Tuesday, August 28, 2012

August is Awesome Because of Sarah Allen

I've been a follower of Sarah's blog now for quite some time.  (Of course, "quite some time" is in relation to how long I've been blogging.)  Still, hers is a blog worth following.

I've found this awesome individual interesting, complex, insightful and easy to relate with.  She often approaches things from a unique perspective and sees that which others seldom consider.

Her post today is no exception.  Just read below to find out what she learned from a television character!

So now, with all appropriate fanfare, I introduce to you the awesome Sarah Allen!

3 Writing Lessons from Dr. House
by Sarah Allen

He’s cranky. He’s manipulative. He’s a mean, bitingly sarcastic drug-addict with no discernible moral code.

So why do we love him so much? And what can our fascination with characters like Gregory House teach us about writing? Given the recent (and brilliant) show finale, I thought it would be fun to take a look. Even if you’re not as big a fan-girl as I am, Dr. Gregory House still has a lot to teach us.

1. The Super-Human factor: House is smarter than everyone around him. Sure he knows it and is frankly a jerk about it, but that doesn’t discount his incredible intelligence and wit that intrigues and fascinates us as much as his other characteristics might repel. He knows things and says things and does things that make us wish we were like him a little bit, that put us in awe.

Our characters don’t have to be jerks, but we do well to make them unique. Make them above the rest or different in some way. We want to know what it’s like to be in that position. It thrills us when characters do and say things that we would never dare do in real life.

2. The Humanness of the Super-Human factor: Yes House is a genius. He is also incredibly, incredibly human and vulnerable. He has a painful limp. He has a nearly inescapable addiction. He has an incredible affection and loyalty for his best friend. He has growing feelings for the beautiful boss that he doesn’t quite know what to do with. All these things make him relatable and shockingly and adorably vulnerable. My favorite moments in the show are when, despite House’s best efforts, these vulnerabilities show through the rough, scruffy exterior.

We love super-human characters, characters that do things we would never do. But we also want to know that they are like us and deal with the same painful things we deal with. When people as strong as these characters show this raw place, its cathartic and makes us feel like its okay for us to have the problems that we do. Though they are a bit super-human, these vulnerabilities make them seem even more human than the rest of us.

3. The Internal and External factor: One thing I love about the show House is that it tells both an external and internal story. We have the external story each episode with each patient and whether or not they are going to survive. Literally life and death stakes. Then we have the internal story, the team’s relationships with each other, House’s pain and addiction, his inability to maintain a close relationship with anyone. Emotional life and death stakes.

I honestly think that emotional life and death stakes are more important than literal ones. There should be an outside story, moving the characters through the plot, driving them towards an end goal. But what makes us actually care about this story and the characters is the internal, emotional story. We care about House because of his mix of super-human intelligence and incredibly human vulnerability, and we care about the outer medical story in-so-far as it relates to and changes Houses inner story. At least that’s how it is for me.

Anyway, I hope this gives you something to think about as you keep writing. If nothing else I got to picture Hugh Laurie’s face, and that’s good enough for me.

About Sarah Allen:

Sarah is a 23 year old uber-dork working on drafting her second novel and querying her first. She is a Jane Austen groupie, Peach Fresca addict and lover of jazz and post-grunge rock.

You can find out more at her blog:
From Sarah With Joy

Connect with Sarah on:

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  1. Such an insightful and useful post. Thanks, Sarah and Jeff. :)

  2. Thank you! That's a great character analysis. Certainly makes me think.

  3. This is something that I have found to like about series writing. It can take a long time to share, develop, and grow a character. Trying to cram all of House into a single book would be impossible.

  4. You're right - the internal conflict is more important than the external one.

  5. @Linda: Thanks! I really appreciate the kind words.

    @Susan: One reason I love great television and great characters, is they make you think.

    @SBJones: I agree, House as a book wouldn't work. (Thanks at least in part to the odd attractiveness of Hugh Laurie) but it works great as a television series. Some characters and stories just need that extra time to develop.

    @Alex: Amen! First thing I learned in creative writing classes.

  6. Excellent and accurate analysis of House. My wife bored of it a couple years in but I watched it all. The parallel story lines and the highs and lows among the miraculous cures were so intriguing I could not help but watch. It was truly an epic show. Sarah, you gleaned the best of it in your three points. Good job!

  7. I'm so glad you featured Sarah! I've been following her blog for a while now too and she ALWAYS has something great to say :)

    1. August just wouldn't have been as awesome without her!

  8. I love Sarah's blog! Thanks for featuring her, and thanks for the post, Sarah. I also loved when House showed his vulnerable side. Great character analysis! I really miss this show and Hugh Laurie's face. :D

  9. Great post. And yes, that element of humanity in our characters is so important.

  10. I love House, and Sarah's captured the essence of it. I love Hugh Laurie too... ever since Blackadder!