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October 07, 2014

Writing About: Medical Doctors


Doctors, like police officers, are also pretty common characters in a few of my stories that I hope to share with you in the future. Dr. Dani Hart, from 30 Seconds, is my first doctor to make it into the publishing world. And I’m pretty damn proud of her as a character.

Here are 10 things to keep in mind if you want to create a doctor character:


1.    Name

Picking out a name for your character is always a big deal, more so when your character has a title. Find a name that can work with Dr.

2.    Specialty

What kind of doctor will your character be? There are pediatricians, orthopedics, cardiologists, neurologists, and a general practice doctors. The type of doctor your character is will influence the rest of your story and what your doctor does.

3.    Hospital

Does your doctor work in a prestigious hospital, private practice, a trauma center, or community hospital?  Even if you don’t reveal the name of the hospital, you should mention what city it’s located in as that’s a major factor of your setting.

4.    Co-workers

Your doctor won’t be alone at the hospital. Include a Chief of Surgery, Attendings, Residents, interns and nurses. They can be minor characters or even passing characters that your readers will hear about maybe once or twice.

5.    Clothes

If your character is a doctor, he/she will spend a lot of time in scrubs, a white coat, surgical cap and gloves when he/she is in surgery. But give him/her opportunities to wear other clothing, too. It’s always nice to see a doctor in a dress or suit.

6.    Job

Follow your character during his/her shift. Have him/her go to the locker room, exam rooms, operating rooms, the cafeteria, and even a call room where your character can rest during a brutally long shift.

7.    Night Shifts

A big part of being a doctor is having long shifts and working the night shift. Write about how a night shift can be slow in one moment and chaotic the next. And don’t forget to show the impact a night shift (or a 24 hour shirt) has on your character, it is physically grueling.

8.    Patients

Show your character with patients he/she has to treat and interact with. When you’re doing this, you have the opportunity to delve deeply into the patients’ illnesses and pain by describing how they react, what they look like, and what they do to reveal how sick or hurt they are.

9.    Surgery

Have your character perform (or assist with) surgery. You don’t have to describe every detail of the surgery, but knowing a few things about the operation and what your character will have to do if something goes wrong would be a good idea to make it real.

10. Personality

Your character can not be easily stressed or grossed out (unless he/she is an intern.) Doctors and nurses deal with vomit, feces, and other unpleasant things every day. Make your character tough, intelligent and quick thinking.

TIP #1: Research medical procedures and terms. 
TIP #2: Watch movies and TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, ER, and Night Shift. Read books about doctors, too.

QUESTION: Do you have a common character type in your stories?

44 comments:

S.A. Larsenッ said...

There definitely are tons of facets to being a doctor. Even more to writing one into a story. Great tips! Thanks for sharing.

Loni Townsend said...

Hmmm, my character is a healer, but not a doctor. I suppose not having doctors on the world does make some differences.

Chrys Fey said...

Thanks, SA! I appreciate that you read my tips whenever I post them. :)

Chrys Fey said...

A healer is pretty different from a doctor... ;)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Interaction with patients will also show if he has good people skills or not.
My surgeon walks in dressed in a suit, then I expect royal treatment.

Chrys Fey said...

You're absolutely right....the doctor's bedside manner...like Dr. House. lol Some doctors do wear dress pants and button up shirts, but I was thinking of a doctor wearing a suit to a party or fundraiser. :)

Carrie-Anne said...

I've written a number of hospital scenes and doctor characters, but I think my favorite is Dr. Scholl of my Russian historicals. I was pleased to be able to write him into my first Russian novel recently, in place of a xenophobic hospital doctor. He moved away from hospital births in the 1920s in response to the non-evidence-based "care" many of his colleagues adopted unquestioningly, and largely works from an underground clinic in Greenwich Village, offering radical procedures such as sterilizations, early artificial insemination, and birth control dispensation. HIs surname is in honor of Sophie and Hans Scholl, the brother and sister of the anti-Nazi White Rose group.

Unknown said...

Most of my characters live in small towns. They have "boring" jobs but the trouble they get into is anything but! I once wrote about a podiatrist (turns out, he was a killer, lol).

Chrys Fey said...

It's always fascinating to learn about your characters, Carrie-Anne. :)

Chrys Fey said...

I love small town characters! A killer podiatrist...that's good! lol

emaginette said...

All excellent tips in getting to know a professional character. I'd love to do a ride along with the police, but with my luck nothing/something would happened. I'm not sure what would be more traumatic. :-)

Anna from Shout with Emaginette

Sarah Foster said...

I've never written a doctor character before but I will definitely keep these tips in mind if I do. I'm pretty squeamish so I don't think I could write about a surgery...my fiance is an orderly in an operating room and I have no idea how he is able to see that kind of stuff every day.

Chrys Fey said...

I love to do a ride along with the police, too. Maybe one day. :)

Chrys Fey said...

If you ever have to write about an orderly, though, you can ask your fiance questions as a part of your research. How handy!

Pat Hatt said...

Sadly fictional drs are almost always better than real doctors. Real doctors just seem to have their head up their you know many a time haha

Anonymous said...

Years ago we had a family doctor who was a gem. Nothing was too much trouble , the children thought the world of him and he was what doctors was supposed to be like. He was so comforting to me when my husband passed away, Well over the years I have moved a few times, where I live now we have a new surgery but alas the doctors have not much time to hear all the things you want to tell her. Times have certainly changed here in the UK.
Great post and most interesting to read.

Unknown said...

Interesting tips, Chrys. I could actually picture the doctors in the hospital my mom basically lived in for two years while reading your post. I often wondered about their daily life since most of them worked overtime and even on weekends. My mom had two liver surgeons who would check on her almost every day, even on Saturday and Sundays. I've always admired them and hopefully can incorporate one into a future manuscript=)
And we love Dr. Dani Hart! Such an awesome name.

Lisa Thomson said...

Awesome tips, Chrys. I hadn't thought about the cafeteria etc. But like you say, watching those medical series really humanizes Doctors. I like to make the doctor in my book quite clinical and cold. It takes place in the 1930's and I think Doctors were more that way back then?

Chrys Fey said...

You are so right! lol I've only known one nice doctor. All the others, especially the ones I had in the ER, made me feel like I didn't even know how I felt.

Chrys Fey said...

Times have changed everywhere. Nowadays no doctor has the time to really listen because they have to see so many patients.

Chrys Fey said...

I'm glad this post reminded you of the wonderful doctors who helped your mom. :)

Chrys Fey said...

I think doctors were clinical and cold back in the old days. They certainly seem stuffy and mean in the movies and books I've read during those times.

Unknown said...

LOL, my physician's name is Dr. Fey. :-) I wrote a story for an anthology that's coming up in November where the MC is an ER doctor. For my research I went to the library and borrowed three anthologies of true stories from the ER. One even had a lingo glossary at the end, it turned out to be so incredibly useful !!

Anonymous said...

I love doctor characters on screen and in books. I've never written about any, except for minor characters since the main characters go to them.

Kelly Hashway said...

I had to research doctors for Touch of Death when Jodi accidentally bleeds on one and… Yeah.

Christine Rains said...

My latest WIP had me researching funeral directors and morticians. Oh the things I discovered!

Crystal Collier said...

Ah doctors... My dad and grandpa were both doctors, so I've got that one down. =)

I'm always writing in common characters, and accordingly, doing gross amounts of research. I love when I've got a pro in my cue to interview, but the interwebs is such an awesome resource.

Patsy said...

My characters eat a lot of cake. I always update my research before writing though.

brenda said...

I love visiting your site. I always leave with a smile or informed. Interested in an interview sometime .. maybe we can swap war stories.

Liz Blocker said...

Great tips, as always! Thanks Chrys!

Chrys Fey said...

The library is my haven. I always check out books from the library when I need to do research.

Dr. Fey to the rescue! ;)

Chrys Fey said...

I love doctor characters, too. :)

Chrys Fey said...

OH NO!!!!! lol I'm going to be reading Touch of Death later this month, but I can see where you're going with that. ;)

Chrys Fey said...

I've written about medical examiners, but not funeral directors or morticians. That would be...interesting. lol

Chrys Fey said...

Have doctors in the family does help. ;)

Chrys Fey said...

Cake is good! lol

Chrys Fey said...

I'd love to host you for an interview! I'll send you an email. :)

Chrys Fey said...

You're welcome, Liz!

Nas said...

Thanks Chrys! My medical romance is under consideration so this post is a great help!

Chrys Fey said...

That's awesome!!! My fingers are crossed for you! :D

Carol Kilgore said...

Good tips! Most doctors I know are intense. Some of them play as hard as they work. All the ones I know also have a wacky sense of humor. A little off-beat. But that sense of humor comes in all sizes - barely visible with some and overflowing with others.

Chrys Fey said...

You're absolutely right, Carol! The same can be said for police officers. :)

Yanting Gueh said...

I found the medical parts in 30 Seconds very believable, and they sound like the rattles I hear on ER and Grey's Anatomy. (Though I wonder if doctors really do speak that fast ... the ones in the ER probably do.) I have a doctor friend and she is always so tired when we meet up, she'd doze off in the middle of our conversation (when the others are talking, not her) and that's quite common for all of us.

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you! I'm so glad you think the hospital scenes in 30 Seconds are believable. That's a relief! ;)