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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Interview with Fiction Characters By Fictional Character – Part 3

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford's mystery short story collection

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford’s mystery short story collection

Writing is a struggle against silence.

          Carlos Fuentes

Bast takes on perhaps the most difficult interview so far – with his seven-year-old nephew David Bowman. David has become psychologically mute because of a traumatic experience in the pre-quel novel Beyond Blood. David appears in the four linked stories in Beyond the Tripping Point – “Gone Missing,” “Saving Grace,” “Digging Up the Dirt” and “Road Raging.”

Bast: David, let’s play private eye. Let’s pretend I’m the private investigator and I’m interviewing you. I know…

Dana (who has sneaked into the room and interrupts): You are a PI little brother and David knows this.

Bast: Sis, I’m trying to conduct an interview here. Your turn will come next week.

Dana: Okay then. Let’s see what David thinks about this.

Bast: Fine. David, do you want your mother present during this interview.

David shakes his head “no.”

Bast (smiling): Dana, your son has spoken.

Dana: Okay. (shrugs her shoulders and leaves the room).

Bast: Now David, is it okay if we play PI and I ask you questions.

David nods “yes.”

Bast: Good. Now I know you won’t speak, so I’ll keep most questions to “yes” and “no” answers, but here’s a pen and notepad for you to write your answers on.”

David pushes the pen and pad away and shakes his head “no” vigorously. He picks up his box of crayons, dumps the crayons out on the table, and grabs his sketch pad.

Bast (shrugs): Okay. In “Saving Grace” you kept pushing your mother to find the missing Grace. Was that because of what happened to you last year?

David picks up a red crayon and starts drawing a girl’s face. Then he picks up a black crayon and draws a boy’s face. He colours in the hair yellow. Underneath the girl’s face he prints “G” and underneath the boy’s face he draws  “?” He hands the picture to Bast.

Bast (pointing to the boy’s face in the picture). “Is this you David?”

David snatches the picture from Bast, then picks up a black crayon and starts scribbling on the paper. He hands it back to Bast.

Bast (looking at the picture). I see you have crossed out the “?” and put in a “D.” Okay, how did you know where to find Grace?

David picks up an orange crayon and starts drawing on another sheet of paper. When finished, he hands it to Bast.

Bast (looking at this picture). This looks like a doll.

David nods “yes.”

Bast: Would this be Grace’s Raggedy Anne doll?

David nods “yes” and starts wriggling in his seat.

Bast: So, the doll helped you?

David nods “yes” and then shakes his head “no.”

Bast: Which is it David – yes or no?

David grabs a purple crayon and starts scribbling on another piece of paper. When finished he throws the paper at Bast.

Bast: Hm. I don’t understand David. All these purple lines and circles. What do they represent? I mean.

David points to his head and moves his mouth as if trying to make a sound.

Bast: Okay, David. Let’s move on. Now in “Gone Missing,” at one point you are riding with your mother in her car and you drive to the dock at Snow Lake. You made a dramatic change here from complete silence. You…

David jumps up and starts moving around the room as if disoriented, then moves up to Bast and starts stomping his foot.

Dana (now back in the room). “That’s enough Bast. I don’t think David wants to play your game anymore, do you David?

David just continues his foot stomping. Dana goes over to him, crouches down to his level and puts her arm around him. David wiggles and tries to push her away, but eventually the feet and hands go still and he puts his head on Dana’s chest. Loud sobs are coming from him. Bast walks over to them and gets down on his knees.

Bast: Sorry David.

David looks up from Dana and over to Bast. And winks.

You can read more about David, Dana, Bast, Great Aunt Doris, Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding and the others in the four linked stories which are part of my mystery short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point, (Blue Denim Press, 2012. Click on the book at the top and it takes you to my profile – including books reviews – at www.amazon.com. The book is available there in print and Kindle. For Kobo e-book  go to http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/search/?keywords=Beyond%20the%20Tripping%20Point

 or go to any bricks and mortar store and order in a print copy.

Next week: Bast interviews his fraternal twin Dana Bowman.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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Interview with Fiction Characters by Fictional Character: Part 2

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford's mystery short story collection

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford’s mystery short story collection

The things that you know more about than you want to know are very useful.

            — Robert Stone


In this post, Bast Overture, crime reporter turned private investigator interviews Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding. Fielding appears in three of the four linked shorts stories in Beyond the Tripping Point (“Gone Missing,” “Digging up the Dirt,” and “Road Raging”). Note: Bast has encountered Fielding in his crime reporting days and the two are not best friends – forever or for any time.

Bast:  Now Detective Sergeant, you have been the lead investigator in several of the crimes that The Attic Investigative Agency has been involved in and…

Fielding (in his clipped British accent): Meddling might be more accurate…

Bast: Very well then but don’t you think that both you and our agency each came up with information that helped solve the cases and that  by cooperating and pooling our resources…

Fielding: The police do not cooperate with private investigators.

Bast: Yes, but didn’t you pass some information along to my sister, Dana, about some of the principals involved in “Road Raging.”

Fielding: That information was already in the press and I “passed it along” as you call it to your sister because when it was in the newspapers she was. shall we say, busy with trying to find her kidnapped son so she may have missed it (From the pre-quel novel, currently in rewrite stage).

Bast: And isn’t that another instance of you helping us?

Fielding: I said the police don’t cooperate with…

Bast: I know you said that but sometimes you do and don’t you think it helps solve the case?

Fielding: Listen here, Sebastian Overture. You and I go back to your crime reporting days, so I know your tricks to get information. What are you insinuating here? That the police act unprofessionally?

Bast: Of course not. (Bast clears his throat). I’m merely asking if the mutual info exchange helped. Hold on a minute before you say anything. If you remember in “Gone Missing,” Dana gave you some valuable information about the missing Rosemary – something we gleaned from our interview with her twin brother Robin – a blue text book. And that led to another person…

Fielding: (raising his hand). We were already talking to that person of interest.

Bast: Very well. Now, you are saying that the police don’t usually cooperate with private detectives. But what about when one of the PIs is shall we say more than a PI to you?

Fielding: (face going red). What are you insinuating Overture?

Bast: Come on Fielding. It’s no secret that you are attracted to my sister. So, I’m asking you – do your feelings for Dana have anything to do with the sharing of information.

Fielding (clipped British accent more pronounced): You’re making things up. That would be unprofessional.

Bast: But isn’t it true that you are attracted to my sister?

Fielding: That is none of your business. You leave D…D…Dana out of this.

Bast: Very well, then…

Fielding’s cell phone rings. He opens it.

Fielding: “Yes, Fielding here… Uh huh. Fine. What’s the address? Fine. I’ll be right there.” (He closes the cell). “Sorry, Overture. Duty calls.” (He stands up to leave)

Bast: Very well. Thanks for your time. I’ll catch you later for the rest…”

“Fielding: “No. This interview is finished.”

You can read more about Great Aunt Doris, Bast, Dana, David, Detective Sergeant Fielding and the others in the four linked stories which are part of my mystery short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point, Blue Denim Press, 2012. Click on the book at the top and it takes you to my profile – including books reviews – at www.amazon.com

Next week: Bast interviews his nephew David, which proves challenging as David is psychologically mute.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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Interview with Great Aunt Doris from Beyond the Tripping Point

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford's mystery short story collection

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford’s mystery short story collection

We care what happens to people only in proportion as we know what people are.

— Henry James

A couple of weeks ago, my guest blogger Rosemary McCracken interviewed her novels’ main character, Pat Tierney.  In today’s post, Great Aunt Doris, the eccentric old family busybody from two of the linked stories – “Saving Grace” and “Digging Up the Dirt” in my short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point is interviewed by crime reporter turned private investigator, Bast Overture – one of the fraternal twins in the linked stories. A word of note – Great Aunt Doris doesn’t like Bast so she is totally unpredictable.

Bast: Now Aunt Doris, you have been a sort of patriarch of the Bowman family and so have a –

Aunt Doris: I am not your aunt. I’m not even your sister Dana’s aunt. Her husband, Ron Bowman whom she had the stupidity to divorce, is my family and so is his son, David.

Bast: Yes, well, it is your family and its roots I want to talk to you about, especially in relation to this house. How did the Bowman family obtain this house?

Aunt Doris: You got that right. My late father, bless his soul (she crosses herself) bought this house when I was only five and my older  brother George and I lived in it even after Dad died. George got it in his will and he and his wife Ellen lived in it and so did their son, Ronald Bowman who got the house when my brother died. So this house is really his, not yours and Dana’s. Ron should be living here with David, not you and Dana. It…

Bast: Yes, thank you Aunt Doris for this background. I’d like to talk a little bit about your involvement in two of our stories in Beyond the Tripping Point. First, “Digging up the Dirt” where I understand you helped with the investigation. Could you tell us why, especially when you are so against Dana being a PI?

Aunt Doris: Well Dana is the mother of David –

Bast: So you are acknowledging Dana Bowman as the mother of your nephew’s son.

Aunt Doris: Don’t interrupt me young man. Yes, Dana is David’s mother but she sure doesn’t act like one, chasing all over for criminals. But it should be Ron living here to help raise David and keep Dana in line not somebody like you, a queer.

Bast: Ah yes, well I am gay but lots of gay men raise children.

Aunt Doris: But David is not your son.

Bast: True. Now back to my original question – why did you help with the investigation in Digging Up the Dirt?”

Aunt Doris: Because a childhood friend, Douglas Crandock and his mother were murdered during his mother’s 100th birthday celebration and I had to do something. So, I donned my PI gear (Note: slacks, sweater, cap, large magnifying glass and even bigger mouth) and went out and asked questions.

Bast: But my sis…Dana was with you and…?

Aunt Doris: I let her come along but I took a lot of control of the interviews.

Bast: Why is that?

Aunt Doris: Someone had to be blunt and ask the important questions, not skirt around it as Dana does.

Bast: But it was both of you who figured out who and why?

Aunt Doris: Hm…I suppose. But it was my knowledge of my childhood and early adult life and friends that was crucial.

Bast: Very well. Now let’s switch to “Saving Grace” where you, Dana and David went on a holiday to Goderich, Ontario. You also became involved in…

Aunt Doris: It would have been a good holiday if Dana hadn’t meddled in finding that missing girl, Grace what’s her name.

Bast: Milhop, Grace Milhop. But wasn’t it David who drew Dana into looking for Grace?

Aunt Doris: Young man, don’t you point the finger at David – he’s family, blood family.

Bast: True. But David’s situation (Note: mute from the trauma of his own kidnapping the previous year – in the prequel novel) was instrumental in getting him involved and therefore Dana and you, of course. Would you say you were instrumental in getting this case solved well, safely – for Dana and David?

Aunt Doris:  I guess so. I suppose if I hadn’t been there things could have gone much differently. But that doesn’t make it right that Dana is always meddling in these cases, as you call them. She’s a mother first and she should be acting like one. What is David going to grow up as with his mother and you (She glares) raising him?

Bast: Perhaps a private investigator.

Aunt Doris: Not as long as I’m around. I may be 71 but I plan to be around for another 20 years at least.

End of interview:

You can read more about Great Aunt Doris, Bast, Dana, David and the others in the four linked stories which are part of my mystery short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point. Click on the book at the top and it takes you to my profile – including books reviews – at www.amazon.com

Next week: Bast interviews Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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Backstory using flashbacks

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford's mystery short story collection

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford’s mystery short story collection

One of my many theories about short stories is that their titles and first lines ought to be memorable, because if not memorable they will not be remembered, and if not remembered the stories will not be reprinted (because no one can find them).

– Damon Knight

I’m posting one day early this week only because I’m at the MagNet magazine publishing industry conference all day tomorrow. The time setup to fix a date and time to publish a post later is nowhere to be found on WordPress.com. Hope you enjoyed Rosemary McCracken’s guest post last week.

And now as promised (albeit a week late) – some ideas on using flashbacks for your backstory.

You have to be careful with flashback so you don’t overuse  it because it can take away from your main story’s thrust. For a novel a bit of backstory could work in a short prologue. But even better is to weave in your flashback(s) with the present day story. The latter can work for short stories which don’t usually have prologues.

In my short story “Porcelain Doll” I blend in the flashbacks – and there are actually two time periods of flashback. This is somewhat unusual for short stories. The story begins in the present with:

 I can’t stop staring at the porcelain doll in the window. It sits among old tea sets and silver candleholders in Hanover’s newest antique shop. I keep trying to look away, but I can’t, despite my heart dancing inside my chest and my breath trying to keep time with it.

 

Right after this paragraph I transition into the most recent time flashback with:

I have no business coming back to this area. I should have left the past with Mama when she died last fall from a tumble down the cellar stairs. But when I sorted through her clothes, a newspaper clipping fell from a dress pocket. Of course I had to read it.

Spring thaw uncovers man’s skeleton near Hanover in the Lake Huron area. Contents of a wallet found nearby indicate the man could have been one Charles Holden who disappeared 16 years ago….

It was dated April 14, 1981, two months before Mama married Eric Luftus and seven and a half years before her death.

 

Then I bring in a bit about the present and transition back to the late 1980s when Mama died.

I pilfered the newspaper story and took it home with me.

The doll’s eyes seem too blue, too real. Or maybe I’m just wrapped too much in old memories. They began seeping from the nether area of my brain while I watched Mama lowered into the ground.

There are a few paragraphs more about this time right after Mama’s funeral and leading back to the present (seven months later) with Sarah (the main character) still looking in the window at that porcelain doll. Then I transition into the main flashback, which is a big part of the short story, with

I press my nose to the shop’s window. The doll’s eyes seem to suck me right in and spin me back 24 years. In the whirl, I see another porcelain doll, Daddy dealing cards, and my last train ride. It feels more like a roller coaster ride, and I shudder.

That 1965 train trip started much the same as any other summer’s trip. (All excerpts from Beyond the Tripping Point, copyright 2012 Sharon A. Crawford)

The story does eventually wind its way back to the present including some backstory about Eric and Sarah’s mom with the latter part focusing on the present to finish up what started back in 1965.

If you read through the excerpts closely you will see that anything in the past (1965 or 1981 or 1989) is written in the past tense while anything happening now is written in present tense. This is one way to help your reader keep track of time.

In novels, another way is to keep backstory and present in separate chapters with the year and possible month(s) or season(s) at the beginning of the chapter.

Or you can weave in the backstory for each main character whose point of view is used to tell your story. But watch that it doesn’t come across as an expository resume. Connect it to something the character is doing or about to do, another character they are going to see, talk to. What is some of their history? Are they long-time friends from what and where? If the characters have had a falling out, bring this in here just before they will meet. How does the point of view character feel about this? Will it affect how they are going to act?

Sue McGrath (of the alphabet mysteries: A is for, etc.) does this very well when she brings in her main character’s (Kinsey) family backstory – many members whom Kinsey is estranged from or never met. But McGrath doesn’t drag in these family members until the novels where Kinsey is actually going to have to connect to them. If you are writing a mystery novel, you don’t want a lot of unnecessary family backstory cluttering up your plot.

So make sure your backstory connects to your plot in some way. It is also not necessary to give every character’s backstory – just the main ones where it will affect the plot and what these main characters will be doing and saying.

You don’t want to lose your readers to the past.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Beyond the Tripping Point is available at www.amazon.com (just click on the book cover at the top) and for those in Canada at www.amazon.ca  – both in print and e-copy. Or you can go into a bricks and mortar bookstore and order in a print copy.

 

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