The Laugh

happy vintage illustration batman excited

There is a man in my building, I’ll call him Mike. That is not his name, but it will do for this story. He is a short man, round in size. Actually, he’s shaped more like an egg than a basketball–but that’s not what sets him apart from the rest of those living in my urban paradise.

His hair is black, naturally straight as a spade–but he perms it. It’s his ‘thing.’ Once again–not that defining factor (even thought it probably should be.)

What sets Mike apart from the rest of my block is his laugh. He has the laugh of a 1970’s villain’s sidekick. You know the character. He’s the guy who accidentally takes a rake to the chest because he wasn’t paying attention and stepped on the handle as he ran away from the hero of the story. When I hear the piercing sound of his punctuated howl, I nearly always pause for Luther to say, “Warriors, come out to play-i-ay!” even though I’m not in the subway and no where close to New York City.

Testing 1, 2, 3 the warriors can you dig it movie 1970s

Once, a long time ago when I first moved into my apartment, Mike wanted to be my friend. He would joke with me, and I would smile and look interested–rarely did I know what he was talking about. He’s about eleven shy of a dozen… I would like to make it clear, this wasn’t some sort of hiccup due to language barrier, Mike is just an odd man. Plus, my poker face stinks.

Now, Mike doesn’t acknowledge me at all. Not even a nod or a simple hello. It was after this courtyard dismissal I became privy to the laugh (that is normally mixed with techno and tighty whities.) He’s in a class all his own, and with our non-existent relationship–I have no way to record this chuckle. None that are legal anyway.

Alas, dear friends. What am I do do? As a writer I NEED to record it! I need to post the track on here!! I need to add it to my current WIP, or at least something I write in my life.

All of Mike needs to be in a book. All five-foot-five-inches of him, with his ovoid shaped frame, and even he jet black spiral perm. I see him perched on the edge of his antique folding tattered lawn chair, seated behind his Audi (it’s a mystery how he upgraded from a white battered gremlin to this luxury hatchback–but that’s a whole other post), with the car’s stereo speaker blaring, as he listens to his earbuds.

Mike is a character that belongs in a book–and not cackling under my bedroom window for many reasons. Most of which would keep me sane. The only reason I don’t slam my music and turn on my own music is that laugh you may never hear…

[This is how I find characters for my stories. Some fit in perfect, others I dissect and keep the part I’ve grown to love (or loath). Mike is a very real person. Almost too real. My theory as to why he’s in my life is it keeps me from being to serious all the time. Life is too short not to find a hyena laugh hilarious.]

 

Characters, aren’t we all.

the-fall-tv-showThere is this BBC show, it is called “The Fall” and it centers around two characters:

#1 – Stella Gibson, played by Gillian Anderson

#2 – Paul Spector, played by Jamie Dornan

It is the tale of two obsessive, compulsive people on two different sides of the law. One is a police detective and the other a murder, and yes – you’ve heard this premise a million times before.

But you’ve never met Stella Gibson.

I’m a fan of crime drama, not all but a lot of them. I’m a fan of female characters, not all but a few I really love. And then there is Stella Gibson.

In every recess of entertainment – television, movies, novels, plays – I would like to see more “Stella Gibson” type characters. I would love to see someone so self-possessed and contained even the lowest of the low (and I’m talking about people who are a fan of slut shaming) can’t touch her. Well, maybe they do. Maybe they get to her, because after all, we’re all human and words hurt – but still, there is something magnificent about her.

She is beautiful, smart, sexy, confident, contained, brilliant, and caring.

The underlining theme of Man V. Woman is strung throughout in more ways than one – from sex, to death, to daily life. It is examined, dissected, discussed and thrown in your face. Basically, The Fall makes you think. The tension keeps you on your wit’s end and then you have this truth handed to you – because it really is a truth, no matter what people say or how they try to spin it.

At the end of series 2 there is a discussion between Stella and one of her officers – a man – and she’s says something along these lines, “When ask why men felt threatened by women, they say they’re afraid women may laugh at them. When women are asked why they felt threatened by men, they say they’re afraid they might kill them.”

The Fall is an excellent example of non-stereotypical characterization and I’m talking all of these characters. They are layered, have debt, and make you connect to them – even if it’s by making you hate them.

What type of characters do you wish there were more of?

Writer’s Research

brain-public-domain

 

At the beginning of every project comes the planning phase. This goes for most things – a new job, a new place to live, or a new book to write. Yes, I know there are some out there who live the life of the “pants-ter” (you know, writing by the seat of your pants), but I’m a fan of the planner path. I prefer to know where my pile of characters want to go before I set out with them.

Either way you decided to write – there is one thing we all have to do, and that is research.

To be honest, I LOVE the research portion of writing. (Sometimes maybe a little too much… lets just say every employee of my local library knows me on sight…) In information age, researching has become both more convenient and riddle with sketchy information. Back in the day of push-carts and horse-drawn trolleys when I was writing research papers I remember receiving the following advice, “Avoid glossies.” What is a glossy bit of research?Think everything you see in the checkout line at your local grocery store. But with the internet these types of rags may be harder to spot. So here are my 4  ways to get the research you need without having to truck it to the library. (Unless you want to, then go ahead, because the library is a wonderful place. An oasis if you will.)

#1 – GOOGLE ALERTS: Who doesn’t love a search engine that does all of the work for you? Select topics you want to know more about and have them send you a daily email. Maybe its advancements in Space Exploration, or maybe it’s your own name (which is great for published authors because you can see who is talking about you). Then you can pick and choose articles to your liking.

#2 – THE RESOURCE SECTION ON WIKIPEDIA: As we all know, anyone can update a Wikipedia page. That said, at the bottom there are three sections that have a pile of breadcrumbs to help you further educate yourself: NOTES; REFERENCES; & EXTERNAL LINKS. Say you really want to write a historic romance set in Stalingrad during the battle of the same name and you think, “What would Stalin be thinking during this time?”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Stalin <-Check out the notes on this guy… 😉

#3 – ONLINE DIGITAL LIBRARIES: I’m still a fan of holding a book in my hand and running my fingers over sheets of paper -but buying books can get expensive, and while I love living in LA – sometimes its hard to find the books I need (and or want) at the local library. Lucky for me there are a ton of great online sites to visit – like Open Library and Google Books – these allow me access to titles I may other wise miss. Other sites that are worth looking into are: New York Public Library, Internet Archive, & University of Pittsburg Digital Library.

#4 – YOUTUBE, TWITTER, TUMBLR, INSTAGRAM, THE INTERNET IN GENERAL: For number four I’m looking at research for Character Development. I live in Los Angeles, but I’m originally from Cleveland – this gives me a general idea of how people talk in both places – but my next book I want to set it the UK. I have a pretty general idea of what a British accent is – I visited once 20 years ago, and I love me some Downton Abbey – but tat can really only take me so far. Dialects change from region, so its nice to hear the cadence of the accent so you can then interpret it into your story. Where do you go? Well, you could go to the UK and spend a ton of money and time traveling from place to place – or – you can go to YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyyT2jmVPAk And in five minutes you will have a tour of Great Britain in you living room.

Twitter is great because you can check out what’s trending. Writing a YA, but the last time you hung out with a teen was when you were a teen (5, 10, 35 years ago) then go on and see what teens are talking about. Watch their text and how they discuss whatever is popular to them.

Tumblr – the ultimate collection of just about everything. Most blogs are good for this – just search around until you find something that is similar to what you are trying to convey and then read, read, read.

Instagram – what’s it look like under a wave in Hawaii? Follow @ClarkLittle, then you can say, “The water was so clear I could see my friends waiting in the beach just before it crashed on my head…”

 

Research will make your story rich and opulent in a way doing general guess-work won’t and can’t. We can’t possibly know everything, but we live in an age where we can find things out at a flip of the switch and a press of a button. If you have any great researching ideas, I’d love to hear about them! The more you know, the easier it is to write.

Happy Writing!