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Cats' Corners: the little HOUSE in the woods....
Where House is NEVER safe...
On Writing House Fic: Putting All My Eggs In One Basket [personal entry] 
9th-Nov-2008 09:41 am
HouseContemplative



In May of 2006, something odd happened to me--I was compelled to write a story about two amazing fictional characters who'd captured both my heart and my imagination.  I'd watched House, MD since its inception, but lately I'd been watching it with an entirely different focus.

When the show premiered on 16 November, 2004, I was watching.  But only because it was a new medical drama, and I'd grown weary of ER, and the only television I  was watching regularly at the time was the news, and, well, the promos for House intrigued me just a bit.

I'm going to admit a few things here that anyone reading this might find surprising.  Although I myself am on a cane, and am dependent on opioids for the function of my own right leg, I initially noticed neither House's cane nor his frequent Vicodin intake.  Really.  I didn't know Wilson's and Cuddy's names; nor was I aware that they (or the team) were recurring characters.  At the start of the episode Humpty Dumpty, when we see Cuddy jogging, and then having an alarming coughing/choking episode in her kitchen, I was unaware until the episode progressed that she was not a guest actress.  And later, after my focus on the show had changed so very radically, and I had begun to write my very first fan fiction, The Devil You Say, I actually had to get on the interwebs and look up the name of her character.  I am not making this up--any of it.

So what changed?  For the first two seasons, I was watching only for the medicine--the medical mystery, the patient-of-the-week plotline. Oh, sometimes I became a bit caught up in what was going on with some of the regular characters; my first recall of this interest was while watching House go through withdrawal in Detox.  But even then, it wasn't until the end of season three that I realized that the fascinating story of the boy and the cat and the termites took place within the same hour as watching the lead character implode before my eyes.

When House, MD premiered, my cane was only a sometime-companion, most notably in the winter.  And the ingestion of opioids was not an everyday event, as it is now.  But--sometime towards the end of the second season--my personal circumstances changed drastically. The cane became a necessary part of my wardrobe; the pills became a mandatory part of my day.  These things led to self-imposed social isolation, as it didn't take me long to realize that relatively young (I'm Hugh Laurie's age) people who are in pain and on canes are virtually invisible to the rest of society.  At first, that nonreaction bothered me.  Gradually, though, I came to welcome it; I was generally miserable anyway, and being left alone to wallow in that misery suited me just fine.

And then I realized, one night while watching House, that I wasn't alone.  That there was a man who knew everything I was enduring, and understood it, because he was going through it as well.  Never mind that he was a fictional character--the parallels were too many to ignore. But he had something--someone--that I did not; he had Wilson.  He had (during those first two seasons, anyway) a compassionate, empathetic, protective, unconditionally understanding friend.  I couldn't imagine it; I had no frame of reference for such a wondrous thing.  So I became utterly fascinated with House and Wilson as individuals, and with the House-Wilson dynamic as a whole.  I spent a great deal of time thinking about it, envying it, analyzing it.  And that led to writing about it.

That first novella, The Devil, You Say, truly wrote itself; it was simply the typing-out of the mental observation and analyses I'd done, and the inferences and conclusions I'd drawn.  Nothing else since has been--or ever will be--as easy to write at that one was, because I'd been unknowingly writing it in my head for two seasons.

But the whole point of this essay is that even while I was effortlessly writing that first one, I had a fear--a fear that's even larger today, two and a half years later.  I was, and am, afraid that I'm a "One-Note Writer," that all I can successfully write are explorations of House's pain, and of the House-Wilson dynamic, with a little Cuddy thrown in when a third warm body is required for plot purposes.

Except for House, and occasionally watching one of the various incarnations of Law & Order, I still don't watch television--not even too much of the news anymore.  I refuse to watch new series.  And I discovered that I can't even read House fan fiction written by other authors (with only one exception) because it interferes so completely with my own writing ability; I'm a chameleon, if I allow myself to be.  I pick up and steal the other writers' voices.  This is unintentional--but it's also unavoidable.  So all good House fiction is off-limits to me, if I want to write--and I do.

But my fear is that I've finally reached the limit of variations on a theme.  How many times, and in how many different ways, can House be in pain while Wilson stands guard lovingly?  In Real Life, the answer would be every day.  In fiction, however, I worry that I'm reaching "too repetitive"--if I haven't already.

I'd love to branch out, to fall in love with a second show, a new set of characters--but that isn't going to happen.  My brain doesn't have the patience for it, plain and simple.  So my challenge now, I suppose, is to attempt to say the same things about the same characters in the same situation--in different ways.  Because all my creative eggs are most definitely in the House, MD basket, and that is where they are
destined to stay.  Now I must look for ways to keep them from rotting in there....
 
Thoughts 
(Deleted comment)
11th-Nov-2008 04:10 pm (UTC)
thanks; i appreciate knowing that, after all this time, my 'voices' are still true for you, and appreciated by you.
(Deleted comment)
11th-Nov-2008 04:31 pm (UTC)
and i should have thanked you for sharing your perceptions with me! i've grown [at least as a writer] since that point, and find that i do best at finishing the pieces in my own way first, and then submitting them only to blackmare's discerning eye for things that sound 'off.' i'm lucky, i know, not to need a formal beta and a lot of correction and direction and such--but i certainly do appreciate that you were there when i most needed it!
9th-Nov-2008 06:38 pm (UTC)
Wow, what an interesting post! Kudos for evaluating where you are right now. It's a sign of a good writer to do this occasionally. :-) Hope you don't mind a few comments?

I discovered that I can't even read House fan fiction written by other authors (with only one exception) because it interferes so completely with my own writing ability; I'm a chameleon, if I allow myself to be.

I understand your concern about how reading others' fics might affect your own writing. When I'm writing, I don't read fic for precisely that reason. When I'm not, I like to see what others are doing. Sometimes it stimulates my own writing, eg if I see in a story an undeveloped idea that I might want to explore.

So my challenge now, I suppose, is to attempt to say the same things about the same characters in the same situation--in different ways. Because all my creative eggs are most definitely in the House, MD basket, and that is where they are destined to stay.

I hear you on being a "one-note" writer. On one hand, you become expert in it, and readers come to expect it from you. OTOH, it eventually becomes stifling, retreading the same old ground. I find it's good to break out and try something different on occasion. Trying a new fandom, genre, or characters, all help me stretch my writing muscles (well, when I'm writing, heh). I also find I can go back to my favorite characters, themes and tropes, and see them in a different light.

It's good to be aware of one's strengths and weaknesses as a writer. We all have preferred characters and themes because we write what resonates with us. There's always room to grow within our favorite sphere--to a point. I, for one, think you'd be very successful at trying other genres or characters in the House fandom. Readers will understand what you're trying to do. I'm not saying you should do anything you don't feel comfortable about--I'm saying that you're too good a writer to limit yourself. You may never know. :-)
11th-Nov-2008 04:17 pm (UTC)
your comments and ideas are truly thought-provoking. with Aiuto, i stepped far out of my comfort zone, and i'll admit to being pleased with the result. but then i went right back to it with the one i posted last night.

i suppose that, for me, an occasional foray away from angst and hurt/comfort is a good thing. and i see what you're saying about reading and watching other things. if i ever get my brain back [after a disastrous year on baclofen], i'm likely to try that as well.
9th-Nov-2008 07:59 pm (UTC)
I feel sorry that you have to bear pain every day and I'm a fan of your fiction and it doesn't matters if you let Wilson be there for House in pain every fic again. I love those plott and your writing-style is just wonderful, great and emphatetically and I love your fics. Sorry, I can't write it better in those language but for me you are one of the best authors because of your dynamic between Wilson and House. The plot doens't have to change if the story is so wonderful written like yours. Don't let the eggs rotting there. Use them. You are doing that so great and always in an awesome way.
11th-Nov-2008 04:18 pm (UTC)
thanks; your reassurance means so much to me. *hugs*
9th-Nov-2008 08:33 pm (UTC)
First of all, I think it's amazing the way you (dare to) analyze your writing. It wouldn't be a bad thing if more writers did so every now and then... but as for your worries (In fiction, however, I worry that I'm reaching "too repetitive"--if I haven't already), I, for one, have never considered your stories to be "too repetitive". Not at all! Like you said, there are a thousand ways in which Wilson can be a friend to House and (try to) help him through bad days, and rejoice with him when days are good. Also, for me at least, your stories are such a nice and welcome counterpart to the strange paths the show takes ("House! You're an addict! You take the pills for the buzz! It's all in your head!"). I like the way you make House's pain real, tangible, and how you make Wilson understand, and act upon that. And that can take so many roads, and come in so many forms. I'd say, as long as you feel comfortable with what you write yourself (because that always must come first and foremost, a writer must always feel good about his or her own stories), please continue the way you're working now. There's still so much to be explored in this field and it's a good thing when people can read about how House's not an addict but instead dependent on the Vicodin to be able to function.

On a more personal note, if I may: relatively young (I'm Hugh Laurie's age) people who are in pain and on canes are virtually invisible to the rest of society, yeah, ain't that the truth? Jeez! I might as well be f*cking invisible!
11th-Nov-2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
yup; i know you know where i'm coming from on so much of this. and--as long as there are things to explore about the house-wilson dynamic--i suppose i'll keep going! :)
11th-Nov-2008 09:47 pm (UTC)
That's good news! There's still plenty to explore, I'm sure!
11th-Nov-2008 09:56 pm (UTC)
as a matter of fact, i put a new one up yesterday, Snapped. it's back in my angsty comfort zone, but we all gravitate to what we do best, no?
11th-Nov-2008 10:12 pm (UTC)
Of course I read it immediately, left my comments there, but it's beautiful, so sad and so realistic... I, for one, am very happy that you gravitated to what you do best!
9th-Nov-2008 08:34 pm (UTC)
I see your "one-note" writing as a good thing. You have chosen the thing that fascinates you and dug into it. You can look at it from all angles now, uncover more about it in different ways. I know what to expect when I read your work and because you know the characters with the depth you do I know it will be good. Don't be afraid of writing only one aspect of their relationship, embrace it (as you seem to have) and run with it. Your fans would probably be horrified if you suddenly decided to write an in depth character study of House's love for 13! I know I would run screaming from this fandom if you did. I do wish you could read some of the other amazing fic in this fandom, because the scope it covers is stunning and I know when I read other writers (when I'm not working on my own fic - because I'm like you and don't want to take on some other writer's voice or plot!) it helps me see the characters clearer. I always read your stories, I adore them and whatever works for you just know I'm out here waiting for more!
11th-Nov-2008 04:23 pm (UTC)
if you suddenly decided to write an in depth character study of House's love for 13

umm... excuse me whilst i go vomit. :)

okay, i'm back. you know what's odd? i truly didn't expect commentary on this little essay--and certainly not the thoughtful, thought-provoking comments i got! i so appreciate the reassurance; thanks so much!
10th-Nov-2008 02:31 am (UTC)
I'm sorry this is sort of an out-of-the-blue comment, but I agree with genagirl in the sense that I think it's really cool you've stuck with an OTP and explored every inch of it. Me too! Fanfiction lets you do that, you know? I used to feel like I was being too repetitve with my own writing, but then I remembered that this is why fanfiction exists, so we can do the things we want and enjoy what we want--eat proverbial fandom ice cream every single day if we want, you know?

Anyway. Wanting to stretch into unfamiliar territory is healthy, I think? But I can tell you're having fun when I read your stories, even if that fun comes from a very personal place.
11th-Nov-2008 04:25 pm (UTC)
the fun does indeed come from a very personal--and comfortable--place. and, as long as my readers are happy, i'll continue to enjoy it--with perhaps an occasional experiment, just to keep things interesting!
10th-Nov-2008 05:28 am (UTC)
I love the way you always surprise me with House and Wilson -- coming out with insights into their relationship that I would never have thought of on my own.

If it's one note, dear, it's a note played by a whole lot of different and unexpected instruments.

Having said that, I'd encourage you to take any new routes that might appeal to you. Go where your heart leads you, and as a reader I'll follow.
11th-Nov-2008 04:26 pm (UTC)
as long as there are insights to find, there's something to write. and i thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support along the way.
10th-Nov-2008 06:03 am (UTC)
Not for the first time, I find myself wishing our physical locations were not so distant one from the other.. I would be honored to have the chance to introduce you to that dynamic you speak of. And, IMHO we have certain predispositions toward friendship that would be rewarding (to me) to explore. Both nurses. Both know and love kids who are "square pegs" that will never in their lifetimes fit in the round holes that society requires of them...we see them as wonderful, interesting, challenging, worthwhile. We both have adopted kids. I suspect that when in practice you were not once one of those nurses that labeled patients who were in pain as "difficult"..and if you were, you certainly wouldn't be today, would you!? Empathy is part of who you are...you are easier on others than you are on yourself. I (Like Wilson) could be obnoxious about not allowing "wallowing in misery" for extended lengths of time..I'd badger you about sharing yourself with fellow humans. On my side, I believe you would be a good listener. Grant you, I have lots of people in my life that call themselves my "friend"..very few of them are very empathetic. They might hear me, but they aren't really LISTENING to what I say.

As for your writing, "Devil" was one of the first fics I read when I came to LJ. I still consider it as one of the best, and certainly my personal favorite. (If I remember correctly, there was some vague distant enticement of a sequel? I'm WAITING!) Just as it is difficult to watch medical TV shows and see glaringly obvious mistakes (Someone needs to teach Cuddy how to do an IM injection! Or was she trying for a bone marrow aspiration?!) it's hard for me to read fic that is medically unsound. I do grant a lot of grace...I know that not everyone has a medical background; however if I am trying to lose myself in a story, it's got to ring true. Glaring medical errors catch my attention and distract me from where the story is trying to take me. I can't help it, I can't turn it off. So from a technical standpoint, your writing flows for me and allows me to envelop myself in the fabric of the tale without getting whacked over the head with medical impossibilities. Nice...but not why I crave your writing. It's NOT repetitive. Truthfully, in real life friends are RARELY found to "stand guard lovingly" every day, day after day after day. People DO tend to wane in their support as time passes and there is no resolution to the issue of chronic pain. For me, the fact that Wilson IS there, supporting and caring is much more appealing because it represents friendship as *I* believe it should be. You write House and Wilson in a way that encourages me, it's representative of relationships the way I would have them. For that reason, at least for me there is little chance that the eggs are rotting.

Now, about that sequel...!! I'm 51. How long do I have to wait?!

Mick
11th-Nov-2008 04:35 pm (UTC)
thank you, my dear, for your words of support; i find comfort in them.

the sequel of which you speak? it's not for the devil trilogy; it's for the more things change, that house-gets-mrsa story. and believe it or not, i actually resumed work on it recently, so you may see it prior to your 60th!!! [and congrats on becoming a new mommy, btw; i'm praying for you and your family every night]
11th-Nov-2008 04:48 pm (UTC)
Yay! More Things Change is great too. Can't wait!

(And thanks for the prayers, I know of little else quite so powerful!)

Blessings!

Mick
11th-Nov-2008 04:11 pm (UTC)
A very interesting self-examination as a writer, and fascinating to me because our journeys as fanfic writers are almost identical: I'm a one-show, one-aspect-of-that-show writer. I've never written anywhere else and am not tempted.

Yes, there's a danger of getting "written out" (notice that I put it from your perspective--not from your readers' perspective, since I believe firmly that your readers would go on forever reading your 'one-note' pieces until, together, they formed a large, delightful symphony with a single leit motif.) So it really comes back to what you as a writer can continue to find to write about. I think it's useful to try the "Come as you aren't" approach that surfaces every Halloween:it's almost like permission to try on another costume, knowing it might not work and who cares? But failing that, I see nothing wrong with writing 100 variations on a single theme: after all, that's what a symphony is.

Good luck and keep at it.
11th-Nov-2008 04:42 pm (UTC)
I think it's useful to try the "Come as you aren't" approach

i actually did that a few days ago, with Aiuto!. i'd never in my life attempted writing anything approaching 'romance,' and i must say, i enjoyed it and was satisfied with the result.

but i must also admit to being much more comfortable last night, posting more angst-und-drung. :) i... don't deal well with change [and i also have a gift for understatement! hee].
14th-Nov-2008 09:23 pm (UTC)
Anonymous
Since everyone else has been far more deep and insightful than I could be, I will just mention that from this reader's view your doing more variations on a theme simply means that I don't have to reread your older fics as frequently as I already do!
14th-Nov-2008 09:24 pm (UTC)
Sorry, that was me.
14th-Nov-2008 09:29 pm (UTC)
lol; thanks very much!
25th-Nov-2008 06:40 pm (UTC)
Oh, silly, there's not an end to writing House in pain. The writers ignore stuff that you pick up all the time. It's a RELIEF. I get to see the REALISTIC incarnation of what's happening to House when I read your material. I get to watch House and Wilson as they should be, with Wilson remembering that House has feelings and a soul and -- you know -- is not a monster, or a piece of cardboard for him to kick.

You let me remember a time when they were not mutually pathetic. A RELIEF, I tell you! Your ideas should be sold to the writers because they've obviously run out, which I simply have trouble imagining -- especially given that there are so many of them supposedly working together. Damn them and love you.
25th-Nov-2008 08:31 pm (UTC)
thank you, sweetie!
6th-Dec-2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
My thoughts at the end:
"I'd love to branch out, to fall in love with a second show" : please don't!!
"But tis is not going to happen" : whew!!

I am not every single day on the internet, but if I am , I look for your stories. I spent some months waiting for your LJ to be "alive " again, clicking on my favourites. So, please, keep going. Though I have nothing in common with House as a character,on the contrary of you, it's the only show which gave me a sort of dependence (from itself and from fanfictions - good fanfictions), so you can't let me down ^_^
You're not repetitive because your House and Wilson have "something" real people have, and since real life is usually unpredictable, your stories are
perfect in any of their aspects!
7th-Dec-2008 08:39 pm (UTC)
thanks very much; that's so kind of you!