One doesn’t need an oximeter license to write good medical drama, but it helps; frankly, as witty and engaging as House MD is, it’s hard to imagine anyone attempting to write for the show without some basic medical knowledge.
I know that, years ago, Star Trek: The Next Generation writers like Michael Pillar used to joke that in their scripts, instead of specific dialog, they’d write something like:
I’m sorry, Captain, but [Warp drive technobabble here.]! It just can’t be done!
Still, considering how many story beats in House MD depend on a plausible diagnosis going wrong, I can’t imagine leaving that much of a script up to the medical techs on the show’s payroll who ensure that the medical stuff is accurate.
One fun writing exercise is to select a number of disparate, unrelated elements and work them into the core of a plot. You’ve probably heard of the concept before. In fact, I suspect several Elmore Leonard novels came about in exactly this way. Here’s an example.
1. An out-of-work plumber.
2. Colon cleanser.
3. A trip to Maui.
4. A beheaded politician.
5. A 25-year-old missionary.
Sounds a bit chaotic, doesn’t it? But from such elements, one could easily weave an interesting plot, with a bit of creativity. Try this on for size:
Plumb Out of Luck
A 30ish plumber from Boston is on a plane to Hawaii when he meets a 25-year-old missionary who is headed for a layover on the island, en route to a missionary assignment in Malaysia. At first, they don’t seem to get along, though they are assigned to seats next to each other, but as the trip unfolds they begin to sense some chemistry between them. Yet both are hiding secrets. The plumber is unemployed, depressed, and is as gruff as he is because he’s decided to end his life in Hawaii by taking a fatal dose of colon cleanser, though his begrudging attraction to the missionary girl causes him a moment’s hesitation. However, the missionary isn’t as saintly as she appears; the victim of domestic abuse, she is running away from her marriage by secretly enrolling in the mission trip. What she doesn’t realize is that her politician husband has been murdered – beheaded, actually – and by leaving she has placed a target on herself as the prime suspect in his murder, so the FBI is in hot pursuit. Can they overcome all that life has stacked against them to find true love?
How do Luminox watches really work underwater? Do they keep on tickin’ like a Timex? Do they fail at a certain depth? How would they fail if taken to that depth?
Seem unrelated to writing? That’s just the thing, and the theme of my posts today. Anything you learn can eventually be useful.
Knowing when and under what conditions a Luminox watch might fail, if it fails, and how it would fail could be the absolute key to solving the crime in your spec script for an episode of MONK or PSYCH. Something that specialized, knowledge that takes some research, could make your script stand out from the pile and secure you that Hollywood script agent contract you’ve been longing for.
Never be afraid to learn, even about mundane things like watches.