Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Saturday, April 28, 2007


I don't usually blog about TV shows. Sometimes, though, something strikes me about one and I can't help myself.

I like House. I don't watch it very often because it's usually scheduled opposite one of my favorite shows and I don't watch TV that much otherwise. Last night, however, I was kicking back and surfing the channels and happened to catch an older episode I'd never seen, so I watched.

The particular episode isn't important. The reason I'm writing about this today is the character House himself. As I was watching this man, who people love to hate (or hate to love), I was struck by the idea that the reason he is so attractive to viewers is he is the man who says all the things people wish they could get away with saying. And he doesn't care what people think of him. He tells is like it is, not like people would wish it would be.

I've spent a lot of time around doctors. If I had a nickel for every time one of them tried to dance around an issue, rather than telling me something point blank, I could afford to buy that lake in Texas I've been dreaming about. I wish I'd had a House back then. Like the doctor who assured my mother I didn't have brain damage, despite evidence to the contrary. To this day, it upsets her when I joke about my damaged brain, because Dr. Whatshisnose said I didn't. (But I digress.)

The purpose of this post - as it relates to writing - is the idea that certain brusque characters can't or won't be sympathetic to the readers. The popularity of House proves that wrong. Personally, I find my in common with House than with the simpering chick who works under him. If it were a matter of life or death, I'd sure as hell want House working on my case instead of her. And in any book, I gravitate toward the stronger, the more competent, the knowledgeable - rather than the weak, the lame and the ignorant.

As a reader, I don't want to see the weakness of the MC. If he has them, fine, but don't make his weaknesses the most important thing about him. If he needs to grow, have him outgrow the weaknesses by the end of the book, instead of focusing on how those flaws drag him down. House has weaknesses - they pop up every now and again - but it isn't the main focus of who he is as a person. And I think that's part of why the show is popular.

Despite what some may think, people don't want to escape into a world of the weak. Give them strength and they gravitate toward it every time. That's what I try to do in my writing. I have kick-ass women, and no-nonsense men.

The only exception to this, so far, is Mary in Blink. She starts out pretty-much a human marshmallow, a pushover, a pansy. A "yes, sir" "anything you say sir" kind of woman. By the end of the book, though, she has reached the kick-ass stage.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I have Myke in Caldera. She's a female House, for the most part. I know in the first few chapters she comes off harsh, and about as warm & fuzzy as a porcupine. With her, I weave the warmth into her character in later scenes. It's there, no doubt about it, but it isn't necessary in the first few chapters. She's still kick-ass, but kick-ass with genuine emotion.

I guess what I'm saying is characters can be multi-layered without being wussies. A woman can be strong without being a bitch. A man can be tough without being an asshole. And on the other hand, a woman can be soft and feminine without losing her strength, while a man can show emotion without losing his toughness.

And last night, when I saw House holding back his tears, it made him all that much more of a man.

(Great acting on the part of Hugh Laurie, BTW. My heart was aching right there with him.)


liz fenwick said...

I have a tough time accepting wus characters and they havee to start change pdq or the book gets left by the wayside.........saw my first episode of House the other night. Great stuff ;-)

Alex Adams said...

How funny, MBH and I were just having this conversation Friday night!

By all rights House *should* be an unsympathetic character, but the writers and Hugh Laurie have done this amazing job of making him so human that it's impossible not to see beneath his brusque veneer. it's a really fabulous character study, especially for us writerly types.

If you haven't seen it, Doris Egan is one of the writers for House. You can find here blog here: http://tightropegirl.livejournal.com/

Maya Reynolds said...

I ADORE House and have faithfully watched every show since Season 1, Episode 1. It's the one program that I will schedule my calendar around.

Turns out Hugh Laurie is also a writer. My friend Maria gave me a book by him for my birthday. I haven't started it yet, but am looking forward to it.