My Characters, My Patients: How Knowing Your Characters’ Health Helps You Write Their Stories

When I first began writing my debut novel, Our Little World, I didn’t set out to inflict health problems onto my characters. But having worked as a registered nurse for a number of years, as well as a nurse practitioner, medical assessments were once a routine part of my own little world. When I took my patients’ medical histories—akin to sketching a character, if you will—I asked them their birthdays, their food preferences, and religions, whether they lived alone, and even the number of floors in their homes (a safety/ mobility issue). I inquired about previous surgeries and diagnoses, and current prescription and over-the-counter medications. I asked them many, many more personal questions than that, and if they were a new admission to the hospital, I also assessed their entire body, noting any irregularities or causes for concern.

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