Friday, February 5, 2016

Everything I Know About Writing Medical Romance I Learned From Star Trek

With: Julie Rowe

The character of the doctor has always been one of the main characters in every Star Trek series made. Why?

I believe it’s because we all have the same fears and expectations of doctors no matter where we come from, and it’s those similarities we need to draw from in writing any medical scene.  Here’s a quote to illustrate my point:

McCoy to Chekov: “Now this isn’t going to hurt a bit.”
Chekov: “That’s what you said the last time.”
McCoy: “Did it hurt?”
Chekov: “Yes.”
- McCoy and Chekov, TOS/The Deadly Years.

What’s great about this bit of dialogue is that anyone reading it can identify with Chekov.

I learned to write medical details in plain English from this little conversation McCoy had with a policeman and Kirk in The Voyage Home:

McCoy to policeman: “Damnit, do you want an acute case on your hands? This woman has immediate postprandial upper abdominal distension! Out of the way…Get out of the way.”
Kirk to McCoy: “What did you say she’s got?”
McCoy: “Cramps.”

Most readers don’t understand medical speak. You have to put things in terms they DO understand.

I learned to use medical scenes to deepen the stakes for my characters from this exchange between Kirk and a police man in The Voyage Home:

Policeman to McCoy: “How’s the patient, Doctor?”
McCoy: “He’s gonna make it!”
Police man: “He?  You came in with a she?”
McCoy: “One little mistake…”

This made me laugh out loud when I heard it the first time, but for the policeman, it sure made him wary!

I learned that the best doctors are deeply empathic and need to be written that way.

Dr. Crusher to Picard: “Where are the calluses we doctors are supposed to grow over our feelings?”
Picard: “Perhaps the good ones never get them.”
- Beverly and Picard, TNG/Code of Honor.

Dr. Pulaski to Doctor: “It’s a time honoured way to practice medicine – with your head and your heart and your hands.”
- Pulaski to Doctor, TNG/Contagion.

Dr. Bashir to Garak: “I’m a doctor, you’re my patient, that’s all I need to know.”
- Bashir to Garak, DS9/Life Support.

Practicing medicine is often an emotionally draining occupation. It’s important to remember this aspect when you’re creating medical characters.

I’ve learned that readers enjoy stories with medical characters engaged in a struggle to safe a life.

Dr. Bashir to Winn: “Listen to me. I don’t care about your negotiations, and I don’t care about your treaty. All I care about is my patient, and at the moment, he needs more treatment and less politics.”
- Bashir to Winn, DS9/Life Support.

I learned that not all medical scenes need to be serious. Humor can be a powerful a tool in storytelling.

Chekov to Sulu: “’Give us some more blood, Chekov.’ ‘The needle won’t hurt, Chekov.’ ‘Breathe deeply, Chekov.’ ‘Blood sample, Chekov.’ ‘ Marrow sample, Chekov.’ ‘ Skin sample, Chekov.’  If…if I live long enough, I’m going to run out of samples.”
Sulu: “You’ll live.”
Chekov: “Oh, yes, I’ll live.  But I won’t enjoy it.”
-Chekov and Sulu, TOS/The Deadly Years.

The final lesson is to end the story with an emotional satisfying ending.

Live long and prosper.

Julie’s latest release VIRAL JUSTICE is now available!

As a general's daughter, Alicia Stone has fought twice as hard for everything she's earned in the military. A Special Forces consultant with black belts in three martial arts, she's as strong as her surname implies. No one dares call her Alicia—no one but Colonel Robert Maxmillian, head of the Biological Response Team.

With Alicia at his side, Max must lead the team into northern Iraq to investigate a virus—or is it a weapon?—killing the area's population. Charged with guarding his body, she can't help wanting his hands on her body. Max would be the perfect fling. But he demands more.

The heat builds between them, but danger quickly follows. As the two get closer to the source of the virus, they'll have to risk their future to outsmart a scientist with nothing to lose.

Book three of Biological Response Team


Julie Rowe’s first career as a medical lab technologist in Canada took her to the North West Territories and northern Alberta, where she still resides. She loves to include medical details in her romance novels, but admits she’ll never be able to write about all her medical experiences because, “Fiction has to be believable”. Julie writes contemporary and historical medical romance, fun romantic suspense and military romance. Her most recent titles are the MEN OF ACTION boxed set and VIRAL JUSTICE book #3 of the Biological Response Team series. You can find her at , on Twitter @julieroweauthor or at her Facebook page: 

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