Dr. Richard Mabry: Ideas 101

It’s always a pleasure to have Dr. Mabry here at Redwood’s Medical Edge. He’s a great supporter of this blog and it’s my pleasure to be hosting him Monday through Wednesday this week in support of the release of his fourth novel, Lethal Remedy. Don’t forget, leave a comment on any of Dr. Mabry’s posts and you’ll be eligible to win a copy of Diagnosis Death and a signed copy of his latest novel, Lethal Remedy. Must live in the US. Winner will be drawn midnight MST on October 7th and announced here on October 8th. This originally posted April 1, 2011.
I don’t believe I’ve ever spoken to a group of non-writers without being asked this question: “Where do you get your ideas?” I’ve been tempted at times to tell them I use a book titled 1001 Story Ideas For Writers and send them scurrying to find that non-existent volume. Or refer them to a spurious website called http://www.freebookideas.com/. But instead, I tell them the truth. I get my ideas from following the advice given me years ago by author Alton Gansky. “Ask yourself the question: ‘What if…?’”
Let me give you an example. My third novel of medical suspense, Diagnosis Death, officially releases today. In it, Dr. Elena Gardner, is accused of the mercy killing of several patients, one of whom was her critically ill husband. The twist is that she can’t really defend herself, because she can’t be sure her accusers are wrong. Sorry, you’ll have to buy the book to learn more about it, but let’s backtrack to the way I came up with that plot.
About the time I was casting about for a storyline for this book, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina brought forth a story that caught my eye. A colleague of mine in New Orleans was accused of ending the life of four terminally ill patients trapped in the unspeakably difficult conditions of the hospital where she worked with no hope in sight of rescue. She was subsequently exonerated in the courts, and I won’t say anything further here about the case, but it brought to mind the subject of euthanasia and end-of-life decisions.
There was another factor in my choice of subject matter. I had first-hand experience with withdrawal of life support, not just as a physician, but in the case of my first wife, who suffered a devastating stroke. I knew how it worked, and knew all too well the emotional roller coaster associated with making that decision, as well as the guilt that followed it. So that was the way I got the idea that evolved into Diagnosis Death.
Alton Gansky told the class I was in that he keeps a file of three by five cards with story ideas, and it’s unlikely he’ll ever run out. I don’t have such a reserve, but I do have an almost endless supply of potential material. I read the newspapers. I watch TV. I talk with other people. In the world around us are story lines galore. We just have to use a little imagination and ask ourselves, “What if…?”
Here’s one final example. I read not long ago in a medical journal about a great new antibiotic, effective where other drugs had failed. So I asked myself, “What if that wonder drug really has potentially dangerous side effects, but someone falsified the research data to make it look good?” That’s the theme, by the way, of my fourth novel, Lethal Remedy, due out September 1.
So ask yourself, “What if…?” Then start writing.
Look at the news today… what plot idea can you come up with?
Dr. Richard Mabry built a worldwide reputation as a clinician, researcher, and teacher before retiring from medicine. His published series, Prescription for Trouble, under Abingdon Press includes Code Blue, Medical Error, Diagnosis Death and Lethal Remedy. Dr. Mabry is also current Vice President of the American Christian Fiction Writers group. You can learn more about him at his website and follow him on his blog.

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