Writers, Know Your Stuff

Anonymous asked: “Hey Lizard, now I know there is a lot of frustration and anger towards incorrect hospital and emergency procedures and I was wondering if you had any tips about it or any do’s and don’t’s?”

I love to read. That’s not really a secret, but one of the reasons I love reading is because I love to learn new things. Even in fiction, you can constantly be learning new things about the world around you.

You can learn about different industries and occupations, about different time periods, historical events, and so on. I always assume that whatever I’m reading is true, or that the things that seem plausible in it are actually plausible. That things like this happen and that I’m getting a glimpse into a part of the world that I might know nothing about. With that said, when I come across something in a book that I feel I’m meant to believe in but happens to be something I know for sure is impossible or unrealistic or simply wrong, I get annoyed. Lots of readers do.

I personally don’t know a ton about hospital specifics or emergency procedures other than what I’ve seen on Grey’s Anatomy. I consider that hospital show realistic enough to not be annoying so, you can see my bar for accuracy isn’t set incredibly high and if I were to write something set in a hospital you can bet I’d rewatch all of season 1 just to prepare myself. I’d also probably start looking up any term I wanted to use and even just try to pay better attention to hospital jargon in anything else I’d read recently on the topic.

I don’t know that I’ve ever really written something set in a hospital that includes medical information in it. With that said, there is an old trick of write what you know. So this might not be so helpful if your protagonist is the doctor, but if your character is a patient, then write the things that you know. Describe the hospital, the rooms, the other patients, the nurses, the characters’ thoughts and feelings – you’d be surprised how much time you can spend writing about a hospital without using medical jargon.

Let’s go back to that phrase for a second – write what you know. That might sound insanely limiting, but really, take it as a challenge. If you want to write about something you know next to nothing about, there’s nothing wrong with writing it and then along the way, doing the research, coming to know your topic incredibly well as you go, reading about it in other fiction books or really, more logically, nonfiction books, reports, articles, primary sources, and so on. Instead of letting yourself get stuck on a detail, take notes and remember what things you’ll want to come back to later on. You can make corrections in later drafts. Remember, not every single thing needs to be 100% accurate (that’s the beauty of fiction, that all part of the thrill in some of the wilder episodes of Grey’s Anatomy) so remember you can actually take some liberties with it, just try to get the things you can get right, right.

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