Dr. House is quite an unlikable person. He is rude to his patients and mean to his friends. He is sort of the opposite of what I would call a nice person.
And yet, once you’ve looked behind this facade, you become fascinated by him. You even admire him for being such a brilliant doctor and start to understand why what looked mean at first sight might in the end just be the best for his patient.
I bet, most people who like Dr. House as a TV series do so because they somehow admire Dr. House for his brilliance. And I bet that most of these viewers would even like to be a little bit like him – a nicer version, of course, more likable, but a little bit of his brilliance would be nice, wouldn’t it?
Experiences we wouldn’t normally make
Heroes in a story enable the viewer to live a different life, to make experiences they wouldn’t normally make. To cross borders they wouldn’t have crossed themselves. They enable the viewer to understand their own life from a different perspective. Writer Orson Scott Card puts it this way:
We read stories to get experiences we’ve never known firsthand, or to gain a clearer understanding of experiences we have had. In the process, we follow one or more characters the way we follow our “self” in our dreams; we assimilate the story as if what happened to the main characters had happened to us. We identify with heroes. As they move through the story, what happens to them happens to us.
And in fact, science backs this up. By listening to or viewing a story, we not only think but feel what the hero feels. When reading a story we apparently perform quite detailed „mental simulations“ of the situations the hero acts in. Like Carol Lewis said:
In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself…I see with a myriad of eyes, but it is still I who see.
Put in other words: By taking your audience on a Hero’s Journey, you make them see the world through your hero’s eyes. You make them understand what’s the pain and what’s at stake. You make them understand why they need to take action.
And that is a powerful tool because you touch their emotions.
So, let me ask you: Who is the hero in your story? What’s his struggle? How do you help him solve this struggle?
And when you’ve found out: Go out there and tell your story.