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Categories  Writing articles

First, do no harm

It’s easy to be contemptous of history, contemptous of historical figures, to mock certain military generals for their mistakes, for example.

It’s also easy to be contemptous of advances in medicine, to mock our knowledge of medicine in previous centuries.

For example, during the Great Plague of London in 1632 it was believed that the disease could be cured by leeches.

I’m currently writing a novel which is partly set in London during the Great Plague, and partly set in the modern age.

Its working title is ‘Plague Doctor’ although that might change.

It’s easy to be contemptous of this leech treatment, and to be contemptous of the doctors who practised it.

But it’s also a mistake, a mistake which at first I made.

I portrayed a doctor who was practising the leech treatment as incompetent.

But after a while I decided that this was unreasonable, disrespectful, maybe even cruel.

He was doing his best, he was trying to cure the disease, in fact he was trying to save civilisation, because the plague was a threat to civilisation.

It’s also better writing, from a novel writing point of view, to have a character who is confronting a challenge.

An ‘incompetent’ doctor as a character has no novel writing value.

But a doctor who is trying to save civilisation has plenty of it.

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