Write What You Know, Know What You Write: A Random wRiting Rant

annoyed-tabby-catA couple of days ago, I had a real streak of writing inspiration.  I pounded out 3 chapters on my Work In Progress.  Then, like with many pantsers and pseudo-pantsers, I got a little stymied by where my story was going.

So, I decided to dig out my writing books and do a little brush up on plot development and planning.  One of the first hints in my Elements of Fiction Writing – Plot book is to Write What You Know.  That’s great advice and as writers, we hear it a lot, but I also want to emphasize the idea of Know What You Write.

Once again, my Random wRiting Rant topic was prompted by my reading.  I was reading an enjoyable New Adult Fiction romance (which shall remain unnamed to protect the author).  The author likes to use verbs in “creative” ways.  I think she’s trying to avoid passive verbs but sometimes the verb choice is totally inappropriate.  Even grammar nazi that I am, I can ignore that.  What I can’t ignore are blatantly incorrect facts, details that easily could have been researched.

A secondary character in the story is diagnosed with a condition which apparently requires a bone marrow transplant.  And here is where the author goes horribly wrong.  Now, I know a bit about bone marrow transplants and the conditions that require them because 1. I’ve known people who’ve had a transplant and 2. I work in healthcare and I deal with these patients.  I am not a doctor but I know enough to know what basic procedures are involved.

Anywho, I decided to pretend I knew nothing about the condition the character was diagnosed with or the treatments for it.  So, I Googled it.  I skipped the first search result which was a Wikipedia entry.  Here’s my first point, when you research, DO NOT RELY ON WIKIPEDIA FOR FACTS.  The second entry was for the Mayo Clinic website.  OK, I know they’re a big fancy hospital, so I check that info out.

First off, I learn that the character’s condition as described probably wouldn’t call for a bone marrow transplant.  The author described the patient’s condition as not life-threatening.  Bone marrow transplants are treatment for severe and possibly lethal cases of the condition.  So, research fail #1.

Then, the author has the patient just hanging out waiting for his bone marrow transplant at the hospital.  Prior to a bone marrow transplant, you get zapped with radiation or chemo to kill your bad, diseased bone marrow leaving you in a very vulnerable state, immune wise.  Usually these patients are isolated and not hanging out in the waiting area with all the germ carrying population.

Finally, the author has the bone marrow donor just show up and donate his bone marrow cells via leukapheresis (blood drawn out, cells for the transfusion separated off, then rest put back into donor) but she fails to mention the part about the donor having to receive shots for 5 days prior to the procedure.  She didn’t just leave this part out; he just showed up in town and did the procedure, no room in the timeline for shots.

OK, so most readers won’t notice or care about these details.  I noticed because of my background.  So why the big deal?

Creditability.  As a writer, you are inventing a fictional world, even if it’s “realistic” and set in a contemporary setting.  You are asking the reader to suspend their disbelief and enter into your world.  If you screw up the facts, you risk losing the reader.

This struck me particularly because in my WIP one of the characters has leukemia but is in remission.  I’m darn well going to make sure I get my facts straight.

That’s my rant for today.  Remember, Wikipedia is not a reliable resource and don’t half-ass your facts and research.  Don’t just Write What You Know, Know What You Write.

Cheers and Kisses,

Heather

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