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.”
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?
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.