The Ten Rights of Medicalized Fiction (Intro):

What Every Indie Author Needs to Know.

Medicalized fiction is not the same as medical fiction.

Medical fiction deals primarily with one or more healthcare issues, whatever the genre of the story, and whether or not healthcare professionals are main characters. Medicalized fiction consists of any story in which characters are born or give birth, die of injury or disease, if they get into fights or wars, eat, sleep, work or strenuously exert themselves, feel emotions – in fact, if they engage in any activity at all (because if characters are doing nothing, there’s no reason to write anything) – their author will need to address the physical and psychological toll these activities take on their bodies and minds.

It doesn’t matter if the writing is about humans or animals or aliens – life leaves its marks on “real” beings, and plausibly constructed characters, whatever their genetic origins or abodes in the Parallel Universe, need to show those scars. This is what medicalizes fiction.

“But it’s just entertainment,” some may object. “And what about artistic license?” Most authors would like to reach the largest possible audience, and if this happens, erroneous writing may become the vector that makes some serious damage go viral (in more ways than one). If you’re writing something that’s too loosely based on The Bathroom Barber-Surgeon’s Pocket Guide to Gallbladder Removal, you must understand there is a potential for harm from wrong information disseminated in fiction.

This harm could come to laypersons, many of whom have absolutely no background in health issues, but who believe that what they’re reading is accurate, and may then mistakenly mismanage their own health, which could conceivably result in legal liability. But even if nobody ever tries to sue, harm can still come to an author’s reputation, because healthcare professionals are also people who like to be entertained by fiction, but if they encounter flagrant fiddling with known facts, their suspension of disbelief will be destroyed, and they may close the cover (or shut off the show, if the problem is with a screenplay) in disgust.

The origin of the “Rights.”

I’m a retired Registered Nurse, and I’ve always thought that Nursing would be an ideal occupation for the obsessive-compulsive, because the job demands that nurses repeatedly wash their hands and “check up” on things: on the doctor, the pharmacist, the patient, and, of course, themselves. This requirement is intended to minimize the possibility of medication errors, and although no person and no system is perfectly foolproof, it usually works.

One of the ways nurses do this checking is to follow the Five Rights of Medication Administration: the Right Patient, the Right Drug, the Right Dose, the Right Time, and the Right Route of administration. Our discussion of how to write good medicalized fiction will incorporate and build on that list:

Right Character
Right Drug
Right Dose
Right Time
Right Route
Right Damage
Right Disease
Right Demise
Right Rescue
Right Writing

We’ll dissect each of these “Rights” as they apply to fiction, so stay tuned to this blog!





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2 responses to “The Ten Rights of Medicalized Fiction (Intro):

  1. Great topic. All too often the medical bits are farfetched and inaccurate in fiction. I think I notice it more on TV than in books. Some of those shows are ridiculous. I have to try and just tune out the nonsense, for example, a virologist who has never even done a residency does open heart surgery. Yes, my husband saw this on a show…

    Liked by 1 person

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