Sunday, September 23, 2012

On Writing


“How do you find the time to write one book, let alone five?”

The question above is one I’m asked on a routine basis, asked by other doctors, nurses, techs, patients and just about everyone I meet when they learn I’ve written several books. The answer is that I’m always “writing” something. Writing not in the sense of sitting down with a pen and paper and scribbling out a story longhand, although I have done this in the past, nor does it even mean sitting at my computer and typing my story into Microsoft Word, which is how I actually do record my words for posterity. “Writing” means thinking of new ideas, recording them in the recesses of my brain to be transcribed later, and taking existing ideas and making them better, more detailed and more interesting.
The time I spend driving between hospitals or lying in bed at night waiting for sleep to overtake my tired mind and body is spent thinking about whatever project I have on the table at that moment. I’ve composed entire plotlines or chapters of books in this way. Sometimes a conversation or discussion in the office or OR will bring a new idea for a blog article, short story or book. The blog article Jesus was a Wino Like Me came after my assistant became exasperated during one of our operating room conversations and blurted those words out.
The first book I ever wrote, Future Hope: ITP Book One, originated with a question, actually two questions:

“What would the Garden of Eden be like if Adam and Eve had never suffered the Fall?”

“What would the world be like if Satan’s promise of man “becoming like God” was fulfilled?”

The entire story flows from these two questions and how the various characters respond to the situations created by these questions. The futuristic, scientific elements of the plot line were invented by my sometimes bizarre imagination to get the protagonist, Major David Sanders, from one world to another and create the contrast that answers the questions.
Joshua and Aaron: ITP Book Two started with from a much different perspective: a character, Joshua Smith. Of course, Joshua appears in Future Hope, but he takes center stage in Joshua and Aaron. A character like Joshua had been in my head for years. He is someone with extraordinary gifts of intelligence, insight and reasoning who is called upon to use his skills to solve problems with life and death consequences. He is a hero who tries to achieve something without guns, fast cars, explosions, great athletic prowess, or any special prowess except a remarkable mind. Ultimately, he succeeds, just not in the way he expects. I always consider Joshua and Aaron to be one of the best books that almost no one read.
My two books about surgery were developed from a different angle, less from pure imagination and more from a desire to educate. The first, Behind the Mask: The Mystique of Surgery and the Surgeons Who Perform Them, was an attempt to show the reader what goes through a surgeon’s head; my head anyway, as patients are treated. Under the Drapes: More Mystique of Surgery looks at surgery from a different perspective, much more of a surgeon’s perception of his patients and a bit of a patient’s view of surgery.
The short story Last Light started with this question:

“What would happen if nobody was sick?”

From this question flowed an apocalyptic story that contrasted the second coming of Christ with modern human nature and desires. The result was not too pretty.
Finally, there is the soon to be released Minotaur Revisited. This novel started out as a short story. I hold the opinion that the way things are presented by the media often has little to do with actual events. Reporting of “News” seems to be frequently biased and/or outright untruthful. Perhaps my cynicism is showing, I think I got it from my mother. I asked the following question:

“What if such bias and misleading reporting has been around forever?”

 Humans have been flawed since Adam and Eve. I looked at the myth of the Minotaur and turned it around, made the “fierce” Minotaur noble and Theseus, his slayer, less than heroic. The events, as reported in the current mythology reflected the biases of the time and lead to a four thousand year roller coaster ride for this half bull half man beast of mythology. This short story blossomed into a novel. Quint, the Minotaur, discovers his freedom and over the years encounters Moses, Jesus, Dracula and many others.
After the such formulate in my head I go through the tedium of committing them to paper (computer anyway) and then read over what I’ve written and smooth it out, then read it some more and smooth it out more, then do it again and again. Over the years as a reader I have become pretty good at recognizing writing styles that flow; that inform with being tiresome. I try to make my writing follow such a pattern, easy to read, but still a challenge to the reader’s mind. I hope I’ve accomplished this task.

Look for Minotaur Revisited in the coming weeks. You won’t be disappointed.