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Hi all, just a note to let you know I’ve just started posting a new story, called Affair to Remember. (Note it’s not “AN” Affair to Remember, for reasons that will become evident.)

It’s a story about House and his mother, Blythe. His mother’s neighbor plays a role too, a quirky woman called Emma who I really like. She’s the kind of person I’d like to have as a friend. Rounding out the cast is Emma’s teenage son, Cameron. (Yes, I called a character, a boy, Cameron. Believe it or not, I didn’t even realize what I’d done until about half way through. Let me know if it’s confusing!)

I’m posting on FF.net as usual. The Fox Forum has changed and, in an interesting move on Fox’s behalf, appears to be deliberately designed to prevent any kind of community being forged. It certainly is unfriendly for fic posting. A shame that they’ve gone and killed what used to be quite a vibrant and interesting community.

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A very intimidating title, there, and one I’m not sure I’m going to completely deserve with this post. However, it is something that has been on my mind this week as I battle with a few of my usual writing demons.

In traditional romance writing, the character arcs of the hero and heroine generally follow predictable trajectories. That’s not to say every character goes through the same thing, but that there are generally recognisable stages and steps that characters go through as we progress through a story. Probably one of the most well-known is the hero’s journey monomyth. (Wikipedia reference) If you want to know what that is, watch Star Wars, because apparently George Lucas copied it. Or so people say. (I haven’t done any actual academic creative writing theory, so for those of you who have, forgive me if this seems primitive.)

However, what can you do when the lead role in your story (whether hero or heroine) is played by someone else’s character – one that your readers know well and love? How much leeway do you have to change that character or to have them undergo some kind of transformational journey? And, if you decide to play things carefully, how do you ensure that your story is still satisfying and that, by the end, it feels like all the characters (both canon and OC) have come to the end of their respective journeys?

In writing House, there are some quite strong constraints around the character which, in my mind, he can’t grow too far from. He can’t suddenly become a submissive, docile man who will go along with whatever the heroine wants (or second hero, in the case of slash, I guess). He also can’t NOT change, because the whole point of the story (in a romance) is for him to find happiness in another human being, which, as a canon character, he finds incredibly difficult. The trick lies in finding a balance somewhere between.

Many fan fics I’ve read seem to go too far one way or the other.

Either House doesn’t change and so the story isn’t satisfying or doesn’t seem believable, because the House we know on the TV show would not be instantly transferrable, unchanged, into a stable, loving relationship. (Yes, we all know it’s there, just under the surface, and that’s why we write this, to explore it, but we all have to admit that he would have to change at least some things in order to make it work.)

Some fan fic writers go the other way and make House into an instantly soft and squishy, passive romantic lead. Yes, he gave Cameron a corsage. Yes, he brought Cuddy’s desk back from her parents’ place. But let’s face it: mostly, he’s still a bastard. He’s a bastard alpha male with a hidden streak of romantic purism and that’s what makes him so damn irresistible as a romantic lead.

I’m not saying that I think I get this balance right myself. It’s just one of the elements that I find difficult about writing House fic. When you write non-fan fiction, your characters are your own and you can invent the backstory and character flaws and past experiences that help to meld the transformation that the character goes through. When you write fan fiction, you are limited by what the canon has revealed and what tweaks you can fit in around the edges.

When a fan fic writer gets this balance right, to me, this is when the pairing or ship or storyline doesn’t matter. If you can take a known character, expand them in a believable way, take them through a journey that transforms them and yet they remain emphatically who the readers recognise, then I think you have succeeded. If you do that, I don’t really care who you have him sleeping with. Agree? Disagree?

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The great and wise Gertrude Stein