Featured Writing Tools: Medical Data

Before we start, I would like to say that I am merely pointing this out as a writing tool and not suggesting for you to diagnose yourself. Personally, I wouldn’t really want to use such websites to diagnose myself (that’s up to the doctors, in my opinion). I might use them to read more about something the doctor has informed me about, though… Anyway, I think they’re a great tool for writing.

!!…Be aware that many pictures you find on these websites might be graphic and very disturbing…!!

WebMD
http://www.webmd.com/

HealthLine.com
http://www.healthline.com/

Medicinenet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/

Harvard Health
http://www.health.harvard.edu/

All of the above are interesting websites if you’re looking for information about particular illnesses. They offer data varying things, whether they are common or rarer. They had images and graphics which help explain certain issues. They offer information about fitness and general healthy lifestyle choices.

Drugs.com
https://www.drugs.com/
Drugs.com is a little bit more specific and deals with the medication in particular. I appreciate such a website because it provides a lot more information about these drugs, effects and even the interactions between them (if you take more than just one type).

Medical News Today
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/
Medical News Today is also a great website because it offers a lot of new research and articles to do with new illnesses, cures, etc.

Medical fiction, for me, has always been an interesting look into the human body. It’s fascinating to see the different types of cases presented on TV and in books. One of my favourite shows was House, MD; I think it was a good look into some very odd and quirky cases, and entertaining at the same time. For the actual writing of such fiction, I think it’s appropriate to look into the history, symptoms and development of the medical issues that a character might have. If you have a patient with an illness, you need to show your readers the correct signs of it. Many illnesses and diseases, in addition to the physical signs, can also causes mental and personality changes. It’s all quite fascinating stuff. Personally, I don’t write a huge amount of medical stuff, but even common storylines and character traits- such as depression, pregnancy, venereal diseases (STDs), diabetes, alcoholism, etc, etc- do have their basis in medical science. If you might not be clear on the medical issues you’re writing about, even if you do have experience in such a thing, I find it best to research.

Symptom Checker
WebMD
http://www.webmd.com/symptoms/default.htm
Medicinenet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/symptoms_and_signs/article.htm

Another useful tool on some of these websites is the Symptom Checker. Say you have a character with a back problem. It might not be from a simple strain, it could be due to other problems due to things like their gall bladder. How might these problems affect your character in their daily life? For some problems, the issues you give your character might need to dictate the timeline. For example, if you want your patient to have a disease or illness, obviously there are symptoms that come and go at certain points. A pregnancy is probably the best example of this. There are three trimesters, with different symptoms coming and going at each. The characteristic vomiting happens at one point, whilst other symptoms appear at other times. In your book, if a character has an issue you’ve given them, what might they experience at different points during the illness? How might it change their lifestyle? They might not be able to do the same amount of work. For example, if a handyman has a back issue, obviously they’ll need to change their workload appropriately. The same with someone who’s a fighter; how might a head injury change their lifestyle and career? All the time, we hear about footballers and athletes who take on some sicknesses. In a different position, we have office workers who have different symptoms, indicative of different illnesses.

They (your character) might come to a doctor with a specific list of ailments. Not all of them might be relevant, of course; a bit of a rash might just be suggestive of tinea (athletes’’ foot, to some). In the time the doctor is diagnosing this patient, some symptoms might be explained, whilst others crop up. As your doctors find more information about your patient, obviously the list will narrow and the doctors (might) know what they have. As an author, it’s really up to you to determine how your characters deal with these problems as they crop up. Not everyone experiences the same symptoms, notices or cares about them when they do occur. It’s up to you to figure out what’s relevant to your story and how it might affect your plot.

Pill Identification tools:
WebMD
http://www.webmd.com/pill-identification/default.htm
Health Line
http://www.healthline.com/pill-identifier
Drugs.com
https://www.drugs.com/pill_identification.html

Obviously drugs and medicine are featured a lot in books. Most people in real life take medicine on a regular basis. It doesn’t even need to be anything major; many people take medicine to deal with things such as headaches (or other pain), cold & flu, stomach & digestion issues, vitamins & supplements, birth control, etc. You don’t need to include information of what colour a pill is or the writing on it, unless it’s important to the plot. However, the data listed on these tools is still relevant; there are lists of interactions and potential overdose information. If your character already has medical issues, it’s worthwhile looking into what might be prescribed and if it will clash with said issues. Again, if a character is pregnant, a doctor would definitely take that into account when prescribing medicine. This is because many drugs have terrible side effects that may cause harm to a child; such as birth defects- both physical and mental. Some drugs can even cause miscarriages. For non-pregnant people, medicines may still be harmful. Doctors might take into account things like age, gender, race (apparently some medicines work better for some races than others due to things like genetics), activity level, etc.

On that note, it’s also worthwhile to look into other treatments of conditions. If the character is going into cardiac arrest, what might someone do to aid them? If the character has been shot, there’s obviously a few different ways that characters might deal with this wound. If it’s a battlefield surgery, they might do it roughly and the character might not heal as well as someone who’s gone through the operation in a hospital. The hospital patient might still have difficulties with the various tools during the surgery. Such as the anaesthetic. Either way, there’s going to be a lot of recovery.

Also, different cultures can lead to different treatments. Whilst in a city, a character might be treated to one symptom with tablets. In a town somewhere else, a character might be treated with exercises or funny plants that we’ve never heard of. Some cultures still practice magic such as voodoo or witchcraft. The most important consideration is what level of medical care is your patient receiving and how each treatment might change their condition.

Another point I’d like to make here is that if you’re writing about something, you obviously have to consider your genre. For example, if you’re writing a book for younger people. It might be worthwhile to have the accurate information, but to dumb it down as necessary. Not every child will understand what cancer is or the proper reasons to wash hands before a meal. However, it’s worthwhile to explain it properly in any genre. In my opinion, I think it’s worth introducing the information appropriately; not everyone has the same level of knowledge and some can be clueless when taking in hints or new information. Another point is something like a romance novel; the audience might not react well or enjoy any gore. With a horror novel, it might be expected to have a bit of blood and guts. Again, of course, it’s up to you what information you include and how you present it to the audience. Just take consideration into whether people will understand it and how the provided information might change the rating of a book.

In my opinion, it’s best to inform yourself of the conditions you apply to your characters. If it’s going to be part of the plot or a character’s identity, you really ought to provide a reasonable amount of information for your reader. Not everyone knows about illnesses and not every audience member will have experience with certain things. For example, many males don’t know the intricacies of menstruation; they don’t go through it themselves. Subsequently, not all male authors- or the audience in general- will necessarily be able to list the correct problems. The same with women; we don’t necessarily know everything to do with a man’s body, either. Even within the same gender, we might each have problems with others that we might not understand because they don’t experience them themselves. Many sources of media, these days, have characters simply getting better between books and episodes. However, some of these conditions have lifelong risks. It’s best for you to look into it and see how you might address the issues. Overall, I think your readers will find it beneficial; everyone might even learn something and might have a new found respect for someone else. 🙂

I am in no way affiliated with these websites or any owners of either. I am just a happy user and felt that their services might be beneficial to others.

Also, I really do want to reiterate that if you have medical problems, it is best to seek the advice of your doctor. Yes, websites like this do have information from doctors and medical professionals, but if you’re sick it’s best to talk about your symptoms to someone who is familiar with your medical history and might be able to do something about it.

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