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....