Monday, November 30, 2009


What's the most embarrassing mistake you made in a book that got caught by a sharp eyed reader?

Grrrr.....don't you just hate it when this happens? I'm especially sensitive to it when it's something medical. Like the opening credits to HOUSE which consistently showed an Xray backwards (the heart is meant to be on the LEFT in most humans!)--although, HOUSE is so filled with outrageous medical bloopers, that I haven't watched it in years, so they may have fixed that by now.

But given that a recent survey revealed that over 1/3 of Americans "learn" about medicine from prime-time dramas like HOUSE and GREY'S ANATOMY, well, let's just say that makes things a bit disheartening for someone like me, a real-life doc who tries her best to get things right in her books while still keeping them as entertaining as possible.

Which isn't easy--medicine changes so darn fast that sometimes what I carefully researched and was correct when I wrote the book has been reversed by the time I get to copyedits. Like for LIFELINES when the American Heart Association changed all of their resuscitation protocols while I was working on the book! I had to wade through 400+ pages of new protocols to make sure my doctors and nurses were doing things right.

Of course, they've since changed....again! Medicine is like that, which is why I try to give writers a break when I see things that are wrong. Except for that whole heart is on the left side thing, sorry House, that hasn't changed and probably won't anytime soon.

What really bothers me isn't when a writer gets a fact wrong, it's when they get an entire profession wrong. Any real world doctor who made as many mistakes as the "Nation's best diagnostician" would have had their license yanked and be in debt from the malpractice and civil suits long ago--in not in jail for assault and battery.

Yet House not only thrives, he is pampered, coddled, and encouraged in his outlandish violations of ethics, scientific thinking (no, throwing every antibiotic in existence at a patient just "in case" they have an infection is not sound science), and logic (yes, let's please have the junior medical staff member be the one to drill into my brain instead of a fully trained neurosurgeon)

Only a great actor like Hugh Laurie could pull it off--and we love him for it! We forgive him for getting things wrong 3 times out of 4 and almost killing his patients time and again with his incompetence. Now that's genius! Acting and writing.

If only it weren't about medicine, then maybe I could sit back and enjoy, lol!  And for your enjoyment, here's a HOUSE blooper reel:

So, what books, TV show, or movie drives you nuts with their "bloopers"?

About CJ:
As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge suspense novels. Her debut, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), became a National Bestseller and Publishers Weekly proclaimed it a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller."

The second in the series, WARNING SIGNS, was released January, 2009 and the third, URGENT CARE, October, 2009. Contact her at


Sophie Littlefield said...

So CJ, I have exactly the same frustration when people get the details of my profession wrong...except that for a long time my "profession" was needle arts (I feel like I can say that since I worked for a publisher whose books were all on the subject of knitting and quilting and embroidery and so on).

I find it amusing to think of you reading along and then leaping out of your chair in horror yelping "ye gods, man, as written that would surely kill the patient!" at the same time that I throw the book across the room in fury, screaming "a shell stitch is *crochet*, you soulless cretin, not *knit*!!"

Well, I guess we each have to save our own corner of the world. :)

CJ Lyons said...

LOL, Sophie!!! I can just see you wielding knitting needles, defending the world of needlecrafts!

Like I said, I don't get too upset at small factual errors--unless it's something imbecilic like basic anatomy.

But yeah, trying to kill the patient just to get an answer for their diagnosis, that's not your typical medical way of thinking....

CJ, who promises never to include a needle arts scene without consulting Sophie first!

Jen Forbus said...

I have to admit that in many of the technical areas of what I read, I'm ignorant. I don't know the details of what guns have safeties and what the ammunition levels are...I don't know about the medical aspects, save some basic A&P I studied in college...I surely know nothing about fingerprinting and procedure in a courtroom - if something jumps out at me as off, it's pretty bad.

I won't mention the author specifically but when a suspect in custody stole the law enforcement agent's gun from an interrogation room, I was rather sceptical. That's the kind of thing that I'm more likely to scoff at.

But the nice thing about being ignorant to a lot of these details...I enjoy so much more! :) In this case, ignorance has been bliss for me!

CJ Lyons said...

So true, Jen! Ignorance can be bliss--and I can't tell you the number of otherwise good writers/shows/movies that I couldn't enjoy because of my internal editor....

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Now I want to see CJ and House duking it out!

I'm pretty forgiving, unless someone gets big historical facts wrong. Then there is muttering, but that's about all. And I put the book down and move on. I have such a huge pile to read that it's not like something better won't be right there.

CJ Lyons said...

I agree, Becky, life's too short--which is why I simply stop reading or watching as well.

Shane Gericke said...

I feel your pain, CJ. My dad, a cop of 30 years since retired, can't watch most cop drama on TV, he gets so mad as how much the writers get wrong.