Thursday, April 7, 2011

Exploiting My Family For My Novelling Needs

Sometimes, you have to use what you've got! While I certainly have many entertaining stories of my family's escapades that I could turn into a book, I'm pretty sure no one would find them funny but us. No, the kind of exploitation I'm talking about is knowledge exploitation.

I've posted excerpts of the novel I call Q here, and so most of you know that it partially takes place in a hospital. When the novel begins, the main character has spent the last few years of her life living in one, and therefore I need to know some things. The nice thing is that I don't need to do any disease- specific research because I made up the disease from which Eliza is suffering, which therefore means that if I want her to suffer from some symptom (and boy, do I make her suffer), I can just do it without being afraid some med person is going to read my book and get annoyed.

But there are still many things I've kept the same or close to the same to today's medical world. The novel is slightly futuristic, but not too much so- I've set it in 2025. Therefore, though Eliza isn't anchored to an IV stand, for example, she does still need an IV, and I needed to figure out how they worked.

I had posted a question on the NaNo boards about IVs, asking if someone could pull one out of their hand. The (paraphrased) resulting conversation occured:

Me: blah blah blah, need info, help please.

Person 1: [insert helpful info about IV needles here.]

Person 2: Uh, highly implausible. Plus, what would keep someone in the hospital for years? And wouldn't she need an IV stand?

Me: Well, I made up the disease, so some of the symptoms require her to stay at the hospital round the clock. The novel also takes place in the future, so I've "invented" a device that allows her to have an IV but not the stand.

Person 2: Wouldn't she need a port of some sort? And you didn't invent it, we have something like this. (Links to picture that doesn't actually relate to what I'm talking about, so I'm not sure why they bothered.)

Me: Person 2, perhaps she might need something like that today, but like I said, I've set it a little bit into the future, and in this future, we're more medically advanced.

It went on, and in the end, I got some helpful information from other people and I've figured out that part of my story. But after the frustration of Person 2's "yeah, but"s, I decided to ask a person who knew and could answer me in real time- my sister!

My sister's a freshman in college, studying to be a veterinary technician. I was telling her about my earlier conversation and she gave me some helpful advice. Then I started talking to her about TOSOL, partcularly the end where Lyddie is killed with an injection. I told her how the villain went about doing it and she gave me some tips to make the process a little more medically sound.

A conversation I had with my mother (who is a respiratory therapist) about the very same scene in November:

Me: Hey, Mom, what's the thing called on a syringe that you push down?

Mom: What, you mean a plunger?

Me: Ugh, is that what it's called? That's a really ugly word. Are there any different ones, because that just won't work at all...

In the end I had to use "plunger," even though I hate it. Of course, I don't need to be incredibly medically correct- this is a novel, not a medical textbook. But I couldn't very well write "he depressed the pushy-downy part of the syringe." However, there are parts of med procedure, like the preparation of a syringe, that I'm leaving out, simply because a) it will slow down the scene and b) the character doesn't know or care to know that he took off that piece because it was a protective covering. She's about to die, she has other concerns.

Either way, though, I'm grateful to have some medical knowledge in my family to exploit when I need it ;)

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