Fictionalizing your problems

Lately I’ve been inundated with problems, snafu sand the like – 90 to 95 per cent caused by other people, organizations, etc. But I have to deal with them and get them solved. I may go into one of them in a future post as it is writing related, but for now if you really want to know more you can read this post from my personal blog Only Child Writes.

To say I am ticked off at all the time wasted sorting out these problems, but i do have an outlet – so do all writers.

The pen is mightier than the sword

Or in today’s world

Creative Digital is mightier than the sword.

Some of you might go the journalistic route and do a story on the problem or write an op-ed piece. I used to do the former and sometimes do the latter on the aforementioned personal blog. But now I take the problem and fictionalize it in a short story or novel. And because i write mysteries, I can kill off the culprit or make him or her the killer. Fictionalizing is the key word. You don’t want to be sued or worse.

My latest one is a story I’m writing (between dealing with the actual problems, doing client work, and PR for Beyond Faith) is about telemarketers. How many of you (despite any “do not call” type laws) get hit with a deluge of telemarketers calling? Even wrong calls claiming to be wrong numbers? Well, I get too many and usually don’t bother to pick up the phone. But when they leave voice mail messages, guess what I want to do.

The story is still in draft. But it’s working title is “Don’t Call Me.” The story has lots of twists and turns, including the murder weapon. I’m not saying what it is or who murders whom. But let’s just say I had a slew of questions for my police consultant on the crime scene and in the process got the  lowdown from him on how to use that weapon to kill someone. The weapon is not your usual gun, knife, rope, poison, etc. but is something people with a certain hobby would have in their possession.

I promise to use that weapon only in my story and in real life for its regular use.

What problem has been stealing your time and energy lately? Or is it an annoying person. Don’t yell or kill that person. Fictionalize him or her in a story.


Sharon A Crawford


Click on the book cover below and get the lowdown on this book and the other two Beyond books at Amazon

The latest Beyond mystery novel


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Point of View or Points of View in Fiction?

The latest Beyond mystery novel

I  have covered Point of View before but it is so important and is one of the writing techniques that authors mess up a lot – even published authors. The two biggies usually occur when the author is telling his or her novel from the third person omniscient. Both mistakes can be aggravating to the reader. The first misstep is when two characters are talking. Character A says something and the author adds how this character feels or what he is thinking when he talks. Then Character B replies and the author also adds how this character feels or what he thinks when he talks.

In the writing and publishing business we call this “jumping heads.” Or as I sometimes call it – “head lice”. This one doesn’t usually confuse the reader about the plot, but it can get annoying. The rule of thumb here is one character’s point of view per scene or per chapter or per a series of continuous chapters. If you are changing POV after a scene, you can leave a few lines and/or add asterisks between the scenes. If it helps, you can put the POV character’s name at the top of each scene or chapter – whether you leave it in or not in the rewrite. I do this (and the date and time) in Beyond Blood. The date and time are there because the novel takes place over eight frantic days in August 1998. The reason for each POV character’s first name (or a reference to the character.I do have a character called “HIim”) is for keeping track of which point of view character is narrated.

When their is an overabundance of POV characters, especially when it goes into minor characters, it can confuse the reader to the point where they feel like they need a road map to keep track of all the characters.Then they may lose interest in the story and ditch the book. Do we really need to get inside minor characters’ heads? Do we really need to know what they ate for breakfast? If something they do or did is important to the plot, it could be presented from one of the POV characters. For example, if a PI or police officer is a POV character, they might discover this about minor character – from looking at police reports or news stories. Maybe when the PI or cop interviews the minor character, something comes up. Maybe they see the minor character does something that appears out of character from what they know about the character. There is one exception, though. Sometimes crime novels start with a short Prologue told from the victim’s point of view as he or she murdered – at the end of the Prologue. Obviously, this character can’t come back or can she? if her story is told in flashback in chronological order in alternating chapters – it could work very well. And is the murdered character a minor character or major character? If he or she wasn’t killed, where would the murder mystery be?

I use four points of view in Beyond Blood and in Beyond Faith. Three of them are the same – the protagonist PI Dana Bowman, her twin brother and business partner, PI Bast Overture, and Dana’s son, David. The fourth POV character is a different one in each of the novels, mainly because that character doesn’t appear in both BB and BF. So far, this fourth character is on the shady side and is used (with reservation, i.e., not revealing all and building up the story from their POV to work it in with the rest of the plot as narrated by Dana, Bast and David.) The three POV characters who are in both Beyond novels are identified at the beginning of each chapter  and each first chapter of a string of chapters or even a scene where he or she narrates.  As a twist, Dana is told from first personal point of view and the other three from third person POV. This is done because Dana is the main character, the one who I want the reader to identify with most.

Bill Pronzini who writes the Nameless detective series does something similar. Nameless is from first person POV but no name (well, he is nameless) at the top of the chapters. But for chapters from the POV of his two PI associates, he puts the name of the POV PI at the beginning of the chapter or first of a string of chapters. When Pronzini teams with his wife, author Marcia Muller to co-author a book – especially with Nameless and Muller’s main character PI Sharon McCone  it gets interesting. For Sharon the chapter is headed “McCone” and for Nameless it is headed “Wolf.” Check out their novel Double.

The best way to understand Point of View is to read published fiction in the area you write in. Even read the ones that mess up point of view because when you spot it you will see what not to do.

And write, and rewrite, and rewrite…


Sharon A. Crawford

The second Beyond book in the series


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Sisters in Crime Reading positive experience

Sharon beginning of SinC reading. E. Terri J. Dixon photo

I do love reading from Beyond Faith. It gives me a chance to show readers what my characters have to contend with (besides the main character, PI Dana Bowman). Last Thursday, I joined 10 other Sisters in Crime (well, one brother, author Ken Ogilvie) Toronto for their monthly gathering for an evening of reading from our newest books. And was it interesting – all that crime and so many variations, so many voices, so many stories, and so many photographs, thanks to SinC Treasurer, Terry Dixon.

Location! Location! It isn’t just for selling and buying real estate. We were in a library – all those books, albeit we were upstairs in one of the program rooms. To me it was especially good, as Beyond Faith is on order for three copies for the Toronto Public Library system. The other two, Beyond the Tripping Point and Beyond Blood are already in the Toronto Public Library (and in other libraries in other cities and towns, too).

And this time I kept Ms. Dana Bowman, Private Investigator, firmly between the book covers, although I did hold up an enlarged photo of her at the beginning and ask the audience if they had seen her and if so, to shove her  back in the book.

We authors also had a table to sell our books and I sold a few Beyond Faith copies, including one just as I was setting them up on the side of the table before the readings. That might also be “location, location”. And we also received Sisters in Crime Toronto Chapter mugs – red print (what else in colour for mystery authors?) on white. Now, that’s my coffee mug to start each day – gotta get into the mood for committing crime – between the book covers, of course.

Here’s some more info on Sisters in Crime Toronto. Members also include readers – the mystery author’s biggest fan.


Sharon A, Crawford

Sharon reads from Beyond Faith at SinC. E. Terri J. Dixon photo


And the book.

Beyond Faith with Dana Bowman firmly inside



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Don’t forget the libraries and librarians

Crime Writers of Canada authors at the OLA convention

We authors sometimes either forget or minimize one big resource. We are too busy doing research online, selling our books through Amazon and the like, connecting through Twitter and Facebook. This resource has been around a long time before anything online. I’m talking about the public library.

And if you think libraries are all about print books in the actual library, think again. With a library card (free), you can borrow e-books online, put  books on hold online, renew books online and yes, do research  online through your library’s connection with data bases. Some libraries even have online access to big city newspapers. And yes, you can still physically visit your libraries. I do and when I’m there I see teenagers and others using either the library’s computers or working away on their laptops. Yes libraries are connected to the Internet and it is less messy than sitting in a cafe with a laptop and risk spilling your coffee on the keyboard. It is also quieter.

There are also art exhibits, programs and presentations on business to health and wellness, to gardening to learning computer and online functions to writers’ groups to talks by book authors and workshops and courses- all for free.

And of course there are those books. I go to my library to pick up books (some found and put on hold online, some just from browsing in the library). And I run the East End Writers’ Group, a writing critique and guess where we meet – the library – my local big branch S. Walter Stewart in Toronto. EEWG does this in partnership with the library branch and it was one of the librarians there who asked us to meet there.

Don’t forget these librarians. They are very helpful when you are stuck with what book to get and for any other research (despite all your online work in those areas). And they are instrumental in the writing workshops and courses I teach at library branches. Although free to participants, I do get paid for teaching them

Some of us published authors from Crime Writers of Canada didn’t forget the importance of librarians last Friday. During the annual Ontario Library Association conference, CWC again had 23 of its recently book-published authors (or a book coming out in a few months) authors taking our turn in front of the mic doing  our own two-minute pitch for our books. These pitches were as diversified as the authors. My favourite was one by Dr. (as in medical) Melissa Yi who put a plastic garbage bag over  her head for a few seconds to illustrate how the bodies of some murdered Indigenous peoples are left by their killers. i channelled my main Beyond Faith book character, Dana Bowman. And the pitches weren’t  limited to books published by trade publishers. Libraries now carry self-published books as well. In the photo of us at the top, “Dana” is to the right of the CWC poster and Melissa is at the right end of this row.

My Beyond books aren’t self-published (Blue Denim Press is my publisher), but I’m happy to say that the first two,  Beyond the Tripping Point and Beyond Blood are in some of the Toronto Public library branches. And the librarian, Janet Nanos, who got EEWG into the S. Walter Stewart library branch informed me that she had put in for four copies of Beyond Faith for the TPL – just when the OLA conference was starting – just before I did my pitch.

The first two Beyond books are also n libraries in Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario,  York Region (just north of Toronto) and in Prince Edward County in Eastern Ontario.

Those are the ones I know of.

It doesn’t stop there.

As authors with books in libraries, you can receive annual royalties for your books being there and number of times being borrowed. Another organization takes care of this (in Canada it is The Public Lending Rights Program administered by the Canada Council). You just have to enter your books on their form, updating it when you publish another book. This Canadian program is open for this listing-registration from mid February to May each year..

So, I have many reasons to be grateful for the public libraries and the librarians. I’ve been a big fan and library user since I was 12 years and my grade 7 teacher led all her class on a walk to visit the then new S. Walter Stewart Library branch.

It isn’t coincidence that my main library branch is the same library – since I moved back to Toronto almost 20 years ago.

Don’t forget your library and the librarians – the writer’s and reader’s best friend. The library is where readers, writers and librarians can connect.


Sharon A. Crawford





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Getting you and your new book on TV

Being interviewed on a TV show is a good way to get the word out about your book and, if you have a good interviewer, get out some information about you, the author. One sign of interest in your book, is interest in you, the author. How do you write? Why do you write? Or in my case – who wrote the book, Beyond Faith – PI Dana Bowman, the main character who insists she wrote it, or me, Sharon A. Crawford, whose name is on the cover?

All that and more (including non-fiction books versus fiction books) got covered last week when I appeared on the Liquid Lunch where I was interviewed by host Hugh Reilly and a newbie co-host. This is on the Internet channel – the channel has been going since 2004. Not bigtime ( or small time) TV but TV is no longer just regular channels. Think Crave TV. Think Netflix. And think

This was my third appearance in six years (one for each Beyond book) on Liquid Lunch. This time I have mixed feelings about the way it went. There wasn’t time for me to read a couple of pages from Beyond Faith because we chatted too much. “We” is mostly Hugh and meas the newbie didn’t say too much and she put her foot in her mouth about one thing she said. But I handled it graciously.  Also it was a different studio room and setup from the previous two appearances.

But my biggest gripe was my bangs had been cut too short the day before. Clearly I’m reading too many celebrity stories online. I was able to carry on an intelligent conversation and even steer it back to Beyond Faith when it got a bit off track.

You can check it out for yourself here. Or you can click on the Beyond Faith book cover above and that will take you directly to the interview.

And something extra is coming out of all of this.

I am getting my own TV show on It will be about crime – true and fiction and  PI Dana Bowman will be a part of it – if she has her way. Show will get going this spring

More info closer to the date. Stay tuned. I’ll keep you posted. Meantime, watch the video (it’s about 27 minutes) and please spread the link to it on your social media. Thanks.


Sharon A. Crawford


Sharon holding up Beyond Faith




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Plotting Your Way Through Your Story

I wrote the original version of the below a few years back when I was Writer in Residence for the Toronto Branch of the Canadian Authors’ Association. With a few updates, which I have now made, it is still relevant for us authors. So here goes. 


Plotting Your Way Through Your Story

We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down. — Kurt Vonnegut, science fiction writer

Vonnegut describes the fiction writer perched at the computer. The writer is ready to roll with the plot. Sometimes he soars, but sometimes his wings get clipped.

Let’s look at some baddies in fiction plotting.

A literary magazine editor once scrawled on one of my short stories, “This is not a short story. This is an incident.”

A novel that I evaluated contained quirky characters. However, they solved everything too easily and their relationships, including the love relationship, had no problems.

In another novel, the author tried to carry most of the plot with dialogue. Dialogue is good for showing the reader rather than overdoing the narration. But you can overkill with dialogue too.

In another novel, the author had created a certain atmosphere from the setting and characters. Unfortunately, the plot resembled those 500-piece jigsaw puzzles that you finally toss out in a garage sale.

Kurt Vonneget describes plot as

I don’t praise plots as accurate representations of life, but as ways to keep readers reading. When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away — even if it’s only a glass of water. … When you exclude plot, when you exclude anyone’s wanting anything, you exclude the reader, which is a mean-spirited thing to do. You can also exclude the reader by not telling him immediately where the story is taking place, and who the people are. … And you can put him to sleep by never having characters confront each other.

The characteristics of a good plot are:

  1. A protagonist or main character with a conflict to resolve. The characters drive the plot. Let them struggle to get there. Life may be a bowl of cherries, but the characters need to experience the pits.

  2. The plot moves forward, usually chronologically, although some flashbacks can work. If you get lost, use Doug Lawson’s rule, i.e., figuring out where the characters would rather not go.

  3. Events must be connected, not random and they must link from one event to another with some purpose.

  4. The plot must be believable, whether commercial or literary fiction. Your story line may seem unbelievable, but you make it believable by suspending the reader’s disbelief. Think “X Files.”

  5. Their must be a climax, whether it’s a moral one in the protagonist’s mind or the opposite extreme, such as a sword fight. Think protagonist and antagonist together at the edge of a cliff – for an analogy.

  6. The plot must have some resolution in the end. With series mystery novels, something, perhaps in the main characters’ personal lives, is often left hanging for the next novel. But the main plot must be resolved or you cheat the reader.


And the usual, if you click on the Beyond Faith book cover at the beginning, you go to a link with more info including a bit about its twisted plot.


Sharon A. Crawford






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Catching story ideas on the fly


I’m a writer as rarely as possible, when forced by an idea too lovely to let die unwritten.

– Richard Bach

Our story ideas may not be as esoteric as Richard Bach’s – he wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull.  Where can we get story ideas and when we get them, what do we do with them?

Story ideas often pop into our heads when we are busy doing something else or more likely when our mind hits a lull. Or we are reading an article in the daily newspaper or the classifieds (online or in print) and our right brain, the creative side, suddenly wakes up. A conversation overheard on a bus, especially those cell-phone monologues, conversations overheard in restaurants can suggest several story ideas, often of the criminal intent. Brochures on community groups, art shows, and even the supermarket flyers can inspire. Take the old (former) Dominion supermarket slogan, “We’re fresh obsessed,” and try to look at a story angle that is fresh. Taking a shower or bath is also guaranteed to fill you with more than water. The Internet is full of potential story ideas. Don’t underestimate the power of dreams. Drugs and alcohol are not recommended as you will see from the following example.

Late one night a photographer friend once thought he had a brilliant idea. He scribbled it down on a piece of paper before he crashed for the night. When he woke the next morning, he looked at the paper. On it he had written, “I am very drunk.”

Another moral from this story is look at photographs. A picture is worth a thousand words, but before the words come the ideas.

What do you do when an idea hits? Grab it before it disappears into the nether area of your mind. Write it down. Keep a notebook (electronic or paper) handy. If you think faster than you type or scrawl, use a recorder for dictating your ideas. If the source is the Internet, bookmark it under the heading “Story ideas.”

Then let the idea rest for at least a few days. The idea will simmer in your subconscious and when you sit down at your computer, the act of starting to write will draw out these ideas. On rare occasions, a simmering story suddenly bubbles and you are compelled to write it right now. Do so – if you don’t you might not only lose the momentum, but the idea as well. Nothing, except maybe a blank screen, is worse than an idea gone stale because it was left in storage beyond its best date.

Follow the advice of Martin Woods, who said,

“Write great ideas down as soon…”


Sharon A. Crawford

Author of the Beyond mystery novels – whose ideas came from all of the above.

And if you click on the Beyond Faith cover icon at the top, it will take you to the one of the online places the novel is available – as well as more details about the novel itself.





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