Posted On June 13, 2011 by Print This Post

Medical Speak for Writers by Wynter Daniels

As writers, we’ve all had moments when there’s one little piece of information we’re looking for and we can’t find it.  You know what I’m talking about. I know you do.  Well, if you any of your characters ever need medical attention, you’ve come to the right place.  Author Wynter Daniels is here to share her tips for authors needing to access credible medical information.

Take it away, Wynter!

These days so many romance novels feature a character getting injured or even struck with a medical condition. I teach an online class called Medical Speak for Writers because I think it’s important to get the facts straight. Whether you write medical romances or any other sort of romance, chances are at some point, you will write an injury, disease or condition into one of your books.

In Protective Custody, my current release from Carina Press, I had to drug one character and I had to realistically portray an elderly woman who had multiple ailments. It was vital that I was accurate in my choice of a specialist for the woman. I also had to find out what the treatment and prognosis would be for her conditions as well as which medications would be prescribed.

A writer often has to work backwards when it comes to diseases and injuries. We probably have a certain outcome in mind when our heroine is shot or stabbed. Therefore we must learn where her wound should be on her body for the desired outcome. In my case, I wanted the elderly woman to have dementia, but not all the time. I wanted her to grow progressively sicker.

In order to get the details right, I used several of the online resources that are readily available. But which sites can you trust? Working with a nurse practitioner, I developed a list of the most trusted sites for accurate medical information for the class. Here are some of our top picks:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/ – Mayo Clinic site for diseases and conditions, symptom checker (see below), listing of medical tests, first aid procedures and more.

http://www.webmd.com/ – Web MD, top source for accurate info on all sorts of medical conditions, first aid and emergency care, medications and mental health.

http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/ - CNN’s page for health news also has information on various more common diseases and conditions.

http://health.nih.gov/ – Part of the government sponsored site for the National Institutes of Health. As well as information on many medical conditions, you can also find out about ongoing research and grant programs. An interesting link will take you to minority-specific health sites, something we did not see anywhere else.

http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/ – Another government sponsored site but this one allows you to research various poisons and their effects.

http://cdc.gov/ – Yet another government resource. This site allows you to research rare diseases found in all corners of the world.

http://symptoms.webmd.com/ – Do you want to plug in symptoms and find a condition that fits? Symptom Checker from Web MD is a lifesaver when you need your character to have specific symptoms. Just plug in the information and the site will give you a list of conditions that match.

http://www.archetypewriting.com/real/real_disorders.htm – The Fiction Writer’s Guide to Psychology – exactly what it says. This site is invaluable if you write psychological thrillers. (I have it bookmarked.)

http://www.drugs.com/pdr/ - Physician’s Desk Reference. The online consumer version of the medical bible of pharmaceuticals is written in layman’s terms. Features a section to help identify pills, a drug interaction calculator, drugs by condition and possible side effects.

http://www.schoolshistory.org.uk/medicine.htm – Medicine through the ages. Click on links to different historical places and periods to learn the state of medicine at the time.

http://i.nursegroups.com/nursing-article/medicine-through-time.html – Medicine Through Time. Details different time periods in history and tells a bit about the medicine available and the practices used at various points in history.

You will also find many sites sponsored by foundations for various conditions. For example, searching “breast cancer” will yield many millions of sites. This is why it is good to stick to only a few trusted sites for your information. There’s so much misinformation out there, why risk making a factual error?

Of course, as writers, we always have the option of making up a disease or condition, depending on what type of story we are writing. I read a futuristic romance years ago where the main character was injecting her victims with a drug that incapacitated them. In such a story, it’s easy to get away with creating a drug if it is part of your world building, for example. But if you are going for realism, accuracy is a must. The moment a reader or editor catches a factual error, you lose all credibility and risk losing that reader.

We discuss many facets of the medical reality in our class, including the departments of a hospital, many medical specialties, common injuries from car accidents, gunshot and knife wounds and more. There’s also loads of information on alternative medicine and the future of medical innovation. For information on upcoming classes, you can check out my Workshops page on my website.

***

RU Crew, have you ever had to treat an injured character? We’d love to hear from you.

Join us on Wednesday when Wendy S. Marcus joins us for our next installment of the debut author interviews.

Bio: Wynter Daniels lives in Central Florida with her husband of more than twenty years and their two nearly grown children. They are all the slaves of two very demanding cats. After careers in marketing and the salon industry, Wynter’s wicked prose begged to be set free. She writes for several publishers including Carina PressEllora’s CaveLoose Id. Join her Facebook fan page HERE and her Yahoo! Group HERE. She loves to hear from readers, but only if it’s good.

Buy Protective Custody HERE.

Find Wynter on the web at http://www.wynterdaniels.com/

Visit her blog at http://wynterdaniels.blogspot.com/

Text Copyright © 2011 by Wynter Daniels

Cover Copyright © 2011 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited

Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover Art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.

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15 Responses to “Medical Speak for Writers by Wynter Daniels”

  1. Hi Wynter,

    Thank you so much for joining us today! I love your resource list, especially the one about medicine through time. In my current MS, my H/H have been kicked around a lot. I need to check out this resource to make sure I got it all right. :)

    Tracey

    Posted by TraceyDevlyn | June 13, 2011, 4:19 am
  2. Wynter –

    Thanks for being here today. These are some fabulous resources!

    I’m fortunate because my sister is an NP. The challenge is often understanding what she’s talking about. For example, yesterday, she was talking about thoro-pneumo. Huh? I said?? :)

    Kelsey

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | June 13, 2011, 5:39 am
  3. Welcome, Wynter! Thank you for being here today. These are great tips. I write about spec ops guys and someone is always getting shot or stabbed so these resources will come in handy!

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | June 13, 2011, 6:09 am
  4. Morning Wynter!

    Thanks for the great links – I’ve got it bookmarked! In my current ms, the heroine’s mother is misdiagnosed with dementia – that took some research let me tell you! Definitely using this list next time I go looking!

    Thanks!

    =)

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | June 13, 2011, 6:19 am
  5. I’m so glad you all find the links handy. I think it’s helpful to have them all in one place rather than to have to hunt info down every time you need to research a medical issue.

    Posted by Wynter Daniels | June 13, 2011, 6:23 am
  6. Wynter – I took your workshop and it was fantastic!! So informative and useful.

    I have a character who is a pediatrician and while the plot doesn’t involve an illness, it was important to have her characterized in the proper manner.

    Thanks for the great post!

    Robin

    Posted by Robin Covington | June 13, 2011, 7:51 am
  7. Fantastic blog – I’m bookmarking this. I don’t write medical-themed books but you never know when this type of information could come in handy!

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | June 13, 2011, 8:27 am
  8. Thanks, Robin – I’m so glad you enjoyed the class and that it helped.

    Becke – I think most of our students write non-medical themed books, but knowing where to find medical tidbits can always come in handy.

    Posted by Wynter Daniels | June 13, 2011, 8:37 am
  9. Hi Wynter,

    Thanks for putting all the information together. I always use the Mayo Clinic website. It has step by step from symptoms to when to go to the doctor. I’ve used it to research gunshots. Hopefully no one noticed how many times I typed in fatal or mortally wounded.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | June 13, 2011, 8:57 am
  10. Hi Mary Jo – I use that one and Web MD a lot. I hear you. If anyone was to track my searches I might be under suspicion if anyone around me suddenly and unexpectedly dropped dead!

    Posted by Wynter Daniels | June 13, 2011, 9:03 am
  11. Hi Wynter!

    I’ve always wondered if medical writers had a medical background. The first job I ever had was as a phlebotomist in a hospital. I’ve seen everything from gunshot wounds to post mortems. While I couldn’t wait to quit that job, the knowledge would come in handy if I ever wounded or injured any of my characters.

    You’re absolutely right about the credibility factor too. I’m sure if you called a doctor for a prognosis/diagnosis, you’d get differing opinions too.

    Thanks for being with us today!
    Jen

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | June 13, 2011, 1:07 pm
  12. Hi Jen – I think most authors who write medical romance do have some sort of medical background although it isn’t required. It would definitely save a whole lot of research hours, though!

    Posted by Wynter Daniels | June 13, 2011, 2:00 pm
  13. Hi Wynter,

    Thanks for the wonderful resources. My current hero and villain suffer mental conditions. I knew the delusions I wanted them to have, but I didn’t know what mental categories they fell into.

    Another character is put in a medical institution for her unique condition. You’re class sounds like just what I need. Thanks again!

    Posted by Elke Feuer | June 14, 2011, 6:55 am
  14. Thanks, Elke. We did extensive research on mental conditions, which we go into in great depth in the class.

    Posted by Wynter Daniels | June 14, 2011, 5:14 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...]       As writers, we also are researchers. What was in like in the 1940s? How would I describe an engine in a reconstructed Ford Mustang? What would my character do in Paris? And then there’s the medical aspect. How would I write about Diabetes? Or Chemotherapy treatment? Or infertility? Or a phobia? Here is a wonderful Web site called “Romance University.” There’s an article titled, “Medical Speak for Writers by Wynter Daniels,” at http://romanceuniversity.org/2011/06/13/medical-speak-for-writers-by-wynter-daniels/ [...]

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