Writing Medical Thrillers
By Donna Steele
Why am I doing this in the FF&P area? Because science (and medical information) can take you anywhere and that’s where this bunch usually ends up – anywhere! And science can so easily lead to science fiction.
Now this was a challenge. I’m not a doctor and have never played one on TV, but I wanted the epidemic in my trilogy to be based on something real or at least real-ish. I also had the challenge of using this virus to change humanity, a shift in evolution. That knocked out most current diseases and things easily researched. But this is science fiction/paranormal, so the world building has to begin.
What kind of evolutionary shift did I want? In my case, I wanted something with the mind, the ability to communicate over long distances since the electricity is out forever. So, the brain. Now I’ve gotten something to research. Encephalitis – 95,900 results (0.30 seconds) – gotta love search engines. WebMD, Medline Plus, HealthLine, heck even the Mayo Clinic – there are hundreds of them to choose from.
Now I have plenty of information to shift through and since it is a fictitious disease, I can, to a certain degree, pick and choose. I want it to be plausible (and deadly) and relatable to my reader, then I can let my mind go to develop what I want to happen to the survivors of my disease. Do I want a swift change or something gradual that people aren’t even aware of in the beginning? Will everyone become aware of it? Will people be frightened of what this means for humanity? (Yes!)
In this case I also needed information on the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. That’s the center of activity for large parts of the trilogy. Again, it’s research time. I’m probably on some list now, because I Googled it. But I wanted to see the layout of the buildings and neighboring areas rather than the work done inside. It’s a large complex, but obviously runs on electricity which, in my story, won’t be available except through emergency generators. The residential areas nearby aren’t what a lot of people would consider an easy walking distance. Will all those beautiful trees that surround the complex be used up in the first winter to provide heat? Without civilization how will these people react to “primitive” conditions? That leads to research on psychological effects of depravation. That was harder, there’s more on maternal depravation that societal but it’s still out there and fascinating. (Be careful not to get so caught up in that reading that you forget to write!)
In my case, I have the added bonus of having several doctors in the family (not to mention vets and physical therapists). I can’t lend them out, but everyone knows someone they can talk to. I’ve found that people love helping out with a story. Don’t miss those obvious areas for research by being too timid to ask. The worse they can do is say no, so check with someone else. Before you know it, you could have a regular group that looks forward to your questions in lots of different areas of expertise. These doctors that helped me were honest and forthcoming with information that I didn’t even know to ask. (I’ve had the same experience with police, so even though you’re a writer/introvert, try it!) That makes the sources more precious than gold, so hold on to them.
If you do get something wrong and it passes all the edits, and someone calls you on it, take notes for next time. You’re getting your very own quasi-medical education and will probably get hooked on enough information to want to do it again. Oh, and be glad they took the time to read the book!
I write science fiction, paranormal and women’s fiction romance eBooks about women coming into their strength and having the courage to find and accept love.
As an empty nester with my beloved best friend and husband (who actually encourages this mad passion of mine) I write all the time – whether or not I have a pen or keyboard handy.
Ever since I learned to read—from Superman Comics, Dick, Jane and Sally held no appeal—I’ve wanted to write. The possibilities of science fiction have always drawn me and I’ve read them all. There just needed to be a little more romance in them. I finally got up the courage and I’m delighted that I’m able to share these stories with you.
My premiere novel, a science fiction romance – Rth Rising – was released on March 3, 2012 through Rebel Ink Press. My paranormal romance eBooks Learning Trust, Wraith’s Heart, and The Melting, Book 1-The Infection and Book 2-The Progression are now available in eBook format. Wraith’s Heart and Learning Trust are now also available in paperback.
I’m a member of Romance Writers of America, the Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal Chapter of RWA and the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers.
Melting 3, Cohesion
It began in the north, in the ancient cold from before the birth of man. Whether from the actions of man or the cycles of the planet, the primordial ice was melting and bringing back to the atmosphere a virus. One with no known cure for modern day humans.
Civilization has we knew it is gone, but civilization does still exist and is beginning to grow again. David Morrow, world-renowned scholar in global warming and sustainability and Amanda Sutton, physician turned researcher are swept up in the pandemic. She received one of the precious doses of a vaccine that is developed too late. But he recovered, the only one found to have done so.
Both lived at what used to be the CDC, but civilization is not what it once was and their safety depended on their escape.
Meg Adams, former office manager and Jim Stephens, former army sniper led more survivors in an exodus from the CDC when the new regime began an attempt to take power there. The first winter, with little time for preparation and no civilization to rely on, has ended. But can these far-flung survivors continue without cohesion?