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Category Archives: Characters and plot in fiction

A word from Dana Bowman and mystery serial part 4

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It’s coming. Beyond Faith, the third book in the Beyond mystery series. Dana Bowman, Private Investigator here. Yes I’m out from between the book covers. But which book? With the number of proof readings my author Sharon A. Crawford  and I have been doing for Beyond Faith, that would be the book. But the book is coming in early October. And soon you’ll get a peek at the cover. And… oh rats, Sharon is waving  her computer mouse at me to get cracking with the next episode in this online serial story

Bast, Ms. Dugan and Dana turn towards the balcony. They can hear the crunch of branches as something moves up the tree. A figure in a hoodie and sunglasses appears in the window by the balcony door.

Dana: Stay put, Ms. Dugan and David. Bast and I will check it out.

Ms. Dugan: Call me Carla.

Dana, stands up and glares at Ms.Dugan: I thought it was “Emily.”

Ms. Dugan: That, too. Call me either.

David grabs Dana’s arm: Mommy, Mommy, the creature is coming to the door. I left it open when I came in.

Bast charges over to the balcony door. Before he can close it, the hooded figure steps inside. Bast grabs it and the two tousle.

Dana: David, get Fielding here.

Dana runs to help her brother who is clearly not getting the better of the confrontation. She is just reaching down to grab the creature when a voice sounds from behind.

Voice: What is going on here? And who let that person wearing the hoodie in?

David, sounding scared: I did, but not on purpose, honest

Voice: Well, that person is NOT supposed to be out yet. Dana Bowman, what are you up to now? I can’t leave you alone for one minute and you get into trouble.

Dana: Oh, Oh. I really had nothing to do with it. Neither did Bast or David. But Ms. Emily or Carla or whatever-he-name-is Dugan just might have.

Ms. Dugan: Not me. I just came here for help for my brother.And who are you talking to?

Voice: She’s talking to me. And you should be able to hear me now.

Ms. Dugan: I can now. Who are you?

Voice: Why, I’m Sharon A. Crawford, the author of the Beyond books and I want to know why you Dana are pulling characters out of Beyond Faith.

Sharon A. Crawford mugshot

The second beyond book.

 

 

                   Read more about Dana Bowman here.

 

 

 

 

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Beyond mystery Part 3 serialized here

BEYOND FAITH IS COMING THIS FALL

We interrupt this story for an announcement from Dana Bowman, the main character in the Beyond mystery series.

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The next novel in the Beyond series – Beyond Faith is coming this October. No spoilers but there are lots of puzzles and murders which I have to solve. And.. oh, oh, my author Sharon A. Crawford is pointing her finger at me to continue with this ongoing weekly story. In a sec – first Beyond Faith takes place the last two months of 1999. And the below story occurs just just before that.Sharon is

Sharon is also saying to check out her website. Updates will be posted there about Beyond Faith

And now my continuing story…

The police have arrived – Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding from Major Crimes and Detectives Stewart and Tractor from Forensics. Dana, Bast, David and Ms. Dugan are sequestered in the Attic Agency Office, waiting for Fielding to question them. Outside the agency door, Tractor and Stewart are doing their forensic job.

Ms. Dugan, pacing around the room: Oh my God, my brother, Wayne, I can’t believe he’s dead. Who would do this?

Dana: Really. He was involved in some questionable activities.

Ms. Dugan: Not now. He was not doing those break and enters. He was going to fix my door hinge.

Dana: Well, maybe or maybe not. He still had some questionable associates as the police would say. I mean he is now dead…

David: Mommy, Mommy, you gotta help Ms. Dugan.

Dana: That’s what we are trying to do here, David.

Bast: Dana, let’s not be harsh. Ms. Dugan

Ms. Dugan: Emily, please.

Bast: Emily’s brother has just been murdered.

David: Mommy, Mommy….

Dana: David, quiet please. Maybe you should go back onto the balcony.

David: Mommy, we gotta help Ms. Dugan. We…: David is shouting now and stands up.

Dana: David. Do you want the police coming in here now? They are going to separate us soon. I’m surprised they didn’t do it sooner.

Bast: There is a body outside the door.

Dana: Right. Okay. So, Ms… Emily, do you recognize that voice from the other side of the door?

David: It’s one of his friends. He did it. He..

Dana: David. Okay, that’s it. (She points to the balcony). Out onto the balcony.

David: Aw Mommy.

Dana: Now.

David pouts and stomps towards the balcony.

Dana; Leave the door open but keep quiet. Now Ms…. Emily. About that voice outside the door.

Ms. Dugan: Not Wayne. He would have been dead. I didn’t recognize the voice – it didn’t sound natural;

Dana: But it could have been one of his assoc… friends disguising his voice. Okay, we need you to give us Wayne’s friends names and their contact info.

Ms. Dugan: There’s Doug Pinchard, Mike Green, and Steve Sumach. They all went to school together and hung out then and afterwards.

Dana: And got into trouble together?

Ms. Dugan: Yes, juvenile stuff – vandalism, joy riding.

Bast: And as adults?

Ms. Dugan: No!. Oh all right. They did do a few break and enters – but that was three years ago and they did their time in prison for that. And Wayne was going straight. He even just landed a job at fast-food place and was to start next week.

Bast: And the other three? Did they find jobs?

Ms. Dugan: I don’t know.

Dana: Come, come, Emily, you say you are close to your brother..

Ms. Dugan: Wayne didn’t tell me everything.

Dana: But he was living with you so you would know if his friends came round.

Ms. Dugan: Not necessarily. Not when I was teaching.

Dana: Wouldn’t you see evidence of them being there when you returned home?

Ms. Dugan: What do you mean?

Bast, interrupting: Dana means evidence of eating – maybe empty potato chip bags, dirty glasses, cigarette butts.

Ms. Dugan: Yes, I suppose so.

Dana: Come come Emily – either there was evidence or not.

Ms. Dugan: Oh all right. I did find a few dirty glasses – once – and cigarette butts, but Wayne smokes…smoked. Oh, I can’t do this. My baby brother is dead. Someone killed him. (She starts sobbing).

Bast: Take it easy. Do you want some water?

Dana: She might want something a bit stronger, Bast.

Ms. Dugan: Water is fine.

Bast pours some water into a glass from the pitcher on the file cabinet and hands it to her. Dana hands her a writing pad.

Dana: Start writing Wayne’s friends names and contact info – what you have. Also your impressions of each. It might help us figure out what happened.

Ms. Dugan: Okay. (She starts writing)

David charges into the room.

Dana: David, what did I say?

David: But Mommy, someone is climbing up the tree to the balcony.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Like Dana says, Beyond Faith is coming. Meantime, there is Beyond Blood – the book before. If you haven’t read it yet, click on the book cover below to find out how.

The second beyond book.

 

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Beyond Faith is coming…

We interrupt this story for an announcement from Dana Bowman, the main character in the Beyond mystery series.

 

.

 The next novel in the Beyond series – Beyond Faith is coming this October. No spoilers but there are lots of puzzles and murders which I have to solve. And.. oh, oh, my author Sharon A. Crawford is pointing her finger at me to continue with this ongoing weekly story. In a sec – first Beyond Faith takes place the last two months of 1999. And the below story is just before that.

 

Dana: Someone’s coming up the stairs. I’m going to check.

Bast: Wait until the police get here.

Dana frowning: No time.

Bast, closing and locking the agency door: I insist.

Dana, drumming her fingers on the desk: So we do nothing?

Loud banging sounds on the door.

A high-pitched voice from the other side calls out: Open up or he’s dead.

Dana: Who?

Bast: Shh.

David: Mommy, I’m scared.

Bast: Shh.

Voice: Open the door.

Dana: Answer my question first.

Voice: What was the question?

Dana: Who are you and what do you want?

Voice, sounding exasperated but still high-pitched: I told you I want you to open the damn door NOW. You’ll see me when you do.

Dana: All right. All right. Don’t get all tied up in your knickers. I’m coming.

Voice: What?

Dana: Oh never mind. (Then whispering) Ms. Dugan, take David onto the balcony and try to get someone’s attention. Bast and I will try to divert the guy or guys on the other side of the door and keep them talking until the police arrive…but just in case they get in you will be out of the room.

Bast, scratching his head: Is this a good idea? They’ll be trapped out there.

Dana: They’ll also be out of the office and hidden by the drapes on the balcony door and the window there. And they can get someone walking by to help. Ms. Dugan, do you have a cell phone?

Ms, Dugan: No.

Dana: Here, take mine. We can use Bast’s here if we need to. Now go and be quiet.

Ms. Dugan and David exit onto the balcony, closing the door behind them.

Bast: It’s gone awfully quiet out in the hall. Hey, anyone out there?

Silence.

Bast unlocks the door and he and Dana look out.

No one is there. At least no one alive. The body of a young many with a rope around his neck is lying in the hall outside the door.

From behind them they hear the balcony door open and footsteps coming towards them. And then the footsteps stop and there is a scream. …

Ms. Dugan: It’s Wayne.

…TO BE CONTINUED…

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Like Dana says, Beyond Faith is coming. Meantime, there is Beyond Blood – the book before. If you haven’t read it yet, click on the book cover below to find out how.

 

The second beyond book.

 

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Getting your novel ending right

The second beyond book.

Five rewrites later for the publisher I finally got it right. Sure lots of changes and improvements throughout Beyond Faith. But the one giving me the devil of a time was the ending. No matter how many rewrites of that, the editor at the publisher came back with what basically amounted to that it wasn’t quite right. And he did make suggestions which I did not ignore.

In retrospect I was probably being too flippant in part and it wasn’t getting serious enough, wasn’t making sense. In the end, my change must have been inspired by something he emailed. Or maybe that he said he could rewrite the last page. And the time ticking. So, I said I wanted one more crack at it and he agreed.

So, I suppose I got really into what the ending was all about and just wrote. When finished (including some rewording here and there before it went back to the publisher) I discovered something I wasn’t even thinking about in the main part of my brain. But my subconscious must have been tuned in, because there it was.

The ending actually tied back to the beginning.

And it made sense. It also provides, shall we say (no spoilers wanted), an opening for the next Beyond book. In fact, there are a few things happening in the latter part of Beyond Faith that could be carried forward into the next Beyond book, story lines that could be developed further and used in the complex mix of plots and characters I use in my stories.

So, why hadn’t I thought of that tie-in to Chapter One  before?

Many reasons. Perhaps the rush to finish the rewrite to meet a deadline (as it turned out, several deadlines). Perhaps because I had client work to do as well (no offence to the clients. I try to balance client work with the novel-writing and all the PR work for it involved.) If it were just Beyond Faith and client work to balance, I could manage.

I think I have to put a big share of the blame on much of the other stuff in my life, such as income tax filing and the CRA messing up despite me filing on time, health issues (that one will eat up your life no matter what. Guaranteed.), house and property problems, etc. Perhaps one of the biggies is others expecting me to do this and that for them and well, just bugging me to do so. Now, I’m reining back, even being slow to return emails if it is something that can be dealt with later. Some things I’m dumping and some things I’m saying “no.” to. My new motto is to prioritize and to focus on what is important to me.

That includes my family, too and some property and financial stuff, and especially the garden. My garden is therapeutic.  So is my writing

What can we learn from my experiences above to get the right ending for your story?

Don’t rush it.

Better time management – ignore the unnecessary and/or not important at the time. If those demanding your time to do something for them balk, too bad.

So, prioritize.

Think of your story’s beginning. This works for novels, novellas and short stories. A long time ago I learned from a writing instructor that the ending has to tie in with the beginning somehow – perhaps a resolution. In today’s mystery series novels, which mimic TV series, there is often a cliff-hanger at the end. Don’t be afraid to use it. Linwood Barclay and Julia Spencer Fleming use that tactic very well. In fact, I’m currently reading the third (and I think final) in Linwood Barclay’s Promise Falls series. This third one The Twenty-three starts just days after the second one. I suggest you read some of their books as well.

And don’t be afraid to rewrite. That may include several endings to see what works best. This might be the time to get somebody (besides a biased family member) to read the beginning and ending and give you some feedback. I know it could have spoiler potential, but you do want to get it right, don’ you?

The cover of my previous Beyond book Beyond Blood is up at the top with links to amazon. And yes it’s ending ties in with something in Chapter one, and also has a hook into Beyond Faith.

The publisher now has his book designer designing a cover for Beyond Faith. When that’s done and I get a copy, I’ll be putting it at the top of these blog posts.

Meantime, starting next week, I’ll be writing some special blog posts, a sort of mini-Beyond series for the summer.

Keep writing and rewriting.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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Show not tell in fiction

The second beyond book.

How many times have you read (or written) a scene in a novel or short story that reads something like this?

John decided to tell Mary off and do it loudly.

“Mary, you are a disgrace to the club,” John yelled.

What’s wrong here?

It not only tells the reader what John is going to do,but then puts the same thing in dialogue.I call this overkill and is an insult to the reader’s intelligence. It is equivalent to hitting them on the head and slapping them in the face. Show, not tell the reader works better.

So, what can you do here? Delete the narrative where it tells what John plans to do and go right to the dialogue. Of course this is taken out of context (NOTE: not anything in particular – just off the top of my head  – before said head was hit, of course).

Besides the dialogue you can show John in action. Does he point a finger at Mary. Does he throw a book? Does his face contort into a red mass of fury? You can also show how John feels about doing this. Maybe he is scared to stand up to Mary as he may be on the shy side and Mary is a forceful person. So maybe his yelling and actions show this.

Having said all this, it is okay to have some narrative which can include telling your story, showing what characters are like and what your Point of View character feels and thinks.

Just don’t tell when you can show. And never do both around dialogue.. Readers don’t like being insulted.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

The next book in Sharon A. Crawford’s Beyond mystery series, Beyond Faith (published by Blue Denim Press will be out this fall 2017. Meantime, click on the Beyond book at the top of this post and get more info about Sharon and her Beyond books.

 

 

 

 

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The Credibility Factor in Fiction Writing

The second Beyond book.

We writers let our imaginations flow. We get creative and write outside the box. However, sometimes we go on tangents with our plots, and characters’ actions and dialogue, often resulting in going way off the credibility meter.  We don’t always see that, but our readers do.

And to make it more complicated – credibility can be relative. What is credible for fantasy may not be credible for mystery or romance – at least the plot. Character, no matter the genre, always need to be credible.

I’m not immune to this credibility tangent. Just ask my publisher. And read last week’s post here.

So, how do we get make sure our characters and plot are credible?

One thing I sometimes do is act out a scene. Can a character actually do this? No, I don’t jump off buildings – nothing extreme like that (I’m afraid of heights anyway.) But I do it to get the logistics of a character’s action. For example to see if a character could actually see something from a certain window? Or what it is like walking in heavy rain. Yes, you can use your imagination, but I bet you’ll forget some detail. So get out there and experience your scene. Hook yourself up to your cell phone  so if you have to talk like your character, you don’t risk strange looks from others you pass. If you are using present time and present location and not making any of that up, it might be a good idea to get the lay of the land as it is now for streets and crossings. You don’t want your characters crossing a street called Main Street today that last week was renamed to Markham Avenue.

Use a credibility meter for characters to decide on action or dialogue. (And remember, this might be done in a rewrite). Ask yourself how your character  would act or react- based on their traits, based on their background, based on their psyche, based on what has happened with and to them before in your novel. Would a timid character suddenly start arguing with someone who is clearly trying to get her goat? But remember, part of a novel’s premise is things change and that includes the characters. So if something happens to your character to bring about a change, maybe that character will finally tell that other character off. Don’t make it easy for him or her. It would be a struggle.

It also is a good idea to have your writing critiqued by a writing critique group – online and/or in person.

Remember, writers can have tunnel vision about their work. But other writers will look at it fresh and from other viewpoints.

That is taking your writing out of the box in another way.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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Let it rain – between your book covers

I hate heavy rain, especially large amounts, especially mixed with strong winds. Which we are getting today in Toronto,Canada. So, what am I doing about it? Besides staying in and checking the basement for any water getting in?

I put the rain in my third Beyond mystery book. Not the rain coming down right now. In one scene I have my main character, PI Dana Bowman, walking through a rain – heavy with blowing winds. Unlike me, Dana drives, but she has been somewhere near home so left the car in the driveway before the rain started. Now she is walking home, but the rain and what it brings – including the kickstart to the novel’s story- begin happening as she struggles through the rain.

In a nutshell, I took a re-occurring scenario in my life, a scenario I don’t like – and fictionalized it.

You can do that, too, but there are caveats.

  1. If your story occurs in another time – an that means not today – make sure you are accurate in presenting your story.. My novel takes place in late fall 1999 in a fictional town called Thurston, Ontario. Thurston is loosely based on Aurora and Newmarket in York Region, Aurora is where I lived for 23 years – although I got out of Dodge in 1998. Rain storms today are not the rain storms of 1999. In Canada and the United States we get way too many and in some cases they are of possible flood proportions. The winds now are stronger and more frequent. So I researched Environment Canada’s historical weather information for the lower half of York Region in  November 1999, right down to the day.
  2. You may think your memory of your situation is clear in your mind to the point where you are right there, but it might be a good idea to list its components – with the rain again – were there many puddles?   Did the wind turn your umbrella inside out? Was it daylight, dusk or night? What exactly from this scene do you want to use – its essence or something specific?
  3. Remember, the scene must have something to do with you story’s plot. Don’t just put in heavy rainstorms because you like or hate them and find them cool. Maybe your main character is chasing someone in the rain. Does he or she slip or fall? What is going on around her? I work in the cars splashing by and what Main Street, Thurston is like during a rain storm. But it is all part of the plot.
  4. When you get down to actually writing that scene in your story, keep writing and don’t stop. Hopefully you’ve done any research and have some idea how you want to morph it into part of your story. When you go through it to rewrite, you can check to see if it makes sense, if it is part of the plot.
  5. Make sure it doesn’t go off into a long expository tangent.Just work in some information with your plot.For example with the rain in my novel, I show the reader how heavy the rain is by how it affects Dana struggling to walk along Main Street and also the others she meets, including … well, that would be giving some of the plot away,

And don’t forget to enjoy, to get lost in the creativity of the writing. It can help get your mind off current problems – even if they include heavy rain. Speaking of which, it is time to check the basement again. And oh yeah, it was also our garbage pickup day today, so while we had a lull in the rain earlier, but not the heavy wind, I was continually running outside to right bins – mine and a few friends across the street. And of course, today was the day the city decided our street should have the new supposedly racoon-proof green bins for wet waste delivered. They may be racoon proof, but not extreme-weather proof. The bins were flying all over the place and mine came minus the scoop and instructions. I did grab the instruction paper as the wind blew it down the street. A very wet sheet, now drying on a kitchen chair.

But that’s for another story, another day. Dana Bowman wasn’t dealing with garbage bins.

How do you work reality into your fiction?

And as usual, click on the Beyond book icon at the top to find out more about the first two Beyond books.

Cheers.

Sharon A.. Crawford

Dana Bowman, looking for her umbrella before braving the elements?

 

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