Archives quotidiennes : 13 août 2010

How to write a better heartbreak (with a little help from an octopus)

There are blogs for everything. Don’t believe me? Take a look at How To Kill Your Imaginary Friends, then.

The author, who goes by the nom de blog Doctor Grasshopper, is a physician whose aim here is to provide «A writer’s guide to diseases and injuries, and how to use them effectively in fiction», as the blog’s summary puts it.

So, dear writer! Got a character with a medical condition? Want to know how not to muddle it completely, but be realistic, or at least to describe it in a way that doesn’t strain too much your reader’s suspension of disbelief? How about learning how much a human being can bleed before passing out? Or in which medical circumstances one can faint, and what the autonomic nervous system has to do with it?

Don’t fret, Doctor Grasshopper has the goods!

But maybe you are interested in very unusual issues, like whether the fate of canonical star-crossed lovers Tristan and Iseult is even barely medically plausible? Can one really die of a «broken heart»?

Well, as it happens, it turns out that yes, one can. It’s called Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, or Broken Heart Syndrome.

Isn’t that cool? Not only can heartbreak kill (even though, in real life, it’s very rare), but the condition is named after a kind of Japanese octopus trap, because the shape of the heart with such a syndrome looks like the shape of the trap.

And as the great Cthulhu knows, everything is better with octopi.