Reality vs. Fiction


Outtakes 125

Reality vs. Fiction

By Cait Collins

Hospital scenes on television and in the movies are nothing like reality. I have yet to see one doctor pat a nurse’s backside. Nor have I noticed doctors and nurses sneak into a supply closet for a quickie. In fact the hospital routine is pretty boring.

My niece recently had day surgery. Before the staff took her to the OR, the nurse anesthetist came in to meet with the patient. She verified my niece’s name matched the information on the bracelet. She confirmed the doctor and the procedure, and explained the process—sedative; anesthesia; intubation, and then she made way for the surgical nurse. Same procedure. The two ladies had different personalities. The anesthesiology nurse was pleasant but straight forward. The surgical nurse was professional but more personable. She assured us everything was under control. Then the doctor came in to mark the surgical field. Again, very nice, but totally professional.

Totally boring.

It’s no wonder writers exaggerate the setting. The trick is maintaining enough reality to keep the reader or television/movie viewer from sitting up and saying, “No way.” The long-running TV series ER is an excellent example of both good and bad writing. I truly loved this series, but I was also aware of the flaws. One can only go so far before the action is unbelievable.

One episode that rang true centered on misdiagnosed toxemia. The mother presented with an infection, but as treatment progressed, it became apparent Mom and baby were in jeopardy. A botched C Section and inability to control bleeding lead to the mother’s death. Dr. Green’s attempts to come to terms with his mistakes were so believable the viewer could feel his pain and self-doubt.

Not so believable was the disappearance of ER doctors from their shifts without having secured coverage for the department. Such action would result in the doctor’s dismissal from the hospital and possible suspension or loss of his license to practice. The quarantine episodes and the helicopter accident that deprived a surgeon of his arm were just too contrived to be good drama.

One story line that was well written and beautifully performed was Dr. Green’s death from brain cancer. I lost my husband to brain cancer. Watching the deterioration of a vibrant character hit too close to home. I watched the episode once. I will never watch it again. It hurts too much.

The ability to suspend disbelief, to make one believe the impossible is an art. It takes research, observation, and practice. But when done correctly and well, the reader or viewer is totally engrossed and satisfied with the work. The writer needs to develop good research techniques and professional sources so that his writing is believable. I challenge all of us to make the audience believe and accept exaggerations of reality.

Reality vs. Fiction


Outtakes 125

 

Reality vs. Fiction

By Cait Collins

Hospital scenes on television and in the movies are nothing like reality. I have yet to see one doctor pat a nurse’s backside. Nor have I noticed doctors and nurses sneak into a supply closet for a quickie. In fact the hospital routine is pretty boring.

My niece recently had day surgery. Before the staff took her to the OR, the nurse anesthetist came in to meet with the patient. She verified my niece’s name matched the information on the bracelet. She confirmed the doctor and the procedure, and explained the process—sedative; anesthesia; intubation, and then she made way for the surgical nurse. Same procedure. The two ladies had different personalities. The anesthesiology nurse was pleasant but straight forward. The surgical nurse was professional but more personable. She assured us everything was under control. Then the doctor came in to mark the surgical field. Again, very nice, but totally professional.

Totally boring.

It’s no wonder writers exaggerate the setting. The trick is maintaining enough reality to keep the reader or television/movie viewer from sitting up and saying, “No way.” The long-running TV series ER is an excellent example of both good and bad writing. I truly loved this series, but I was also aware of the flaws. One can only go so far before the action is unbelievable.

One episode that rang true centered on misdiagnosed toxemia. The mother presented with an infection, but as treatment progressed, it became apparent Mom and baby were in jeopardy. A botched C Section and inability to control bleeding lead to the mother’s death. Dr. Green’s attempts to come to terms with his mistakes were so believable the viewer could feel his pain and self-doubt.

Not so believable was the disappearance of ER doctors from their shifts without having secured coverage for the department. Such action would result in the doctor’s dismissal from the hospital and possible suspension or loss of his license to practice. The quarantine episodes and the helicopter accident that deprived a surgeon of his arm were just too contrived to be good drama.

One story line that was well written and beautifully performed was Dr. Green’s death from brain cancer. I lost my husband to brain cancer. Watching the deterioration of a vibrant character hit too close to home. I watched the episode once. I will never watch it again. It hurts too much.

The ability to suspend disbelief, to make one believe the impossible is an art. It takes research, observation, and practice. But when done correctly and well, the reader or viewer is totally engrossed and satisfied with the work. The writer needs to develop good research techniques and professional sources so that his writing is believable. I challenge all of us to make the audience believe and accept exaggerations of reality.

Massive Chills


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Massive Chills

The words feel like velvet. The author’s voice, quiet but strong, yanks my attention and holds it in a steel grip. The plot thickens in such a tight mesh it seems all options are gone. And then, with a few simple syllables, all is revealed.

My arms are covered with bumps while my eyes react by filling with tears. Of course! How could I not have seen such a thing! Perfect sense!

And then I turn the page. Nothing. White space is all that greets me. The End.

My breath is gone. I have to blink my eyes to get my vision back from the world contained between the front cover and the back cover. For the rest of my day, reality is caught simultaneously in two worlds: the world of real life and the world I just left.

And the single thought that runs through my brain is, Give me a pen and paper NOW!

If you ever need inspiration, go back and read your favorite book. Allow the author to be your professor. Absorb the words again and feel the tone of perfection. And even fantasize about what you might have done differently.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Nandy Ekle