I’ve mentioned before that I am a Googlopath. In fact, when making up the word “Googlopath”, I Googled “pathological” just to be sure I was using it correctly. I pretty much Google everything. And I laugh my *** off when Google tries to autocomplete the search phrases for me. As bizarre as they often seem, sometimes Google gets it right. Recently, my dog was up to his usual shenanigans and swallowed…well, can you guess? Yep, he swallowed my underwear. I freaked out and immediately turned to my pal, Google, to find out what one is supposed to do when her dog eats her underwear. (He’s fine, btw. Trust me, you don’t wanna hear how that one played out….)
I rely on Google to help me research things I need to know in order to write authentic characters. If I stuck to the “write what you know” mantra, my stories wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. One of my favorite means of research is watching YouTube videos. While writing Play Me, I’m Yours, I needed to learn as much as I could about playing the piano and swimming, and a little bit about swing dancing. These are things that are important to my characters, so they’re important to me. While I did read through websites and blogs, I also soaked up video after video on YouTube. In my exploration, I discovered Stone Nelson’s channel, and it was eerie how much he reminded me of my main character, Lucas. He even made a video of himself playing one of the songs in the novel, Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl ”. I also watched dozens of swimming videos, like JimmyDShea’s “How to Swim Butterfly Stroke” (and was glued to Olympic coverage of swimming events). I learned about the various strokes and got a look at what swim meets are like. I even learned a few swim cheers! And I found myself so inspired by my research that I signed up for adult swim lessons shortly after completing the novel.
Although I learn a lot from watching instructional type videos, I find personal vlogs a great source of inspiration as a writer. Vlogging is a phenomenon that didn’t exist when I was in school, but there are—hang on, let me Google it—tens of millions of vloggers out there making videos for public consumption, and over 800 million unique users visit YouTube each month. Many vloggers hide their real identities, which makes them feel at ease enough to speak freely about anything from the most mundane topics to those that are highly controversial. Do I steal their stories? No. But I watch and listen and learn, and most importantly, I feel. It’s “people watching”, up close and personal.
Sometimes I watch teenage vloggers to get a sense of how teens talk and the sorts of things they care about. With video blogs, you get an instant feel for the vloggers’ personalities. I find that when I connect to them on an emotional level, it sparks my creativity and the plot bunnies run rampant. Vlogs can also provide writers with excercises in identifying character tags (like voice, gestures, dialect, hair, clothing, etc.) and “show vs. tell” (try muting a video and using the subject’s facial expressions and mannerisms to interpret how they’re feeling.).
One of my favorite young adult vloggers is Joey VOV. My introduction to Joey was the video titled “gay couple in 7th grade???”. There are a lot of things I like about this video. I felt like I really saw a slice of his life in those four minutes. Joey comes across as a young man who is comfortable with who he is, self-confident, honest, vulnerable—a great role model. Don’t you think he’d make a terrific MC in a novel? Obviously I can’t claim to know the real Joey based on this four-minute video, but what I’ve seen here is enough to spark my creativity and create a character with an insteresting story to tell. By the way, this is an older video—Joey is in high school now and has continued vlogging. Be sure to check out his newer stuff too.
Another one of my YouTube favorites is depfox (Gay Family Values). Bryan and Jay are a married gay couple who make videos with their two children, Daniel and Selena, to show America that their family is fundamentally no different than that of straight couples. Imagine all the wonderful story ideas that could be insipired by their video “I Have Two Fathers”. Videos like these fill my heart with joy.
And then there are the heartbreaking videos like that of Austin Gates that remind us how important it is to tell the stories of those who suffer from all types of abuse and bullying. They remind us how important it is to listen, to reach out, and to offer hope to our youth that life does indeed get better.
The world is full of all sorts of wonderful, unique people. They have stories to tell, and by sharing their frustrations, struggles, hopes, and dreams—by sharing their hearts and their minds, they inspire me to tell my stories too.
Play Me, I’m Yours by Madison Parker
Published by Harmony Ink Press
Fairy Tate. Twinklefingers. Lucy Liu. Will the taunting ever end? Lucas Tate suffers ridicule because of his appearance and sensitive nature. When he’s not teased, he’s ignored, and he doesn’t know which is worse. His one comfort in life is his music; he feels unloved by everyone. What he wants more than anything is to find a friend.
Much to his dismay, both his mom and a schoolmate are determined to find him a boyfriend, despite the fact Lucas hasn’t come out to them. His mom chooses a football player who redefines the term “heartthrob,” while Trish pushes him toward the only openly gay boy at Providence High. But Lucas is harboring a crush on another boy, one who writes such romantic poetry to his girlfriend that hearing it melts Lucas into a puddle of goo. All three prospects seem so far out of his league. Lucas is sure he doesn’t stand a chance with any of them—until sharing his gift for music brings him the courage to let people into his heart.
Visit Madison Parker’s Website at www.madisonparklove.com for bonus materials including character sketches, piano covers, music videos, and lyrics for songs referenced in the novel.
To celebrate the release of Play Me, I’m Yours, Madison Parker is hosting a giveaway. Enter to win your choice of a free copy of Play Me, I’m Yours or a $10 gift certificate from Rainbow eBooks by leaving a comment below along with your email address. For multiple chances to win, comment at each stop along the tour. Click here for the complete tour schedule. Winners will be chosen randomly on April 23.