NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments! and often have guest bloggers.

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Friday, May 6, 2016

Hospitals, Waiting and Research


by Janis Patterson

There’s something unsettling about hospital waiting rooms. The very air is saturated with thick and not always pleasant emotions. I’m here while a dear elderly friend has a fairly minor day surgery, waiting to take her home, but some of my waiting room companions are not so lucky. There are several clumps of people waiting with me, but there is no friendly interaction between us. I’m sure that’s not from any sense of dislike or snobbishness; on the contrary, I think it is a manifestation of focusing on what is important to them - their loved one, some of whom are having not-so-minor day surgeries.

And that’s the way it should be. Everyone’s attention and energy should be on their loved ones. There are other times for chatting with strangers, or caring/praying for others who have problems, but when it is your loved one whose flesh is under the scalpel, some familial selfishness is understandable.

I’m here alone, for my elderly friend has no local relations, and we have been close for decades, so to help the time pass I am shamelessly eavesdropping. Not that I couldn’t even if I didn’t want to; the waiting room is small, and it can’t be helped.

Everyone here has a story; one group’s uncle is having a hernia repaired; another’s sister is having benign cyst removed; another’s mother is having a badly ingrown toenail attended to; one patient is a child having her tonsils out; my friend is having a cataract removed. None of them are life threatening, or even very scary procedures, nothing like what is seen in emergency rooms and major surgical suites every day, but still... the idea of a human body - a beloved human body - being invaded with scalpel or laser or Heaven only knows what is still terrifying.

I know that a viable story could be generated from every story in this waiting room. Human experience is the genesis of all stories, but sometimes they come too close to your particular bone. It’s one thing to make up fanciful or grittily realistic tales about what happens to someone and another to think about what is happening to a loved one at the moment. Later, perhaps, when all is happily resolved, the emotional memory can be taken out and reshaped to make a story, but most definitely later. Not now, when the stomach is clenched and the mind full of possible horrors.


Someone said of writers that everything is all research to us, and that’s true. Most things that happen to us will sooner or later turn up in some form in a story. There’s no rule, however, that this involuntary research has to be pleasant.

8 comments:

Mitzi said...

I had a writing teacher/friend who told me early on that "all is grist for the mill." That's how I view almost everything...through a writer's eye.

Interesting and thoughtful post.

Mitzi

Fran McNabb said...

Your friend is lucky to have you there with her. So many elderly have no family near them and have to rely on neighbors or acquaintances to help them. I hope your surgery came out well.
And, yes, you never know where a story will "originate."

Marcelle Dubé said...

It's not like we have any choice, Janis. Everything we experience gets absorbed into our subconscious to emerge later on in our fiction, whether we will it or not. I'm glad your friend has you.

Anne Marie Becker said...

People are so fascinating, aren't they? :) To this day, I remember one of my assignments for a university Sociology class was to go sit in a busy area and eavesdrop (and make notes on behavior, etc.) for one hour. I chose an airport waiting area. Of course, this was back when you could do that without having a ticket and all that security. But it was so interesting! Made me a lot more aware of what was going on around me, too.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

You are so right, Susan, everything in life is research or ends up being used by writers at some point.

Glad your friend had you.
Good luck and God's blessings.
PamT

Elise Warner said...

When I was a child, my mom and I sat in the park and made up stories about the people passing by. Like the lottery--you never know. Good friends are priceless.

Susan said...

Thanks to you all for commenting. I appreciate every one of you. As for my friend, she sailed through her cataract surgery with no pain or difficulty aside from a slight 'loopiness'from the anesthesia. We went to the doctor's office today for her 24 hour checkup, and the doctor was amazed at how well she did. In a couple of months they're planning to do the other eye, and I pray all will go as well. Thank all of you for your concern.

Kathleen Kaska said...

It becomes a habit after a while. Eavesdropping, obsessive observations, it's part of a writer's life. Fun!

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