Sunday, April 1, 2012

Updated: Brooklynian adventures in the name of research.

While conceptualizing a new project, I am big on visual resources. I’ll play on Google Images for days, buy books full of period photographs, and make horrible drawings until my hands cramp. Strangers may feel inclined to combine this behavior with my obsessive love of film, and decide that I must be a very visual person.

But the thing is I’m really not. I’m auditory all the way, folks. If I were truly a visual person, I don’t think I would need to do all this stuff. I’d be able to come up with beautiful settings and decorate the houses of my characters all on my own. But instead I usually need the real world, and often a pen and some paper, to lend me a hand.

On Thursday I showed you some of the sad little monster sketches I made to help me conceptualize a new project. This project is a whimsical yet creepy story aimed at the youngest audience I’ve ever written for. The plot will be quite fantastical—there are all those monsters to consider, after all.

But certain parts of the story will take place right here in my own little pocket of Brooklyn. I’ve lived in Brooklyn for almost three years now, and I like to think I know my neighborhood pretty well. I’ve never really thought too much about what it would be like to be a kid growing up here, though.

So last week I decided to go on a bit of an adventure. I walked around my neighborhood, camera phone in hand, and snapped a few shots of the sorts of sights I think might be significant to a child like my protagonist. 

I thought the nearest elementary school would be a good place to start. This is Queen of All Saints, where they teach K-8th grade. It lies right across the street from the schoolyard at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School, which is where the fantastic Brooklyn Flea Market takes place each Saturday. There’s also a great place to get ice cream right around the corner. 

I’m pretty jealous of these kids, I’ve got to say. My elementary school would’ve fit in this one’s supply closet.

This is LaSalle Hall—a dorm belonging to the nearby Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School. I love the look of this building, and the barren trees give it a slight gothic feel. For fun, you guys should drag your cursor over this picture to highlight it. It will suddenly become the GREATEST HAUNTED HOUSE THAT HAS EVER BEEN HAUNTED.

This is a mural I’ve walked by several times on the way to one of the many wonderful restaurants on DeKalb Avenue. I barely notice it anymore, but I bet an imaginative child always would.

Here’s some info on the mural. Tillie’s was a much beloved coffee shop that closed just a few months ago. I still get sad each time I walk by its papered windows.

These are just a few scenery shots—the kinds of sights my protagonist would see on the walk home from school.

I had almost forgotten how happy creepy-looking shadows used to make me as a kid. Is it a tree? Is it a monster? Is it terrifying?

Yes. Yes, it is.

At this point I took a detour in Fort Greene Park. Several young parents were out playing with their children, soaking up the last of the day’s sunlight. I overheard a group of preteens playing Hunger Games, and there was a spirited argument over who got to be Katniss.

I remember having similar tussles over who got to be the Pink Power Ranger when I was a kid. Katniss is apparently this generation’s Pink Ranger. And now I’m pretty sure I have more respect for this generation than I do for my own.

I eventually sat on a bench and made some failed attempts at sketches, but first I wandered around a bit.

After a bit of sketching, it started to get kind of cold out. So I decided the Brooklynian adventures would have to recommence another day.


On my next outing, I went straight to one of my favorite buildings in Brooklyn. I have no idea what purpose this building serves. It’s always under construction of some sort. I could probably figure out what this building is used for, but I don’t really want to. It can just remain the haunted prison/boarding school/mental institution of my dreams.

You can barely see them in the first picture, so I had to take a closer one to show you these gargoyles. I want to propose marriage to this building, you guys.

Danmander tagged along on this expedition and pointed out the very old bike chained to the building’s fence.

When we looked at the sign above the bike, we realized that wasn’t what it was at all.

Walking to the coffee shop, I saw some lovely door murals.

Never change, Brooklyn.

As I got closer to home, I noticed a fairly ordinary home with a barren potted tree out front.

After taking some time to look at Brooklyn through my protagonist’s eyes, it was easy to imagine the tree bursting into bloom.

And so concludes today’s Brooklynian Adventures! I may go on more and would be happy to share some of those with you as well—let’s see how you guys like this first one.


So apparently highlighting the haunted house picture ONLY works in Microsoft Word 2003. And it appears that you all have the correct version of Word, as opposed to the nine-year-old one you insist on installing on each new computer because you have trouble embracing change. 

So I played in Photo Manager a little bit to give you some idea of this building's epic haunted house possibilities:

I dare you not to set your nightmares at this haunted house tonight. I DARE YOU.


  1. sadly, even in MS word I only get a lame blue highlight. You make me want to explore Brooklyn. and what a cool school. Sooo not fair. Mine was lame. I am definitely not auditory. I wish I did go crazy and collect pictures and such though. I noticed I tend to rely on my Very Vivid Imagination... which occasionally changes things. So I'm tryyying to draw more. Which has resulted in two characters, a rough house, and a map. Amazing.

    All these pics make me miss New York, even though my part of New York bears VERY little resemblance. (About 40 minutes outside the city is where I usually was). I so want to explore the city though.

    1. Right, it seems only Microsoft Word 2003 highlights black and white. And apparently you don't all have an outdated word processing program from nine years ago! How surprising.

      That's awesome about drawing more. I really love Brooklyn--every couple of blocks and it's like you're in another city.

  2. You took these pictures on a phone?! Wow--that is seriously impressive.