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hteadx
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I'm currently writing a medical thiller, and in my critique group people are suggesting that I explain certain jargon/slang I use. Now some of their request are reasonable and I try to ease in the explanations without using info dumps or having my characters spell out everything. But some of their request I feel slow the story down. I want my story to be accessible to a wide audience, but how far should I dumb down the medical jargon? Should I go grey anatomy level? House level? Early ER level? Or House of God level (basically ambiguous with a lot of slang)?

Right now I'm getting mixed advice and I'm stuck in neutral.


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SchamMan89
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Maybe have a glossary in the back of the book? I find that in books like Watership Down and Dune, the glossary was absolutely necessary. I found myself double-checking the definitions many times just to be sure. It slows down the reader's flow, yes, but I think its worth it.
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extrinsic
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Patricia Cornwell writes best-seller popular medical-related mystery thrillers. One of her techniques for relating medical terminology inline is to use appositives in unique ways, sometimes not so subtly as well.

In one of her earlier novels, she uses dialogue scenes between the medical examiner and a police officer foil to have him ask for clarification of terminology he didn't understand (other characters as well). She said something like metatarsal mount degeneration. He said, huh? you've got to speak English to me. She explained it, a seamless appositive-like clarification interrupted by another character's dialogue. I'm influenced, motivated to know along with the foil character. He's characterized by his lack of medical knowledge. And the reader understands what it means along with him. I actually identify more with the foils in her novels than the protagonist medical examiner, though, Dr. Kay Scarpetta.

Scrutinizing Cornwell's novels might offer further insight on when, how, and where to incorporate medical definitions, terminology, and procedures.

[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited August 20, 2008).]


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hteadx
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Thank you for the suggestions, but I feel the price to pay for adding a glossary is too high. I'm not creating a whole new world.

As for using a foil, there aren't any foils in my story. I can see where it could work in some situations, but a majority of my medical jargon comes in times of medical emergencies.


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WouldBe
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Maybe it is enough, sometimes, to establish well the consequences of the jargon/slang bit, in some combination of narrative and dialog.

Martin pressed hard on the man's gizzard, hoping to choke off blood flow that area. "It's an impacted blarfword, so we've got thirty seconds, no more."

Above snippet from Truman Capote's In Cold Blarf.*

*


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Robert Nowall
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Try to break it down into something the Average Joe would understand---if you're careful, you can educate him along the way. A lot of things out there are jargon-happy ("Star Trek," particularly in its later incarnations, comes to mind), and I've felt it hurts them to be so unintelligible.

As far as medical jargon in particular goes...well, in real life, doctors don't particularly like to explain the meaning of what they're doing to laymen like patients and their families. Ruins their mystique.


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Zero
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Unless you expect a majority of your audience to be doctors, I doubt your readers will care if you dumb-down the terms and omit the technical ones. It may be the difference between keeping up with your story and feeling a few laps behind.
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Reagansgame
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Speaking of Medical Jargon, I'm stuck on a particular injury with very, very out there circumstances -- I've tapped all of my resourecs trying to find out what might happen in this hypothetical situation. Do you have any tips on where to find a really in-depth medical resource? I'm about ready to call my family prac.

And, to answer your question. I'm clueless in a lot of areas -- physics for one. I read and I understand facts, but I don't retain them very long if I don't use them, the facts become "I think I read somewhere...jumbled mixed up recollection." So if I were to read your book, I would get as much as I could from the context of the word usage, and probably not refer to any glossary, because there wouldn't be any way I'd remember it two weeks from now. And I'd read it for the story part, not so much as a pre-med study guide. If you need a medically under-educated opinion on your work -- and I do mean I have no clue on anything that isn't in the "What to expect in the toddler years" handbook- send me a chapter and I'll tell you if the jargon is too much. I know in a fantasy I tried to read, they had made up so many words for their people and towns and EVERYTHING, that I quit reading because it was like reading a different language. My average-jane housewife opinion is at your service.


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hteadx
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Thank you for the offer Reagan's game. I'll shoot you a chapter or two (they are really short chapters) , and for your medical question post it up, I'll answer it as best I can.
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RobertB
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Use as much jargon as you need and no more. I hate unnecessary jargon, but occasionally you do need it. If the case revolves round the fact that the filjep of the obstralocus has become dryvenated, you'd better explain what thet means! Otherwise, leave it out.
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