Skimming the Research

by Panera the Healer

Question: I've had an idea for a plot that's sort of a mystery, and heavily involves neurology. The main thing is that a string of victims in a small town suddenly fall into comatose states, and two "big-city" neurologists are called in to investigate. After every test they run shows they're physically healthy, it starts to become apparent that the cause isn't natural.

The problem I have with this is that, while I know quite a bit about neurological conditions, I don't know so much about medical practices, and I'm not really sure if I'll accidentally include glaring inaccuracies or if the reader will accept it. How much can I reasonably skew facts/gloss over details, and how much research should I actually put into something like this?

Answer: Though you have a certain degree of poetic license, it's always best to know as much as you can about these technical issues. Some of your readers may work in medicine and will spot glaring mistakes. The best thing would be to find a doctor and interview him or her.

Baring that, you might check out this blog written by a doctor who sometimes answers medical questions for writers... http://lydiakang.blogspot.com/2011/08/medical-mondays-what-to-ask.html

Perhaps she can direct you to reference materials on medical procedure.

Also, I know Writers Digest sells some books on medical matters for mystery writers, but I think they are more about topics like poisons, wounds, and anatomy.

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