Writing Tip #52

Build your Dream ‘House.’ Last night, I was watching the season premiere of House (which, in my opinion, is one of the best-written shows on television), and I could not help but wonder how a show, in its eight season, with generally the same format for every episode — House begrudgingly takes a case, yells at his staff for nearly an hour until he has an epiphany while fighting with Wilson and solves the case — has managed to keep me fixated year in and year out. But I know the answer. The writing is topnotch, yes. The medical stories are fascinating, yes. But it’s Dr. Gregory House, as played by Hugh Laurie, that always has me coming back for more. Whether he’s in a prison cell, a late-night bus, an underground pit or in his bathtub, alone or with characters we know and love, or with new characters we learn to love, he remains an intriguing figure. You can’t take your eyes off him. You love him, but you hate him. You know him, but you don’t. You cringe when he does something bad, and root for him when he does something good. Will he find love with Cuddy? Could he ever find love with anyone? And the best part? You never know what he’s going to say or do next.

It’s the good characters who do bad things — and conversely the bad ones who do good things — that keep us guessing, keep us trying to figure them out, keep us teetering on the edge. Create one of these folks in your book, and you’ll not only keep your readers’ interest, you’ll keep them coming back for more.

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