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My MC is in a situation where she is comparing a simple task to a complicated science related thing which she is smart enough to do. Except I know squat about science. Help! Please!

This is from the MS. The part in red is added for clarification, and is the part where I want to add the science piece. A couple of her science interests are astronomy, and meteorology, but the line doesn't need to come from these areas.

I stare at the keypad. How hard can it be? I can preform bypass on a frog, I should be able to figure this out.

#1 - March 19, 2012, 07:47 PM
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So you want something that sounds hard but that she CAN do? How old is she? How avid are her interests? What classes has she taken? What does she read?

What age are the readers? Do THEY need to understand what she's referring to?

I think we need more information. Otherwise it's dangerous to lift things like this out of context without knowing all that your MC is supposed to understand or not, what experiences she's had with the science, etc.

#2 - March 19, 2012, 08:05 PM
The Farwalker Trilogy
The Humming of Numbers
Reality Leak

I'm not sure what you're going for, but if you mean something like heart surgery, I think you're testing verisimilitude. Bypass surgery requires removing an artery from the thigh and grafting it onto the heart to improve blood flow. I doubt even a veterinary surgeon could do it to a frog and have it survive.

I guess I don't know if the story is supposed to be realistic or not, or how dependent this scenario is on having performed surgery on a frog. If you just want the language, you would say "I performed arterial bypass surgery on a frog." Kids won't know that's bordering on impossible, and most adults won't care. But if you want it to be realistic, you could say the kid stitched up a wounded frog or set a broken leg or something?
#3 - March 19, 2012, 08:08 PM

Mike Jung

If it's a relatively simple thing she's feeling stymied by, I don't actually think you have to emphasize its simplicity by contrasting it with something as complex as a hypothetical surgical procedure that defies credibility. It might be enough to compare it to something as straightforward as dissecting a frog, or maybe removing a specific part of the frog.
#4 - March 19, 2012, 08:14 PM

Thanks so much for your thoughts. I'm sorry, I wasn't clear. This is a realistic contemporary YA, and the MC is a 16 year old girl who is taking some AP science courses. She's interested in anything having to do with the sky (stars, weather, etc.) but really she likes anything science, so the example doesn't have to come from there.

The frog was meant purely as an example. Dissection is the only thing I remember from any of my HS labs. And I said she could do bypass because I was trying to emphasize that her skill set is above the average teen her age. I only want to include something science here to highlight her intellect as well as her science interests. Neither of these things are evident from her behavior thus far in the MS, but I need her science interests dispersed throughout the MS in order for the ending to be plausible. I hope that makes some sort of sense. :)

#5 - March 20, 2012, 04:43 AM
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Children's Librarian, Writer

It does, and it's what I figured. I'm really glad you're writing about a girl who's science-minded and modeling that as a possibility for young readers.

Still -- bypass surgery is a stretch, even on a dead frog.

You could probably look at advanced science texts or look at stories about science fairs to get a good idea of the range of projects done by very smart kids her age.  For example, according to this ( she could not only dissect the frog, she could isolate its DNA.

If a passion for science is part of her personality, you'll need to be as conversant as she is, or at least be able to fake it. I just finished a book where kids designed robots; I read a book and consulted with a guy who used to lead teams of kids building robots, it gave me just enough knowledge to feign expertise. ;)

#6 - March 20, 2012, 05:28 AM

Thanks, Kurtis. Isolating DNA is exactly the higher level ability I'm looking for, especially since she's curious about genetics and such. Later in the MS, she helps her "love" interest, who is a baker, using her chemistry abiltiy (of which I have none) with recipes. I am definintely going to have to do a lot of research in this area, because I am completely inept in science.  :confused2

Oh, and thanks for the link. It's great!
#7 - March 20, 2012, 06:46 AM
« Last Edit: March 20, 2012, 06:48 AM by Michelle J. »
Keep moving foward - Walt Disney

Children's Librarian, Writer

If a passion for science is part of her personality, you'll need to be as conversant as she is, or at least be able to fake it.

I so agree, Kurtis!

Is there any particular reason you made your main character a science whiz who can help people with chemistry and such when those are things you're inept at?

Not that we always have to write about people who are just like ourselves.  With good research, you can fake it.  Just wondering why you chose to go in this direction.
#8 - March 20, 2012, 08:04 AM

If she's interested in stars/space, perhaps read some of Stephen Hawkings books for research.
My son is a bit of a science whiz and he loves those.
We also watch NOVA a lot and I find that it explains things that even I can understand.
You said that she's interested in space, but your reference was to biology. I think if her strongest
interest is in space, that her thoughts would also run along those lines.
Sounds like you have an interesting character!
#9 - March 20, 2012, 08:18 AM

She's a misdirected character who is preoccupied with one aspect of her social life. Science was what she was interested in before this one obsession became her life and the basis of the story, which has nothing to do with science.  

If a passion for science is part of her personality, you'll need to be as conversant as she is, or at least be able to fake it.

Jaina, it is a part of her personality that she denies, so it only needs to "sneak" into her dialogue. (she doesn't even plan on going to college or working in the science field)
I only need to let the reader know that her obsession is only one part of her, but that there is somthing else that she could make a life from and be happy with.

Austen, her thoughts and dialogue definitely do go the space route, from time to time. But the opportunity to relate things to space doesn't always come up, and I need the reader to know this character is smart and has depth, which is why she brings up other areas of science.
#10 - March 20, 2012, 09:36 AM
Keep moving foward - Walt Disney

Children's Librarian, Writer


Try this: everyone loves the Hubble, and this example isn't *ahem* rocket science.

(Now I miss my Freak Observer and her abiding interest in astrophysics--but hey! I'm all about economics in book 4...)

#11 - March 20, 2012, 10:40 AM


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