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  1. Masli
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    Masli Member

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    How technical do I need to get?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Masli, Oct 28, 2010.

    Okay here is my dilemma,

    I'm writing a story about someone who has a very rare illness and even rarer bloodgroup, and for now can only stay alive through blood transfusions. His condition is deteriorating and his body no longer accepts regular bloodpacks for a transfusion. Only a direct transfusion seems to help him (so person to person). ( I know it seems maybe a little farfetched but bare with me)

    In my mind I have made up a good and plausible reason for all this, but herein lies my problem. I'm no doctor, nor specialist on the subject of blood, although I did read through about a dozen sites on this particular topic.

    I know I can describe it, but I can't scientifically back it up, since it's probably more fantasy than thruth...

    My question is how important is it to stay true to real life, or can I play around with science a little? And if so, how technically do I need to explain? Can I be a little vague about it, or do I need to back it up...? Or should I just forget about it all, and stick to the rules of science?

    Anyone still with me?
     
  2. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    It'll wander into science fiction, but you can get away with it as long as you yourself seem confident when you write it, and you don't make any huge glaring factual errors that would contradict your plot whether getting creative with science is happening or not. *shrugs* With only a few more details, I'd buy what you told us already in a story, provided it wasn't the mainest main focus of the plot. Depends how long you're going to focus on this.
     
  3. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Make it a fictional disease. If it's something real like cancer, but then you make a fictional cure that's not believable, readers won't buy it. If it's a diesease you make up yourself, you have leeway to do basically whatever you want.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    no, i'm not gonna get nekkid with you [ ;-) ], but here's my advice...

    you'd better run your farfetched ideas by a doctor who deals with such diseases, to make sure it makes at least a modicum of sense, or a good number of readers will think you've written a comedy...
     
  5. Show
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    If you're going to BS your readers, make it fly. I really don't care, just make it somewhat believable. The average reader probably isn't any more scientifically knowledgeable than you anyway, and most probably will not care if the story's events don't entirely coincide with Science. You shouldn't make it glaringly or obviously incorrect, but I don't feel that you should be obligated to make it extremely technical and scientifically accurate. Most readers might get confused with technical stuff anyway.
     
  6. NoaMineo
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    NoaMineo Member

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    I tend to get a little hung up on small details like that. See, I know that doctors never do straight transfusions like that because the risk of cross-mixing is to great, so to me a story like that would be unreadable. The suspension of disbelief is just too great. The donor can get some of the reciepiant's blood, and some things that arent normally contageous can be spread that way(like cancer). So in otherwords, it's better to let the sick patient die than risk hurting a healthy person(that whole "first do no harm" thing). On the opposite side of the coin, donor screenings gets a lot harder that way. They dont test for a lot of things in a basic blood screening because it's filtered out when the blood is prepared for transplant. The doctors would have to run hundreds of tests on the donor to make it safe.

    However, one solution occurs to me: move your timeline back a few decades. Forty or fifty years ago, doctors didn't think twice about direct transfusions, in fact it was preferable as blood storage hadn't been completely perfected. If your story isnt set on earth, you could arrange your fictional world such that they arent as concerned with doing direct transfusions.
     
  7. Masli
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    Masli Member

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    that's not going to be an issue bhere, because it is done in a very expensive clinic, that simply kidnap kids/poor people from the street to be a donor. They couldn't care less if they die. As long as the (well paying) patients live.
     
  8. Noya Desherbanté
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    Noya Desherbanté Senior Member

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    I agree with Melzaar, that at long as you don't contradict your own plot, write it with full conviction, but don't go into lots and lots of medical detail. I have the same situation all the time - I write about weird diseases and historical periods, which both require tons of research but which I still need to twist slightly to suit my plot. I will hammer in fact wherever I can fit it in, to give the story a ring of believability, but if it's going to compromise a really cool plot element, I remove it and give an excuse, usually doing more research on a second condition he could have which would cancel out some symptoms of the other one... being factual is a minefield. Write with your whole heart behind it, and the average reader won't mind if you made a little up. That's what it's all about :)
     
  9. Show
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    My interest in your story just skyrocketed! :D Keep that up and you'll be fine.
     
  10. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    Don't forget to consider your audience (if there is one) for this.

    Reading adults will want to maintain a realistic suspension of disbelief but won't want to be bored with too much detail, people actually educated in the field will want something realistic but succinct, kids and young adults could care less.
     
  11. Masli
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    Masli Member

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    lol thank you so much, I never had such a compliment before, and you havent even read anything!

    Maybe I'll try posting a part in the review sections some day. (see if you're still interested after actually having read it :p)
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    To me, it depends on what kind of story you are writing.

    If it is going to be "science fiction," you should put in the extra work to get the science right. That doesn't mean you are limited by the science - you can extrapolate from what is currently known according to general scientific principles, but you should try to maintain a certain faithfulness to the science itself.

    If it is going to be a modern day piece of fiction, then I think you have to be less rigorous about the science. You'll want it to be accurate enough, at least at a surface level, that a person with some knowledge of the science isn't going to throw the book at the wall in disgust because you're so far off. That will cost you credibility. If you are writing a fictional story set in the real world, the modern world, then the reader is right to expect that the scientific aspects of your story are at least consistent with what she knows of the real world, including the scientific aspects. So I guess what I'm saying is that you need to make sure that to the extent you do use science it is right, and that overall you do not have something that seems to be a glaring contradiction of current-day science, but that you don't have to be nearly as rigorous in explaining it as you might in a science fiction story.

    Lastly, if your story has any fantasy element at all (urban fantasy, magic realism or what have you), then you have a lot more latitude. In this case, you can even run counter to what a reader's expectations would be based on the science. You just have to make sure that the story is internally consistent. In other words, make sure that the "science" you invent for this illness isn't inherently contradictory or in contradiction to other aspects of your story.

    That's more or less how I'd view three top-level approaches to deciding how much scientific explanation you need and how rigorous your treatment needs to be in terms of adhering to the science.

    Veel geluk.
     
  13. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    For me as a reader, I want the science right, especially in something as basic blood. All it takes are one or two (I'll usually give them one) glaring untruths to make me put a book down. Its fine that the disease be made up, but it should be plausible. It would be a good idea to know about blood types, composition, function, etc. as well as how typical diseases of the blood attack the body's systems.
     
  14. Masli
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    Masli Member

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    I agree, but my main question is how much of that knowledge (like blood types, composition, function, etc. as well as how typical diseases of the blood attack the body's systems) should I actually describe, before it becomes too technical?

    I mean I could probably fill pages with the those technicalities after the research that I did on the topic, but would that still interest the reader? (by the way I'm not writing for a medical yournal or anything)
     
  15. Show
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    What can I say, I'm a drama junkie. xD A hospital kidnapping kids/people off the street to be donors without any concern for them, sounds like the potential for my kind of story.

    Just keep me posted then. xD
     
  16. Masli
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    Masli Member

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    I will :)
     
  17. Show
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    ^^^^On the topic of should you have pages of technical descriptions, I have to lean on the side of no. If character "infodumps" are a turnoff, I imagine technical infodumps would be considerably worse. Just be careful to make it somewhat plausible and not totally out there. I don't think the average readers needs mounds of medical details, just enough to let them know what's going on. That's my take anyway.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    fyi, that means they do care to some extent...
     
  19. Masli
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    Masli Member

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    lol I figured ;)
     
  20. Show
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    To some extent. But if they start feeling like they're reading a medical journal, I am sure they will care to find something that doesn't remind them of a school textbook to read. ;)
     
  21. afrodite7
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    afrodite7 Senior Member

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    -now,the explanation you gave for what it is is already believable. unless you plan on staying focused on that as the main plot focus,i say it already sounds good.you don't have to get too technical about it explaining everything,because this is fiction and not everyone is a doctor .the some people wouldn't realy know,or care what you're saying about it if you get too technical.it makes sense,so leave it as is.
    *remember,its fiction,anything can happen as long as it applies to the laws of your universe
     

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