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Monthly Archives: December 2012

How do fiction characters act in a snowstorm?

Amazon.com link to Sharon A. Crawford's book

Amazon.com link to Sharon A. Crawford’s book

As soon go kindle fire with snow, as seek to quench the fire of love with words.

–          William Shakespeare

Toronto and other parts of Ontario as well as Quebec and the Maritimes got blasted with the first big snowfall of the season overnight. So I thought it might be interesting to dump some of our fiction characters into a snowstorm and see how they could behave.

My obvious choice of characters are the two friends, Millie and Jessica, from my short story “No Breaks” in my short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point. The story is set on a hot and humid August day but what would happen if the duo were driving up Ontario’s Highway 11 to the Muskoka cottage during a snow storm? This area gets lots of snow on the highway and with the brakes in Millie’s car failing, would Millie’s work-around that even be feasible in a snow storm? Perhaps the storm itself stalls traffic. So setting is changed but the reason for their trip up to Jessica’s family cottage wouldn’t be summer and beach related. Perhaps they are headed up there for Christmas. If you take all the other factors in the story (and I’m not telling all; you have to read the book to find out – book available on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca – link to the former on the book above and to the latter on the book at the end of this post), things will change.

Think about it. The two friends will be stuck in the car on a continuous basis. Millie is already fed up with the way her life isn’t going and Jessica, a non-driver, is scared they won’t get out of their situation. Millie is a control freak and Jessica hangs onto her Blackberry like it’s her lifeline – even when there is no reception. In the actual story, the relationship between the two friends changes as Millie learns some hard facts which hurl her over her personal tripping point. This could intensify and Millie’s actions could happen much faster and maybe being stuck in the snow with Jessica might bring out new terrifying traits and changes in the two women.

In your fiction – short story or novel – put your main characters, preferably the antagonist and protagonist, stuck in a snowstorm – if not in a car, maybe at a pub, a hotel, a meeting, a resort. How would they react? Would their conflict get worse or would it give them time to pause and do something about it? And remember, these are two idnividual characters here, so one may want to sort out their differences and the other one might not. One might get nastier; one might have a fear of being trapped and how would that affect his or her character? The possibilities are endless.

Put your characters in a snowstorm – even if only as a writing exercise. It will show you different sides of your characters and perhaps give you some insights into their development that you can use in your story – snowstorm or not, for example, how do your characters deal with unexpected adversity, especially of the severe weather kind?

Now, I better psyche myself out to shovel all that snow. I don’t dream of a White Christmas season. I dream of summer and my garden. Meantime, I have a guest blog post appearing on another Crime Writers of Canada member’s blog, December 28, 2012. Check it out at http://sweatercursed.blogspot.ca/

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Link to amazon.ca for Sharon A. Crawford's book

Link to amazon.ca for Sharon A. Crawford’s book

 

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Christmas with your fiction characters

Link to Sharon A.'s book on amazon.com

Link to Sharon A.’s book on amazon.com

I do like Christmas on the whole…. In its clumsy way, it does approach Peace and Goodwill. But it is clumsier every year.

– E.M. Forster

How do the characters in your novel and short stories spend Christmas? Or do they even celebrate Christmas or any of the other cultural traditions for this time of year? (I’m using “Christmas” generically here.) Maybe you don’t actually set your stories at Christmastime, but it doesn’t hurt to imagine how your fictional characters do Christmas – even write it down – because Christmas can bring out the best and the worst of everyone in real life. And so it should in fiction.

None of my short stories in Beyond the Tripping Point are set at Christmas time, so I’m not sure what that says about me. However, if the fraternal twins, Dana Bowman and Bast Overture (“Gone Missing,” “Saving Grace,” “Digging Up the Dirt,” and “Road Raging”) were to celebrate Christmas, they probably would go to Christmas Mass for the first time in years (and you’ll have to buy the book and read the stories to see why). Great Aunt Doris would make one of her crash-unexpected visits and that would put a damper in the celebrations for Dana, Bast but maybe not Dana’s son David. The Great One, as she is called, is at loggerheads with Dana and Bast but gets along with David. I envision her coming with them to Christmas Mass and surprising Dana with her singing voice when singing the hymns, albeit singing in her gravelly voice. She’ll interfere with Bast and his Christmas cooking and the present unwrapping might turn into a free-for-all. It might end up with no one speaking or all learning something from the shared experience. And my forte being mystery fiction, there would be a murder, a robbery (maybe someone stealing the Christmas church collection) or some crime that the twins, with David’s help, and Great Aunt Doris’ meddling, would solve.

So you can see how imagining your fictional characters’ Christmas can help develop your characters. And maybe just create another story or chapter in your novel.

At this time, I want to wish you all a good holiday season (Christmas or whatever you celebrate). Take some time for family and friends, and for yourself and your writing.

Meantime, click on the book graphic above to link to my book (print or Kindle) at amazon.com

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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Blog tours for your writing and your book

 book cover Beyond the Tripping Point

Click on book cover to get to amazon.com link to my book

Without promotion something terrible happens…nothing.

–          P.T. Barnum
I’ve been busy writing guest spot blog posts or doing blog tours as they are called. This is a great way to promote your published book. However, it also can work to promote your writing and to do a writing feedback exchange. Blog tours can expand your blog’s readership and create new connections. And we writers working in isolation need to connect.

Connecting with other writers not only gets you out of this aloneness but it can be of mutual benefit to you and your connections. You can read what others are writing and discover different writing styles, learn more in different areas (we writers are supposed to be curious), possibly get some writing feedback going back and forth and perhaps some guest blog posting.

A writer friend, Shane Joseph, has come up with a unique way to promote his published writing on WatPad  http://www.wattpad.com/. And  he will also be a featured writer on WatPad  December 14. Direct link to Shane’s work is http://www.wattpad.com/8704102-lest-they-be-forgotten-foreword

My two guest blog posts coming up this month do help promote my short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point, but they also provide details on how and why I write. One post, set up in Q and A style, covers how my writing career evolved and provides a way to share some of the joys and pitfalls of writing – I also like to read about other authors and how they are evolving. In another guest blog I go into my writing name identity crises. Any writer who uses or considers using pseudonyms can relate to this issue.

I suggest you read other writers’ blogs and comment. Connect.

Check out these links:

Shane Joseph on Watpad http://www.wattpad.com/8704102-lest-they-be-forgotten-foreword

My two upcoming blog tours:

The name post – What’s in a Name? Going live December 15, 2012 at http://typem4murder.blogspot.ca/

Q and A – Going live December 28, 2012 at http://sweatercursed.blogspot.ca/

Happy reading and connecting.

And for Canadians, Beyond the Tripping Point is now available in print and Kindle from amazon.ca – direct link http://www.amazon.ca/Beyond-Tripping-Point-Sharon-Crawford/dp/0986952893/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1355327652&sr=1-1

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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When your fiction characters take over your mind

Beyond the Tripping Point Cover 72dpiA novelist is a person who lives in other people’s skins.

–       –    EL Doctorow

I’m rewriting the prequel novel to four linked stories in my short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012). The main characters are the fraternal twin PIs Dana Bowman and Bast Overture, Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding, Great Aunt Doris, and Dana’s son, David. They appear in some or all of those linked stories and also in the novel I’m rewriting.

Trouble is one of the suspects in the novel has climbed inside my head and demands to be heard – loud and clear. I can see clearly what he looks like and does and I’ve already written him into some chapters, even given him his own Point of View, but he is still not satisfied. It is his story as much as it is the other characters’ story..

So I made some notes to go with the “old novel version chapters” and Friday afternoon I sat down at my computer and started a full-blown character sketch of this fellow. The sketch, when completed, will contain everything from what he eats (or doesn’t eat) for breakfast, to his sordid past, to his feelings and actions for the novel’s time. Not all, but some of this will be incorporated into the novel, bit by bit (without revealing his name until the police and PIs get up to speed about him). He will also get more novel time. After all, I don’t want him coming after me.

So, what do you do if one of your fiction characters seems to be taking over your mind to the point where you do your version of the absent-minded professor? Besides your mind swirling around like it’s going through space, not paying attention to the present/to what is happening can be dangerous. You don’t want to cross the street right in front of an oncoming car or burn dinner to the point where it sets your house on fire.

To give your demanding character his or her due, you need to do the following:

  • Acknowledge the character and his or her right to be in your short story, novella or novel
  • Do an in-depth character sketch – preferably on computer or on paper. You know the old saying about writing it down – doing so not only shows its relevance, but it gets all those swirling thoughts and ideas out of your head and into a more permanent record – at least one easier to access and review. Your head will thank you.
  • What is in a detailed character sketch? You character’s name, background (family, education, current job if he or she has one), physical characteristics, likes, dislikes, traits, What makes him or her angry, sad, happy, etc. What is his driving force in life? In other words all the stuff that he is and what makes him tick?
  • It helps to give this character a tag, i.e., something (or a few somethings) he does when nervous (become irritable, jingle change or keys in pocket, etc.), and something he does or says across the board. For example, he may always use the f-word or have a particular way of handling phone calls (talk to the point and hang up abruptly). Perhaps the character may have multiple allergies and constantly sneezes. The “tag” or “tags” should be something that becomes part of your story.
  • Caveat One: You can get carried away doing character sketches (or the reverse). The former is better because you won’t use it all in your story, and may use very little in your short story. But having full insight into your character and on paper, helps when you sit down in front of your computer to write your story. You feel as if your character is an old friend or old enemy.
  • Caveat Two: As you write your novel or short story, you may be inspired to add more to your character sketch or change something. Do so if it would work better. A character is constantly changing – just like real characters in real life.

Do any of you who are writing fiction have characters taking over your life? How do you deal with these demanding individuals?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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