Thin films of diamond-like carbon have been grown by pulsed laser deposition using a Nd:YAG laser at 532 nm. Time-of-flight mass spectroscopy was used to investigate the effects of laser power density and background gas pressure on the plume characteristics including the species in the plume and the kinetic energy distribution of each species. We found that with increasing laser power density (1) the relative amount of C+ ions increases, (2) the kinetic energy distributions of C+ get broader and can be deconvoluted into fast and slow components, and (3) the kinetic energy of the fast component of C+ ions increases from several to 40 eV. The resistivity and the local carbon bonding in films grown under these same conditions were also characterized. It was found that there is direct correlation between the characteristics of fast part of C+ ions in the plume and the diamond-like properties of the thin films. Under optimal growth conditions diamond-like carbon films with a large fraction of sp3 bonding can be prepared, although the maximum fraction appears to saturate at 70%. The implications of these results are discussed.