950 and Bob has malaria. He would be given a drug called Quinine. Bob probably wouldn't call it by name but it tastes so bad some people would prefer malaria.

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James above has it 100% right. I think dropping in just a few details here and there, a few buzz-words, is all that's necessary.

More than forty years ago, I remember this advice from Gene Roddenberry (to prospective Star Trek writers, not me): "We never have Captain Kirk stop and explain how the phaser works. We just have him shoot it, and assume the audience will figure it out on their own."

I think that's the right approach. But in a scene that has, say, a hospital crew examining an injured or dying person, you'd want to pepper the dialog with enough technical phrases to help make it real. I did this in a scene in Jagged Angel where two guys decide to have sex on a hospital bed, but one of them is hooked up to a remote monitoring device. A nurse at a remote station sees the patient's respiration suddenly lurch up, and tries to come in the room, not knowing what's going on. I threw in enough technical detail about the medical read-outs to give it some verisimilitude, but not so much as to show off or overwhelm the reader.

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Guest Rustic Monk

this is all very interesting. but if i had to pick a favorite answer, it would be des'.

right now, at least, because he already assumes you know that the

fuck

you're talking about. which i do, for the most part. i mean, my resources are actual doctors and nurses and real studies and stuff like that. i'm sorry to say though, most of the ideas or actual in-practice .... advice (?) don't apply to a situation where a medical doctor is trying to explain to himself or in his thoughts what could have happened, or how things went wrong.

but jamessavik gets the special mention, because the writer's digest seems like a really good resource. i think it's been mentioned before . . . . i found another book like the one he's describing, and I think someone included a large excerpt from a book like it in one of the other topics.

i'm not trying to add seasoning to a layman's understanding of medicine. i'm trying to desalinate an otherwise unintelligible line of technical jargon. quoting from studies and . . . "peppering", at least in the context mentioned, seems like an overextended reach for . . . . I don't know. i've always thought of quoting as a good way to waste some pages in an attempt to delay your own burden of creativity to complete a story.

quoting from fictitious manifestos and policies like in 1984 are awesome. but quoting from a study of cancer, to display that one little rare thing you decide to put into your story to make something consistent is just . . . . I don't know. an unexplainable pet peeve. if you're gonna go that far, why don't you just make it up? or use some imagination? like in science fiction.

take star trek: anyone reading a star trek book has SEEN a phaser fired. in fact, there are fictional schematics that explain the workings of impulse drives, warp drives and the like. LOL. i mean, really, take the scene in Galaxy Quest where Jason Nesmith (played by Tim Allen) is trying to disarm the self-destruct mechanism in the ficticious ship (the NSEA Protector) that "Thermians" actually built from watching the show, "Galaxy Quest", which must have aired 15 to 30 years before the time the movie takes place.

i don't know, maybe i've already done too much research to participate in this conversation. a doctor doesn't use layman's terms. he just doesn't. he intellectualizes a patient's symptoms and treatments in a way that doesn't lend itself to simple english. he's going to treat kidney disease with erythropoietin therapy and sodium ferric gluconate complexes.

that's why i like jamessavik's tip. top notch, dude.

pecman: which chapter can I find your scene in?

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...take the scene in Galaxy Quest where Jason Nesmith (played by Tim Allen) is trying to disarm the self-destruct mechanism in the ficticious ship (the NSEA Protector) that "Thermians" actually built from watching the show, "Galaxy Quest"..."

That's a wonderful, wonderful movie, probably the best movie Tim Allen has ever made. Movies like that are among my favorite stories, where the plot starts off going in one direction, then takes an abrupt turn and the audience goes, "whoa! Where the hell is this thing going?" You gotta love that. (Alan Rickman as the "Spock" character was superb, too.)

BTW, just to name drop, I'm currently working on my third Tim Allen movie in a row (after Shaggy Dog and Santa Clause III). The one is the first he's ever directed, Crazy on the Outside, and I think it's due out at the end of the year. It co-stars Sigourney Weaver -- also from Galaxy Quest -- this time, playing Tim's world-weary sister.

Tim's a very, very funny, edgy guy in real life. And definitely a total pro when it comes to knowing his lines and all that. I know his films aren't exactly critic-pleasers, but at least he's a pretty nice guy and loyal to his crews.

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Tim's a very, very funny, edgy guy in real life. And definitely a total pro when it comes to knowing his lines and all that. I know his films aren't exactly critic-pleasers, but at least he's a pretty nice guy and loyal to his crews.

Nice to know Tim is good guy.

As for the critics, they rarely please me. :lol:

Galaxy Quest is one of my favourites too.

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  • 1 month later...

Medicine has its own language. To the average layperson, its a foreign language, with very little in common with the english that the rest of us use. I think the same way that one would use french terms in an english language story would be appropriate for a lot of medical terminology: use the term, and then allow context and contextual explication to make the meaning clear.

cheers!

aj

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That's a wonderful, wonderful movie, probably the best movie Tim Allen has ever made. Movies like that are among my favorite stories, where the plot starts off going in one direction, then takes an abrupt turn and the audience goes, "whoa! Where the hell is this thing going?" You gotta love that. (Alan Rickman as the "Spock" character was superb, too.)

I like funny movies and I like science fiction movies, and Galaxy Quest is my favorite of that combination genre. In fact, it's also my second favorite comedy; Young Frankenstein is in first place on my comedy list. Anyway, one of my favorite scenes in Galaxy Quest is when the upper section of the Protector returns to earth and lands in the parking lot (and into the building) where the Galaxy Quest Con is being held, as it's landing is blows away a bunch of SUVs parked there. You know, SUVs, otherwise known as UAVs, Urban Assault Vehicles. :hehe: This is just one of dozens and dozens of fantastically funny scenes in this movie. I never get tired of watching it when it's on TV, and I own the DVD, for God's sake! Poor Doug doesn't understand this obsession of mine. Whatever.

Colin :icon4:

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I like funny movies and I like science fiction movies, and Galaxy Quest is my favorite of that combination genre.

I love the scene near the beginning, where the Tim Allen character is in the restroom, and overhears two fans saying that he's the biggest a-hole in the show. One of the great William Shatner-esque moments ever.

BTW, note that the director and writers of that film were not the people who originated the project. Galaxy Quest was actually started by Harold Ramis, who previously co-wrote Ghostbusters and co-wrote and directed Groundhog Day, among many other films. Ramis was miffed when Disney insisted that he hire Tim Allen for the part (over another actor), and so he walked off the film. Galaxy Quest is still a very good film -- arguably the best film Tim Allen ever made -- but you have to wonder how it would've been with another actor as the star and Harold Ramis as the director.

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Well, think I understand what the topic was when this thread was started. I just wanted to add that I believe Altimexis does a great job of combining very detailed medical descriptions in his wonderful story "Love in a Chair", and at the same time keeping the story enjoyable and entertaining.

My two cents. Now how do you turn on this light sabre? :hehe:

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Now how do you turn on this light sabre? :icon11:

OK... from my copy of the LaserKill Devices Ltd. LightSabre? manual:

Hold down the Start button that should be under your index finger on the bottom side of the handle.

Whilst you're holding down the Start button, give the LightSabre? a short, hard vertical shake down

then back up. That should both turn on the LightSabre? and extend the LaserBlade?. If the

LightSabre? turns on but the LaserBlade? does not extend, hold down the Start button and

simultaneously press the Reset button on the bottom of the LightSabre?, then restart as above.

It the LightSabre? turns on and the LaserBlade? extends, but the LaserBlade? is a dark blue color,

immediately power down the LightSabre? to prevent injury or death to the operator and those in the

surrounding quartex. To power down the LightSabre? under these circumstances you need to twist the lower

half of the handle anti-clockwise (rotating it to the left) whilst firmly holding the upper half of the handle.

Do not attempt to power up the LightSabre?; instead take it back to the outlet where it was originally

purchased (you will need your original sales receipt as proof of purchase) for an immediate replacement;

if that is inconvenient you can ship it at no charge by the GalX SpeedOfLight Small Parcel Delivery Service

to the nearest LaserKill Devices Ltd. service centre with a copy of your sales receipt and the locale

coordinates where you want the replacement shipped. Note that, depending on the relative locations

of the service centre and where you are and where you will be, and the availability of black holes that

connect through to those locations, time for receipt of your replacement may be quite lengthy. LaserKill

Devices Ltd. always recommends that you have a supply of LightSabres? on hand so you will always

be armed and ready. Remember, Your Protection Is Our Only Business!SM

Hope this helps.

Colin :icon_geek:

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