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Serenity Owwww …

July 17, 2013

Image Courtesy of 'MPMthe1' @ stock.xchngWhen one of my writing buddies suggested I write some posts about the origins of my latest WIP, I thought at first that I had no idea where this story came from. It seemed that it had always been there, sprung from nothing, unearthed with shovels and then toothbrushes from the tomb of my subconscious. But, since she’d prodded me to blog about it, I dug a little deeper and found some answers, curiously enough right from my own life.

It started with an outrageous doctor’s bill for a routine test. An innocuous envelope, that when opened revealed a bill quadruple what it should be. I know how much it costs because I’ve been having this test done for years at the same place by the same doctor, and since it’s under the deductible for my health insurance, I pay for the entire amount out-of-pocket. I was shocked and, thinking this must be a mistake, I made a few calls.

It went down something like this. Of course, the phone call was being recorded, just not by me, so I paraphrase.

Gathering up my gentlest inside voice, I asked, “But tell me, why does an ‘outpatient’ facility cost so much more than an ‘office’ facility?”

“Because it’s a hospital,” came the disinterested reply.

“Okay.” I breathed deeply. Serenity now. “So why does a ‘hospital’ cost more than an ‘office’ facility?”

“There are more costs associated with a hospital.”

“But it’s exactly the same place. Why does it cost more now?”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“I would understand. I work in a laboratory. What kind of costs? Accreditations? Quality control?”

“It’s now affiliated with the hospital. So it costs more.”

“You already told me that. Why does being affiliated with a hospital cost more?”

“Because we can only use one chargemaster, so the rates have to be the same as at a hospital.”

“Fine. So the rates have to be the same.” (Cleansing breaths here.) “But, what I’m asking is why the rates are four times, FOUR TIMES, what they were six months ago for the same test, on the same patient, by the same technician, at the same facility?”

“I don’t know.” By now customer service was getting testy. “I don’t ever worry about that. I just get my stuff done through my insurance.”

Huh? Really?

Why do people not see the complete idiocy in this? Where is the money going? Why is nobody honest anymore? Why are we are tearing our country apart with crap like this?

I ended up paying the bill, with a reduction for prompt payment. But I was still outraged. This seemed unconscionable to me. I’m lucky. I’m healthy and (still) pay about a fifth of my take home pay for health insurance. What about people who can’t pay four times as much as they used to for a routine test? What about people who have conditions that preclude them from having health insurance at any cost?

My subconscious has been stewing over this. Is it right that some people are free to live their lives with the security of health insurance and others live in fear that the next doctor visit will force them into bankruptcy or worse? Who chooses which people get treated and which don’t? What kind of system charges obscene rates to those people least able to afford them? (Read this Time magazine article for more insight on these questions. It’s non-partisan, like me.)

My stories always seem to start with ‘what if’ questions. What if our elected officials handed down arbitrary guidelines about who lives and who dies? How would those sentenced to die react to such a policy?

My Muse had the answer: Vampires.Image courtesy of diego medrano @ stock.xchng

“What? That’s silly,” I replied.

But I’ve learned to listen to that silly voice. It said. “You know, like immortals that pay a high price for their immortality.”

“But, vampires?” I protested. “Does anybody read about vampires any more?”

His soft laugh told me I was onto something though.“They can be sinister,” he suggested. “And dystopian. I know how you love to play with the question of who is worse: the person who chooses evil to survive, or the person who makes him choose.”

And thus my dystopian vampires story was born.

How do your stories reveal themselves? Have you ever written a story because your were outraged? And does anybody still read about vampires?

Blood image courtesy of ‘MPMthe1’, mosquito image courtesy of diego medrano, both @ stock.xchng
  1. July 18, 2013 1:44 am

    Cool, I didn’t know you were working on a vampire piece. I’m not a regular reader of vampire fiction myself, but I do enjoy a good bloodsucker yarn every now and then. And as far as I know, lots of people still read about vampires, so I’m sure there is plenty of room for more stories–especially if there’s an interesting take on them.

    By the way, I’m seeing some weird formatting error at the bottom of this post–like a tall column of repeating words, letters, and symbols.

    • July 18, 2013 6:52 am

      Hi Mike,
      Thanks for the heads up on the formatting. I’m not seeing anything wrong on my end, but I tried pulling out the images and reinserting them to clear up any residual formatting. That said, WordPress has been acting weird for me. I might have to contact them if this persists.

      Yeah, vampires. If you’d told me last year I’d be writing about vampires I would have laughed. But now I can’t stay away from this story! And it is very different from anything else that’s out there. But still, vampires …

    • July 18, 2013 7:52 am

      Well, I saw what you were referring to at my work computer, and was able to fix it easily. 🙂 So, THANK YOU, Mike for catching this! Your good deed for the day is accomplished. Now it’s back to work for me. 😉

  2. July 18, 2013 7:32 am

    Sometimes you really have to wonder about the logic in medical costs – or rather the lack of it.
    However, it prompted a cool story idea! Run with it.

    • July 18, 2013 7:57 am

      Hi Alex,
      It really blew my mind, and affected me more deeply than I thought. We have enough suffering in the world without adding greed to the equation.
      Stories seem to be how I process things like this. 🙂

  3. July 18, 2013 8:05 am

    Agree about the medical cost thing. Sometimes it makes no sense.

    As far as your WIP, go for it! I like a good vampire tale now and again. 😉

    • July 18, 2013 7:29 pm

      Yay! A vampire aficionado. 🙂 I love reading vampire tales of all kinds– I just never thought that I’d be writing one!

  4. July 18, 2013 8:55 am

    I love your Medical System and Bloodsuckers inspiration!

    I just received a standard test bill that tripled in price, too, and it merely threw me into a rage. My muse didn’t step in all. Darn him! He just laughed. Afterall, he doesn’t need money or health insurance:)

    • July 18, 2013 7:31 pm

      I ranted in my writing journal about the whole thing (which is why the transcription of our conversation is reasonably accurate) but I never thought it would come back as a story! The Muse is watching even when you don’t think he is. And like I said, I didn’t really make the connection until I was prompted to wonder!

  5. July 18, 2013 10:07 am

    Great post! All my stories seem to stem from one outrage or another, lol. I haven’t read a vampire story in quite some time, not really my thing, but I’ll read yours for sure 🙂

    • July 18, 2013 7:34 pm

      Aww, thanks. 🙂 What a nice thing to say! I’ll work extra hard on it to make it really great for the non-vampire crowd. 🙂
      And you’re making me wonder what other outrage might have sparked my other stories …

  6. July 19, 2013 12:24 am

    I love the way you come up with your stories. And I can’t wait to read this one, though vampires are not on my top ten list, I still want to read it.

    So to your questions:

    How do your stories reveal themselves? Hmmm. I put myself into the mindset of a genre (Medieval, Sci-Fi, Contemporary) and then I try to think of a strange Twist. Then I think about how the Twist could come about. Eventually a story builds up around the genre and the Twist.

    Have you ever written a story because your were outraged? Not really. I have written a couple of editorials and some blog posts, but never a story. I would have trouble focusing on a story if I were upset.

    And does anybody still read about vampires? I didn’t read the Twilight series (though I did see two of the movies — on TV). I am not into horror, so I tend to skip vampire stories, though it isn’t as bad as zombies — I really hate zombies. But as I said, from what I have heard about your vampire story, I might have to make an exception.

    • July 19, 2013 10:23 pm

      I don’t think I’ve ever started with a genre, but I did have an interesting setting launch a story idea once. 🙂
      I’ve never been able to trace a story’s origins to something that drove me nuts until now. Some time has passed between the irritating conversation and the story’s origins, so perhaps that is why I’m able to write with some kind of distance from the idea of it.
      Although I can write really fast when I’m angry. 🙂

      • July 19, 2013 11:31 pm

        I think the difference is that you always have a message in your stories (and good ones), while in my case I am just looking for entertainment. So I figure what genre appeals to me at the moment and then try to figure something in that genre to write that entertains me (and hopefully my readers),

  7. Dyann permalink
    July 19, 2013 11:52 am

    The way you came to your idea is amazing really… I’m envious. I’ve never written anything because I’ve been outraged – I may have to start. I tend to dream up characters first and then put them in crazy situations or pair them with completely opposite love interests. But the outrage thing has me thinking…I’m frequently outraged about one thing or another in this world. Pow! I just got an interesting idea. Hmmm…I’m going to go write it down.

    Oh and I love vampires. I’ll be reading vampire fiction until I die. I have a vampire story in me somewhere. I feel it. But, until then, I’ll read yours. I mean it, it sounds great – very UltraViolet-esque.

    • July 19, 2013 10:30 pm

      Hi Dyann,
      Ooooh, I checked out Ultraviolet and you’re right! I might have to rent that, although I’m happy to see that my premise is very different from theirs. Just the futuristic part is similar.

      This is actually the first time that my story gimmick has sprung from something in my own life and our messed up world. Usually I start with a character too, and try to discover where he’s broken, then tell his (or her) story.

      And welcome to A Scenic Route! I’m glad you stopped by. 🙂

  8. Kate is permalink
    July 20, 2013 2:45 am

    I came up with a story because of my outrage just this morning, so it was great to read this piece ( though I am sorry for your frustration – It reminds me to be grateful to live where I do.) I can see a vampire story out of this; some franchised vamp corporation…OK my mind is wandering now.

    • July 20, 2013 9:44 pm

      Hi Kate
      Welcome to A Scenic Route. 🙂
      And you’ve just given me something new to chew on for this story–do all countries have the problem created by my (fictional) one? I will have to incorporate this!
      Don’t you just love blogging?

  9. Kate is permalink
    July 20, 2013 9:54 pm

    Thanks Kirsen 🙂 I love that you can chew over that. A socialist Vampire world. Now that is fun.

  10. July 21, 2013 4:32 pm

    How do your stories reveal themselves? Have you ever written a story because your were outraged?

    I have thought and thought about this since you posted it and still the best I can come up with is that stories reveal themselves whichever way they want. And I have written stories because I wanted to see what would happen from this first word and kept on going; because I’m exploring a question about a character, world, or idea; or any number of reasons, but not really because I was outraged. Feeling something deeply, yes. Outraged, not really.

    • July 22, 2013 7:40 pm

      I’m so glad my post made you think so hard!
      That was the funny thing about this story. It seemed like it was just there, but so different from what I usually write that I really wanted to explore what brought it to fruition. I found it interesting that I could actually trace it back to my uneasiness about this particular situation.
      Usually it’s not quite so obvious to me either!

  11. Larkin permalink
    July 28, 2013 9:04 pm

    HI, Kirsten–

    Sorry about your costs going up so much. Maybe a different doctor next time?
    Have I ever written a story because of outrage.
    You bet.

    John Truby, the screenwriting guru says that the first step in writing a comedy script is that someone strikes a comedy writer.

    And you know Holly’s take on parables and allegories. You bet, Kirsten, outrage is a venerable old seed for stories.

    • July 29, 2013 7:47 pm

      Hi Larkin,
      Welcome to A Scenic Route, and thanks for your thoughtful comment.
      I did consult my doctor, and she has been a huge help with this dilemma. 🙂 It should be no surprise that my protagonist has many traits in common with her!

      I think what surprised me most about this story was that I could trace it so directly to something that drove me crazy about the world we live in. Usually that ends up being preachy–something Holly hates! (And I agree with her.)
      I don’t think my story is preachy though. I find it much more interesting to look at all sides of a problem and pose a question. I don’t pretend to have answers.

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