I am a writer and watcher of human behavior: odd, interesting, strange, and bizarre behavior do it for me. If you’re a writer and you’re not watching people and taking notes, you should be. Usually I can’t make up the stuff I see or hear, and quite often, I’m left with a dropped jaw and raised eyebrows, but I’m fascinated all the same. Odd manerisms; interesting turns of phrases; strange or irrational behavior, facial ticks and expressions; and bizarre conversations or get ups, make their way into my novels and short stories, and make for interesting characters. I like to know what makes people tick. Pay attention; it’s all good stuff for a writer.
Why do people do what they do?
This year, a British author by the name of Richard Brittain tracked down a Scottish girl who’d written a negative review of his self-published novel, and proceeded to crack a bottle of wine on her head.
Here’s how Gawker.com described his actions. “Brittain, incensed at the one-star review, apparently tracked down Rolland’s Facebook page, discovering that she lived in Scotland and worked at an Asda supermarket. He allegedly traveled 500 miles from London and found her at the store, crouching to stock a low shelf of cereal boxes. He hit her from behind with a full bottle of wine, leaving her unconscious and with a gash on her head.”
Wow. The article went on to say that Richard Brittain had received media coverage and the attention he’d probably craved his whole life. I wonder if he’s still writing?
Next up is the bizarre turn of events at the Miss Amazonas 2015 beauty competition. In the YouTube video I watched, the Brazilian beauty pageant first runner-up, Miss Sheislane Hayalla, hugged the winner, Miss Carolina Toledo, and seconds later, Hayalla violently ripped the crown off the newly crowned Miss Amazonas’ head before throwing the crown to the floor and storming off the stage. Damn. Talk about epic public freakouts and losing your shit.
Sheislane Hayalla claimed that her rival, Carolina Toledo, had bought her Miss Amazonas title, and Hayalla cried foul play during several interviews on Brazilian television. Lots of publicity for Miss Hayalla, but it’s not clear if she retained her runner up crown, or whether there was an investigation into the allegation. Frankly, I lost interest.
Have I ever lost my usually calm composure and freaked out publicly? Sure, I’m human. One doozy of an outburst was directed at my ex-husband during the early days of our marital separation (which felt great!), and the next was due to erupt just before Christmas Day this year, aimed at my new next door neighbor, who was in the habit of leaving her dog home alone for hours and hours. And no, she doesn’t work outside the home. The instant this woman left the house to do whatever she was doing, her large Golden Retreiver, who suffers from severe and extreme separation anxiety (I don’t know what my neighbor suffers from), immediately began howling and barking for hours on end until her owner returned home. And I mean hours. I tried loud music to drown out the noise (which isn’t conducive to a good writing session), and even tried hunting ear plugs, but I could still hear the lonely pup’s pathetic howls. I work from home and was about to lose my mind when my neighbor began leaving the house in the evenings, which is my favorite time to write. I don’t understand how the dog didn’t lose her voice, completely.
I have a Chihuahua, who luckily isn’t a yappy barker, except when someone knocks at my door, which is normal. If my neighbor’s dog did that, I’d be okay with it, but that’s not the case. For months, I politely voiced my concerns and my neighbor agreed–her dog was a pain in the butt. She admitted she’d heard her dog’s barks down the street as she’d driven away several times. Nice. Later, I wrote two notes asking my neighbor to please do something about her dog’s incessant barking and howling as I couldn’t get any work done. One day she saw me outside and yelled, “Get over it! She barks! Live with it!” Live with it? I don’t think so. After several calls to Department of Animal Control, I discovered there are noise ordinances in my city. A man from Animal Control came out and paid my neighbor a visit. My writing days are peaceful and quiet once again, and I hope it remains that way long into the new year!
It’s hard to know what my neighbor’s problem was with her dog, and why she didn’t seem to care about her neighbor’s frazzled nerves. But she can be sure of one thing–she’ll make it into one of my novels and she won’t be the heroine either. I can make her fictional life a living hell. That is one way an author can ‘pay it forward’ for rude behavior. Demure smile. Use it all, folks.
Happy Holidays to you and my best wishes for a wonderful 2016!
Puerto Rican novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker, and a refugee case worker, inspire her stories. She is a member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and the Historical Novel Society, and she is a contributing writer for Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.
A Decent Woman, Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club, and is listed in Centro Voices, The Center of Puerto Rican Studies, ‘Essential Boricua Reading for the 2015 Holiday Season’. Book clubs across the United States have enjoyed A Decent Woman. Eleanor is featured in the newly published anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani. Eleanor is the mother of two wonderful adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel and a collection of short stories.