Sunday, October 12, 2008

Making Fiction Real

A few days ago I turned in my final revisions on CRITICAL CARE, and was elated that my editors gave it a very strong thumbs-up. They were especially pleased with a dramatic new opening scene that pulls the reader into the "Code Room" alongside Dr. Logan Caldwell as he takes over heart compressions in a last desperate attempt to save a toddler's life.

Along with a later scene showing--in detail--the (critical, every-second-counts) treatment of a trauma victim's near-fatal lung collapse. The scenes are fast-paced, gritty-real, and highly emotional. Kind of like my years in ER. And they add SO much to the story's impact, on many levels. My editors were absolutely right that I needed to include them, but they had to nudge me several times. Which led this author to an interesting self-discovery: I'd been trying to "protect" my readers from the realities of ER. The same way I'd protected my family (all those many years) from "what Mommy does at work."

It's true. I'd done exactly that during my career. Sort of a twist on the Vegas deal, only: "What happens in ER stays in ER." For patient confidentiality, of course, but it went further than that. I wanted to spare family (my children especially) and friends from the "tough stuff" that medical workers face every day: violence, hopelessness, injustice, suffering, fear, death . . . the entire gamut of human drama. I made it my mission to protect them from those things--starting with my shoes. Yes, my shoes. Try to imagine a pair of white nurse-shoes after a 12-hour day in the trenches of ER. The (shall we say) . . . "speckles" they might accumulate? All colors, all textures. None of them cherry Kool Aid or chocolate sauce. So I'd leave my shoes outside the back door when I got home.

My daughter (now 29) does this Seinfeld-esqe shtick about developing a morbid fear of white shoes as a very young child. She remembers being told to "never, ever touch Mommy's work shoes." But not exactly why. Were they hot? Sharp? Would flying monkeys carry her off?

The kid exaggerates. But the fact remains, my work was gritty and real. And my instinct was to protect my family and-- even now--my readers. And maybe . . . myself? Sure. Writing this new fictional medical series makes me re-live a lot of those real shifts in ER. Has me walking in the battle-worn shoes again. Not easy. But necessary, if I'm to take my readers to the heart of the story. The fact is, that after watching TV shows like "Grey's Anatomy", "ER," "House," etc., my readers could probably scrub in on brain surgery without flinching. And would laugh in the face of speckled shoes and flying monkeys.

So I'm not holding back in CRITICAL CARE. Tragedy, triumph, pain, laughter, heartbreak, love, and inspiration . . . you'll get it all. I promise. Of course, now I have to type while wearing my old scrubs. And a surgical mask and gloves. The hours are pretty much the same, but the coffee's way better.

A big shout out to intrepid ER veterans Barbara Jamieson R.N. and Tim Sturgill M.D. for reviewing my new scenes . . . for helping to make fiction "real." And to Tyndale editors Jan and Lorie, for the persistent nudge to write it the way it is.


Mocha with Linda said...

Ooh! Sounds great! I CAN'T WAIT!!!

CandaceCalvert said...

Thank you, Linda--I'm looking forward to sending an early copy for your review. You may have to pull out your scrubs to wear while reading it. ;-)