So, Mia has always wanted this and I’m finally going to succumb and give it to her.
A commentary on how/why I wrote What the Cat Dragged in.
First of all, the idea of a kid bonding with Lassie came from the million or so conversations I’ve had with Mo about Lassiter’s desire to have kids. He’s said in at least two episodes, the most poignant for me has always been Shawn vs. The Red Phantom. The scene when he holds Vick’s baby and talks about wanting kids has always touched me. I love Lassie, and I believe he deserves to be happy. Therefore, since the odds of him meeting someone and having kids at this point is unlikely, I decided to give him a kid in a different way.
A kid who could snark at him, make him worry, and rub off some of the rough edges.
In short, I decided to give him Ty.
The name Ty actually came from a novel I wrote when I was in college (unpublished, of course). My first attempt at bad writing, but the two main characters are best friends named Nick and Ty, and the name has always stuck with me.
Honestly, I wrote this story for no other reason than that, damn it, Carlton Lassiter deserves to be happy, and if they won’t let him on the show, I’ll do it myself.
"Where did he come from?" Karen asked, looking through the one-way glass of the interrogation room at the boy inside, who was sitting at the table with Juliet.
With a story like this, I like to jump right into the action. Actually showing the scene where Lassiter finds Ty is superfluous to the plot and can be described by dialogue as the characters discuss the situation. You know what happened well enough without actually having to see it.
His black hair hung into his eyes and his hands were pulled up into the sleeves of his dirty blue jean jacket, which was at least three sizes too big.
From the beginning, I saw this kid with black, black hair and a blue jean jacket. I don’t know why, but I may or may not have had a picture of Johnny Cade in my mind.
If you don’t know who Johnny Cade is, I feel sorry for you. Ask me later, I’ll be happy to fill you in.
He couldn’t be any older than eleven, Karen figured, but his wide, dark eyes much older.
This is about the extent of my physical description of Ty. It’s enough to give you a picture in your mind, I hope, but I don’t waste time and effort on flowery prose. Paragraph spent of description are what I always skip or skim over when I read. I look for dialogue and skip everything else, so I tend to write like that.
"I don’t know," Lassiter shook his head. "I just found the little rat trying to break into my car in the parking lot. Apparently, he doesn’t know enough not to rip off a car in front of a police station."
Coincidentally, Batman actually met the second Robin (Jason Todd) while he was trying to boost the tires off a car, if my memory serves me. This isn’t what I was thinking when I made this the way Lassie met Ty, but I thought of it as I was re-reading this to comment on it.
Geek moment over. I apologize.
Anyway, I made him trying to break into the car for several reasons. First of all, I knew Ty’s entire backstory from the get-go. I was walking to church and his character walked into my mind, fully formed. I knew his dad was in jail and he was trying to get away from the people who killed his mom. I also knew he was breaking into the car to get Lassiter’s help. However, there are aspects of this I didn’t end up using. I was going to make a connection between Lassiter and the father, but I ended up not going that route, as it didn’t fit with the story as it unraveled.
Karen nodded as Juliet stood up from the table and crossed the interrogation room back to the door, stepping out into the hallway with them, leaving the boy alone inside.
"All I can get out of him is his first name’s Ty," she said, shrugging. "He won’t tell me anything else. Not even a last name."
I always knew Ty was really Tyson, his last name.
I like misleading readers sometimes.
Does that make me evil? Hee.
"At least we’ll have something to give child services when they get here," Karen sighed, glancing down at her watch. "I called them when you brought him in, Detective. They’re arranging a place for him to stay tonight. So far, no missing person’s reports are coming up that match his description…he’ll just go into the system until we figure it all out."
Lassiter stepped towards the door. "Let me talk to him," he said, already heading into the room. "If nothing else, I get the little rat’s last name."
"Detective," Vick warned sternly. Lassiter turned back around. "Be nice."
Lassiter didn’t respond. He shut the door behind him.
Ty looked up, jumping at the sound of the door shutting.
"Who--?" he started to ask, but stopped when he recognized the cop who’d dragged him inside. "Oh," he muttered, looking back down at the table. "You."
Lassiter crossed the room in three quick strides, taking the seat on the other side of the table. "Yeah, me." Lassiter grunted, his eyes narrowing at the boy. "You tried to break into my car."
"I didn’t take anything."
"Only because I stopped you."
"Only because you don’t have anything worth taking," the boy shot back, looking up at him again, his black eyes unblinking. "Everything in your car is lame."
Lame turned out to be a word Ty uses a lot. Almost like a signature word. It’s a trick to creating an OC that they have to have a specific speech pattern. However, you have to find the balance to make sure not to overemphasize that. It has to sound distinct, like them, but not cheesy, unnatural, or stilted.
"Then why the hell did you try to break into it?" Lassiter demanded.
Ty just shrugged, not having an answer for that one.
Lassiter watched his eyes slowly drift back down to the table, where there was an untouched Snickers bar that Detective O’Hara had given him in hopes of encouraging him to open up to her.
Lassiter picked it up slowly. "Look, Kid," he growled, dangling it from his thumb and forefinger. "Here’s how this works. You want the candy, and I want your damn last name."
Ty cocked one of his thick eyebrows at the detective. "You’re actually threatening to steal candy from a kid?" he snorted.
From the beginning, I wanted their connection not to be warm and fuzzy, but one of a sharp kid trying to match wits with the one person who could stay one step ahead of him.
Lassiter slipped it into the breast pocket of his shirt. "It’s not stealing. It’s police property," he told him. "If you want it, talk."
Okay, so Lassie stealing candy from a kid….literally…lol. This did make me laugh, I’ll admit. Poor Lassie. He has no idea what to do with kids.
Ty just shrugged, his eyes locked on Lassiter’s pocket. "I’m not hungry, anyway," he mumbled, clearly lying through his teeth.
Even through his too-large jacket, Lassiter could see he was thin, almost gaunt.
The kid probably hadn’t eaten in days, he realized.
"Just tell me your damn name," he ordered.
"Your last name."
"I don’t have one."
"You’re a liar."
"Then, maybe that’s my last name," Ty shot back, crossing his arms stubbornly over his chest. "Ty Liar. What do you care, anyway?"
They couldn’t like each other off the bat. At least, no overtly. I wanted their bond to develop more slowly, over time. I also wanted their mutual dislike (outwardly) of Shawn to be the catalyst that finally got them to warm up a bit to each other.
I also kind of wanted Lassiter to respect the kid’s guts and brains, and to have someone he could protect and take care of.
When creating a character, I don’t always have everything about them worked out. Often, it’s not until I write them for a while that their voice starts to become clear to me. Usually, I start with one aspect of their personality. In this case, I knew Ty would be snarky and scared. I started with that, and built him from there. You can’t stop with the predominant traits, mind you. If you do, you’ll get a flat, 2-D character. But starting with one and then using that as a springboard to discover the other traits while you write is a good way to start.
Lassiter sighed, leaning back in the chair, crossing one leg over the other as he surveyed the kid in front of him. "We’re going to find out who you are," he told him. "Somewhere, there’s a missing person’s report on you. And we’ll find it."
Ty shook his head slowly. "There’s no report," he said quietly. "No one knows I’m gone."
"Someone does," Lassiter insisted. "You’re, what, eleven?"
"Eleven and a half," Ty told him, sitting up to his full height.
"No eleven-year-old goes missing without someone noticing."
Ty just shrugged again, looking down at the table. "I left when I was ten," he said quietly. "And no one’s come looking for me yet."
I ended the first chapter here.
I love leaving things up in the air, kind of ominous.
The first chapter was really just a teaser, introducing the character.
Two seconds after the Chief made Lassiter give the candy bar back to Ty, he had devoured it, crumpling the wrapper and tossing it on Lassiter’s desk.
Lassiter scowled at him, picking the refuse up and pointedly throwing it in the trash can, which was less than a foot away from them. Ty just pretended not to notice, his ripped tennis shoes slowly swaying back and forth underneath the chair he was sitting on.
"Sit still," Lassiter ordered.
Ty sighed, slumping in the chair. "You didn’t arrest me," he grumbled. "Why can’t I leave?"
"Because child services is on the way," Lassiter told him. "Just sit there until they get here. Quietly," he added emphatically when Ty opened his mouth again.
Ty returned the scowl, his black eyes locking with the detective’s. "I don’t want to go with them."
"Yeah, well," Lassiter shrugged, going back to his work. "Tough break, Kid. You’re eleven and you won’t even tell us your last name. You’re not exactly leaving us with a lot options, here."
Ah, something I struggled with. Should Lassie call the kid "Kid"? Obviously, this is what Henry calls Shawn, which presents a slight problem. In this case, it would be an easy trap to fall into to write Lassiter like Henry. This is something I try to avoid at all costs. They have some similarities, sure, but they are not the same people and Ty and Lassiter were not going to have the same relationship. I wanted to make sure what I was writing was unique for these characters.
In the end, I allowed the word "kid" a few times, as it was natural and fit the characters. But I didn’t have him call Ty that much. Usually, he refers to him as Little Rat or Ty.
"If I tell you my last name, I don’t have to go with them?" Ty asked, almost sounding hopeful.
Lassiter put his pen down, turning his chair back to the boy. "No. We’ll help you get back to your parents."
Ty’s already pale face turned a shade whiter. His fingers drummed on the arm of his chair as his gentle, absent-minded kicking abruptly stopped. His eyes were locked on Lassiter’s shoulder holster now.
Lassiter opened his mouth to ask him what he was running away from, but before he could get a word out, Ty looked back up at him, pointing at his gun. "Have you ever shot anyone?" he asked quietly.
Without taking his eyes off him, Lassiter leaned back, considering the question. "Sure. Yeah."
"A lot of people?"
"That depends on who’s writing the psych eval."
Lassie and psych evals….mortal enemies. Hee. Yet, I admit I did like the comeback.
Ty raised an eyebrow at him. "Are you, like, one of those cops that end up on the news?" he asked.
Lassiter rolled his eyes, turning back to his desk. "Just sit quietly. I have work to do."
He reached for the pen he had put down on his desk, but it was gone.
He spun back around, just in time to catch Ty slipping it into his pocket. His eyes narrowed at the boy. "Give it back," he growled
Ty blinked innocently, looking confused. "Give what back?"
"My pen!" Lassiter snarled, not in the mood for games. "Give it back!"
Ty slowly reached into his jacket pocket, pulling it back out. "Oh," he mumbled, dropping it on the desk. "Does that mean you want these back, too?"
I decided Ty was an expert pickpocket because I knew his background. It was just one clue I left to his childhood secrets.
He produced a handful of paper clips next, all of which had been on the corner of Lassiter’s desk, waiting to be attached to reports.
Lassiter snatched them up as Ty dumped them into a neat pile on his desk, glaring down at the little thief. "What else did you take?" he demanded.
"Uh…" Ty cleared his throat, reaching into his pocket again. "Just…this."
He dropped a large, black scotch dispenser on the desk next.
This was going to be a gag I was going to do more with…the increasingly outrageous things the kid could stuff in his pockets. I did a little with it, but not as much as I thought. I also made him a pickpocket for a fairly odd reason. It helped show Lassie’s relationship with him develop. As he got to know the kid better, he began calling him on his pickpocketing, making him empty his pockets, etc. It’s a subtle thing, but it shows how their relationship grows. In my mind at least. When giving a character a trait like this, I find it’s always best to have a reason for it. Don’t give them a quirk just because. That doesn’t work. Ask yourself why.
Lassiter stared down at it. "How the hell did you fit that in your pocket?" he asked, almost sounding impressed.
Ty just shrugged.
Lassiter quickly shifted all his office supplies to the far side of the desk, out of the range of Ty’s tiny, apparently sticky, fingers. "Did you take anything else?" he pressed on.
Ty thought for a moment. "That depends."
"On whether or not these are your keys," Ty told him, reaching into his infinitely deep pockets and pulling out a set of keys, dangling them from his index finger.
Lassiter immediately recognized them.
"Give me those!" he snapped, grabbing them and putting them back into his pocket. "And until child services get here, just…don’t talk. And don’t touch any police property!"
"Isn’t the chair police property?" Ty asked, folding his arms argumentatively over his chest. "Are you telling me I can’t touch the chair now?"
"Don’t be a smart-ass."
"Don’t be a tight-ass."
"Don’t say ass."
Ty scowled, jamming his hands into his blue jean jacket pockets, slouching even further in his chair. "Your desk is as lame as your car," he complained. "You don’t have anything good anywhere. I bet even your house is lame."
Lassiter rolled his eyes, turning back to his reports as he silently prayed for child services to get there quickly. "You’ll never know, Kid."
This is the first fight where they start to form a bond. Lassiter is perpetually irritated with the smart-ass, but he’s starting to grow on him.
This is what I want on the show, and since they won’t give it to me, I’m forced to indulge myself.
Lassiter’s eyes snapped open at the sound coming from downstairs.
He was out of bed in an instant, his gun off the nightstand and in his hand. He made his way to the bedroom door silently, his ears perked for the next sound.
It came a moment later, as faint as the first.
My lame attempt at building a little tension.
It’s real. Feel free to soak it in.
Almost like…someone loudly putting a bowl or a plate down on a hard surface.
He stepped out into the dark hallway, his eyes sweeping for any signs of danger. He crept down the stairs, already seeing the light on in the kitchen.
The sounds were definitely coming from there. They were louder now…almost like cereal being poured…
You can totally identify that sound.
Don’t look at me like that. You can.
If I was better with description, I could have done better with that line, but as I am not, you’re stuck with it.
He turned the corner into the kitchen, his gun aimed. "Freeze! Police!" he shouted.
The figure at his table, sitting behind a cereal box and a half-full bowl of Wheat O’s, his face hidden, dropped his spoon in surprise. "Don’t shoot!" a squeak pleaded as two little hands flew up into the air over the box. "And don’t you have any Fruity O’s?"
I could so clearly see Ty’s head hidden by the cereal box in my mind it’s scary. I love that shot.
Someday, I’ll see that shot.
Lassiter groaned, rolling his eyes as he lowered his weapon and knocked the cereal box aside, revealing Ty’s wide, frightened eyes. "What the hell are you doing here?" Lassiter demanded. "How did you get in?"
"You left it unlocked," Ty told him, picking up his spoon again.
"I did not!"
"…well, after I unlocked it, you did," Ty shrugged.
Lassiter’s eyes narrowed angrily. "I could have shot you!" he shouted. "What the hell is the matter with you? First you broke into my car, and now you’re breaking into my house, you little--"
"I told you it was a lame house," Ty cut him off, picking up the cereal box and pouring some more Wheat O’s. "Just like your car. You don’t even have Fruity O’s."
Lassiter reached for the cereal bowl just as Ty was getting ready to dive in spoon-first. "Stand up!" he ordered, grabbing Ty’s arm. "You’re going back to child services. They’ll give you all the damn Fruity O’s you want."
"No!" Ty protested, wrenching free of Lassiter’s grasp. "I don’t want to go back!"
"Why the hell not?" Lassiter demanded impatiently.
Ty blinked, his black eyes growing wide again as he looked down at his tattered shoes. "Because they don’t have a gun."
And, yes. Once again, I leave you with a slightly ominous cliffhanger. I like those. It was easy in the this case, as I knew everything that was going to happen before I even wrote it. That helps. Most of the time with a cliffhanger, I have no clue what’s going to happen. I just write it and pray to God I can figure it out.
Anyway, that’s where I’ll end for now. More to come, if you’re interested.
Thanks for reading!