What Makes a Medical Thriller? by Jordyn Redwood

As a writer of medical thrillers, I thought this would be an easy task to blog about what makes a medical thriller until I actually began to think of those things that distinct a medical thriller from other types of novels in the same genre (legal, military, etc..)

Here’s what I’ve determined to be essential when labeling a book a medical thriller.

1. It must have one of these three elements:

a. The leading character(s) is a medical person.
            b. The setting is a hospital, clinic, etc.
c. There is an inherent medical mystery.

2. There is a moral question: If you look at some of the well-known medical thriller authors like Robin Cook, Michael Palmer, Michael Crichton and Harry Kraus to name a few—at the heart of the book is an ethical dilemma. In Crichton’s Jurassic Park—is genetic engineering wise? Cook’s Acceptable Risk—was a toxin responsible for the behavior of those accused of being witches during the Salem Witch Trials? Kraus’s Stainless Steal Hearts—is experimenting on aborted fetuses ethical?

3. They take a known medical situation and put a twist on it. This is what, perhaps, makes a medical thriller so scary. You can understand the potential for it to happen—particularly when the news highlights stories that you’ve read in a book. Here’s a recent headline that got my writer’s wheels spinning.

South Korean officials found pills from China filled with crushed infant remains. At first I thought surely–this is one of those internet conspiracy theories but I found it referenced in more than one reliable source. What do you think of that? What medical plot could be born from this true life story? I’m keeping mine a secret–for now.

My debut novel, PROOF, examine the real possibility of DNA testing setting a guilty man free. What does the criminal justice system do when the gold standard of criminal prosecution fails? What does the victim do?

4. It is helpful, possibly mandatory, to have a medical background. To pen an authoritative medical manuscript, medical training and having worked in the medical field are paramount to giving the manuscript an authentic feel. Writing from a medical angle is difficult. Interpreting the language, knowing those special nuances, and knowing how these systems work is essential to a good novel. If you’re trying to write a medical thriller and have never been involved in the medical field—I highly suggest you pay a medical type to review your work. Of those well-known medical thriller writers—I couldn’t think of one that didn’t have a medical background. Can you?

What do you think are the essential components of a medical thriller? Can you think of a well-known medical thriller writer that didn’t have a medical background?

Can you?

What do you think are the essential components of a medical thriller? Can you think of a well-known medical thriller writer that didn’t have a medical background?


PROOF by Jordyn Redwood

Dr. Lilly Reeves is a young, accomplished ER physician with her whole life ahead of her. But that life instantly changes when she becomes the fifth victim of a serial rapist. Believing it’s the only way to recover her reputation and secure peace for herself, Lilly sets out to find–and punish–her assailant. Sporting a mysterious tattoo and unusually colored eyes, the rapist should be easy to identify. He even leaves what police would consider solid evidence. But when Lilly believes she has found him, DNA testing clears him as a suspect. How can she prove he is guilty, if science says he is not?

Amazon, including Kindle. http://goo.gl/XqpNK

Jordyn Redwood is a pediatric ER nurse by day, suspense novelist by night. Her debut medical thriller, Proof, examines the real life possibility of DNA testing setting a guilty criminal free. It has been endorsed by the likes of Lynette Eason, Dr. Harry Kraus, and Rick Acker to name a few. You can find out more about Jordyn by visiting her blog: www.redwoodsmedicaledge.com and website: www.jordynredwood.net.

13 thoughts on “What Makes a Medical Thriller? by Jordyn Redwood

  1. Richard Mabry

    Jordyn, I think you’ve covered the subject very well. To take your suggestion a step further, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s essential for a writer of medical fiction to have some background in medicine–physician, nurse, ancillary service, even medical transcriptionist. But they have to know not only medicine but how things truly function in a medical setting.
    Nike, thanks for this interview. Nicely done.


    1. Richard, Thx for the comment. I love to read and write thrillers, but a medical thriller is something I would never approach. LOL

      Richard, I think Jordyn did an excellent job and I’m glad you made your further point.

      In this genre I cut my teeth reading Hannah Alexander. What fun those novels are.


      1. Jordyn Redwood

        I agree. I’ve read quite a few of Hannah Alexander’s as well. Thanks for the medical thriller support, Richard!


  2. Excellent post, Jordyn (and thank you, Nike)–you make great points And have me intrigued ALREADY with your tantalizing “China pill” musings! I agree with Richard that in order for medical fiction to feel authentic it requires an “insider” view. Probably more for the human dynamics than medical detail. Folks today are far more informed about medicine and to some degree even “speak medical,” because of media, online health sites AND popular TV shows. Unfortunately, the latter also skew reality in favor of high drama. Medical staff behave unrealistically on TV, treatments and procedures are often contrived for dramatic effect, and patient outcomes may not be realistic. I truly appreciate medical fiction that not only depicts accurate medical scenarios, but does so in a manner that is respectful of (indeed honors) those dedicated heroes “in the trenches” of medicine.


  3. Jordyn Redwood

    Karen, if you do…let me know what you think! Thanks, Nike. It is awesome but perhaps I’m a little biased.


  4. Love your blog and I’m passing my Versatile Blogger Award on to you. You can find more details on my website at kidscandoit.com/blog/
    Congratulations and don’t forget to pass the award on to 15 more versatile bloggers!


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