Eavesdropping

Last night PalKid really wanted to sleep with Mommy, so after getting the kiddo washed up and heparinizing MrsPal’s IV, I tucked them in, turned out the light, and backed away slowly.

This gave me a little while to browse the Twitters, and I started eavesdropping on a conversation between authors Tom Levinson and Jennifer Ouellette.  These are both authors who take the geekiest of topics (obscure history, physics, Joss Whedon, zombies) and turn them into compelling narratives in which story and science blend seamlessly—-no, they don’t blend, they are the same thing.

Much of what occurs in science and medicine is fascinating in the hands of a good story teller.  The everyday dramas in science, the every day giggles and horrors, those that we on the inside share only with each other—-these can be translated successfully into a good read, one which is a good read because it is scientifically and medically true.

(See Samuel Shem’s House of God which helped immortalize truthful, dehumanizing conditions, simultaneously making us laugh and making us hate ourselves for laughing).

Any conversation based on typed 140 character statements can be easy to misinterpret, but from what I could gather, they were trying to parse out the difference between striving for accuracy in drama, and creating drama that teaches accurate science.  My take is that drama that happens to incorporate accurate science teaches without being didactic.

I love to tell stories.  I may not be up there with Tom and Jennifer, but the whole blog thing has given many of us who have stories to tell an outlet, and while I like to know that people read,  and I love the feedback, it is the writing that I really love.  My favorite category is the one I call “Medical Musings,” a place I tend to put less scientific pieces, but stories that are still set in the world of medicine.  But I also like to share brief tales of medical discovery, stories that share with others my love for what I do.

My stories tend to be medically accurate, even though the patients are amalgams of various people I’ve seen, and they form the framework of what I’m trying to get across, but there is no reason a real writer, someone who writes professionally and is damned good at it, cannot learn about the real drama in real life, life that is based on science and affected every day by medicine.

While I stick to non-fiction, there is no need in fiction to make up medical facts,  no need to invent implausible neutrinos or new diseases.  Real life tosses us enough drama.  I work in a thousand-bed hospital.  There are at least that many stories here, real, engaging stories of real people with real diseases.  And these people go home, and have families, and friends, and the stories are right there, waiting to be told.

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3 Comments

  1. Actually, the only place where Tom and I disagreed was in his use of the word “teach.” Good science can and should enhance good story-telling. But we shouldn’t look to film or TV to educate or instruct. It can inspire, and make people want to learn more. But entertainment, by itself, does not teach. 🙂

    • D. C. Sessions

       /  May 31, 2011

      Where do you draw the line between “I learned that from you” and “you taught that to me?”

  2. Perhaps entertainment does not teach, but there are few (can’t think of any right now) things that are truly entertaining that do not involve learning something.

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