The Predator’s Laughing at You, Kid

I’m quoting an Egyptologist as he tells us how stupid we would be to disagree with him:

“I laughed the first time I read that idea somewhere in a more speculative forum.”

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No matter the topic, the tone of this quote embodies the most convincing argument against any idea, especially an idea that can’t be refuted with hard data, logic or reason.

The haughty, condescending put-down laugh IS The Predator.

Unless we inoculate ourselves, we become trophies of the “informed” elites in any field, the wielders of the laugh.

History is heavy with experts laughing down innovators and thinkers. But some underdogs prevail.

Pathologists look at tissue sections under a microscope to see if a patient has cancer. The malignant cells invade tissue. The slide is a “snapshot” of the action: killers and victim fighting and dying with their hands on each other’s throats.

Once upon a time in real life, a non-pathologist outsider had the gall to scrape cells off the cervix in search of cancer. He said he could look at the killer cells and identify them without seeing their victims. (Cytology.)

“Absurd,” the pathologists said. Smearing loose cells on a glass slide? They laughed the outsider to scorn and said:

“He isn’t even a pathologist.” Snort!

If you can get this kind of laugh on paper, it will improve your story.

The outsider was the great Georgios Papanikolaou. His absurd idea (the Pap smear) has already saved the lives of over six million women.

Although his findings were published in 1928, many pathologists hate and despise cytology to this day. (I’m a pathologist and I’ve heard the disdain.) That’s the power of “the laugh.” The predator’s laugh.

It’s the most effective argument against anything, at least in the short-term.

Truth prevails eventually, though. It may take centuries.

Your story’s character might be too smooth to say, “It’s amusing how intellectually beneath me you are,” but you can let his laugh says it all for him.

Using the put-down laugh against your hero makes her enemies seem to be people from a culture where “experts” have incubated traditional ideas for generations.

If your hero suffers public humiliation at the experts’ laugh, she becomes sympathetic, closer to the reader’s heart. Her refusal to cave in to authority shows moral courage.

See if this illustrates the laugh at all:

Joey finds a way to beat the stock market. He needs seed money.

He goes to grandpa who’s made his fortune as an entrepreneur, pulling all-nighters, paying employees instead of himself, bankrupt twice, lost his house, but finally made it in business.

Joey makes his plea for money to Grampa, who says…

“That’s nuts, Joey.” He looks at his wife and smirks. “If…” He suppresses a laugh. “If you could make money on your ass.” He looks at Joey “What pressing buttons?” He chuckles. “Everybody would be doing it, Joey. Hell, why work?” He looks at his wife. “I’ve been a fool all these years!” He raises his hands and shrugs.

Joey’s lips won’t move for him anymore. He presses them together.

Grandma sees his face and stops laughing. “Joey, honey,” she says…

If your hero is part of an elite group, then “the laugh” can be directed at the bad guys. This helps convince the reader that the good guys believe they are true experts.

The arrogant put-down laugh has another relevance to writers…

I knew a gifted writer who was convinced that writing popular fiction would make him a prostitute.

He became a lawyer and hated his life.

No logical argument can be made against paying a writer for her work.

Those who feel a need to keep gifted writers away from money resort to name-calling (whore) and chuckling warmly downward from moral and intellectual high ground. Supposedly. But they make me sick.

Imagine an NBA basketball coach telling his star, “You’re better than this. You shouldn’t be on TV making money. You have the soul of a great basketball player. Don’t be a whore in the NBA. Go back to college ball.”

Do you see a fundamental moral difference between fiction writing talent and other rare talents?

I don’t.

Write for love, but get paid, too. If you possibly can.

M. Talmage Moorehead

Note: That picture up top is a statue of The Predator. I did some effects to try to make it look infrared. Remember how the Predator laughed at Arnold at the end of the first movie? The alien hunter lay there half dead, ready to blow himself up and take Arnold with him. That was a nice put-down laugh.

2 thoughts on “The Predator’s Laughing at You, Kid

  1. I love this blog so much. I’ve been torturing myself a lot over the past week or so, while dealing with writer’s block. I’m allowing the fear of being laughed at to keep me from writing.

    I write for myself, but I also sincerely hope that others will like what I write, and buy my books by the truckload. Yes, I would love to be a financially successful author–it’s my dream–and the only way I can do that is to write what’s in my heart and in my head. When I see the way that some writers scoff at the work of others, it makes me feel very small and decidely untalented.

    One of my recent books, which became a best-seller, received a large number of five-star reviews from readers. The most cruel reviews came from other writers.

    It seems that the more deeply I explore the “proper” ways of writing, by reading how-to books and joining websites and forums with other writers, I feel less and less interested in putting my work out there because I don’t feel like dealing with the criticism of other writers.

    On the other hand, how does one learn the tricks and methods of effective writers, if one doesn’t venture outside of one’s own head? Back in the “olde days,” did writers have to read books on how-to? Did Dickens, Hemingway, Steinbeck or (insert classic author’s name here) take classes and subscribe to Writer’s Digest? Or did they just write their hearts out?

    I’m trying to find a happy medium. Meantime, back to the old keyboard to pound out today’s chapter. Thank you, once again, for an extremely thought-provoking blog.

    • Hi Lisa 🙂 !!!

      Fear has been one of the major decision makers throughout my life. It has led me to bad decisions many times. I’ve read some of your work. It’s excellent. You have no need to fear.

      There are ways to focus away from fear when you write. For me, the best one is to somehow express a strong but controversial opinion – even if it’s within the supposed “entertainment only” confines of fiction.

      Another thing that can help with fear is feeling love for the person you’re writing to – even in fiction where you’re appropriately hoping for zillions of readers. Even there, you can still love them all. Or you can pretend that only your great great great grandkids will ever read the story. Long after all the living critics are gone. And you already love those kids, even though they’re still imaginary.

      Thank you for saying nice things about my blog. 🙂

      Here’s something from from your post on hummingbird selfishness. It proves that your writing rocks!

      “What if, while my feeders are gone–and it feels like the world has come to an end because my supply has disappeared–it’s just because the Big U is cleaning them and cooking up a new batch of sugar water for me?”

      Here’s the link: http://goo.gl/33MlEm

      Keep writing, Lisa! You have no need to fear the critics. If they were half as good as you, they probably wouldn’t be so unhappy and critical.

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