Category Archives: Plot anc Character Development

Interview with Fiction Characters by Fiction Characters – Part 39 link to Sharon A.'s short story collection link to Sharon A.’s short story collection

An artist is his own fault.

            – John O’Hara

The lights went out and the painting started vibrating in the Thurston Library board room just as PC Joseph Oliver was showing some information to Dana Bowman. Now, one minute later, the lights go back on and the painting is still. But there is a different character sitting at the board room table. All characters except Cory Swan are from short stories in Beyond the Tripping Point  by Sharon A. Crawford (Blue Denim Press, 2012)

Dana, looking around and almost jumping up at the woman sitting in the chair beside her. Susan Stuart? No, it can’t be. You’re dead. I mean…

Susan’s ghost: True, but I did mention that I do get around in spirit. Sometimes I can manifest myself to a few people.

Dana: And that’s why the lights went out – while you were er, manifesting?

PC Oliver: It’s gone.

Dana, turning to Oliver on her left: What’s gone? The paper you were showing me?

Oliver: Yes. I had it right in front of me.

Dana, glaring at Susan’s ghost: You took it. What did you do with it?

Susan: No, I didn’t.

Dana: Well, no one else was here.

Susan: Are you sure. The lights went out.

Dana: But that was you.

Susan: No. I don’t need lights turning out to manifest myself. Just people to believe I am real.

Oliver: Then who took the paper? Who was in here? I didn’t see anyone. Dana, did you?

Dana: No, but it was dark.

Susan: I might be able to answer that. I’m not the only spirit involved.

Dana: Right. So now we have multitudes of spirits running around and interfering.

Susan: No, just one other besides me.

Oliver: Who?

Susan: Can’t you guess? Who is also dead?

Dana: Roger Stuart?

Susan: Bingo.

Oliver: Okay, I’ll bite. What interest would Roger Stuart have in all this?

Susan: If you will remember, when Dad was still alive, just before he disappeared, he was involved in a sort of blackmail scheme with Cory Swan.

Dana: And I suppose you know what that all involves?

Oliver (interrupting): I think I do. The paper I was just going to show you was a document. It was a marriage certificate between Roger Stuart and his secretary.

Dana: But he was still married to Susan and Robbie’s mother.

Oliver: Yes, but the marriage certificate was issued in Mexico.

Dana: But it wouldn’t be valid in Canada? I mean with Roger still married to your mother. (Dana nods at Susan).

Oliver: No, not valid in Canada or the US for that matter.

Dana: How did they get it in Mexico?

Susan: By not giving any info about prior marriages.

Oliver: You could get away with that there.

Dana: So, Roger Stuart was a bigamist and he didn’t want his second marriage known.

Oliver: Or the fact that he had two so-called marriages with no divorce for the first one.

Susan: Exactly, to both. And Cory Swan wheedled this out of Dad and I believe threatened to tell all if Dad didn’t pay him. Which he did, for awhile, until he decided to disappear with the wicked secretary of the well, south.

Dana: And you know this how?

Susan: I just do.

Dana: You’ve connected with your father’s spirit.

Susan: Oh, all right. I’ve been talking to Dad.

Oliver: If this is so, then it has to be his spirit that took the document.

Susan: Actually not. Dad can’t get around like me. He’s stuck in our old house. I have to go to him.

Dana and Oliver: Then it was you. You lied.

Susan: Yup. A girl has to protect herself.

Susan then disappears.

Dana: What was that all about? She’s obviously got her own hidden agenda? Now we don’t have that document.

Oliver: Yes we do. There’s an electronic copy on the police computer and a photocopy at police headquarters. But I better call Fielding to let him know that Susan is not to be trusted.

Dana’s cell phone rings. She picks it up.

Dana: Yes.

Voice on the phone: Dana, it’s Bast. I’m okay. But we need to talk. You and a few others are in danger.


Sharon A. Crawford

You can read more about the characters and their stories in from Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012). Click on the book at the top and it takes you to Sharon A. Crawford’s profile – including book reviews – at The book is available there in print and Kindle. For Kobo e-book  go to or go to any bricks and mortar store and order in a print copy. Spread the word.

Also see more of See Sharon A.’s Upcoming Gigs, workshops, guest blog posts, etc. at


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Interview with Fiction Characters by Fiction Characters – Part 38 link to Sharon A.'s short story collection link to Sharon A.’s short story collection

I never plot out my novels in terms of the tone of the book .Hopefull,y once a story is begun it reveals itself.

          Alice Hoffman

In last week’s post, the woman in the abstract painting was finally revealed as the spirit of the artist, Susan Stuart. Susan says she didn’t kidnap Bast Overture but pulled him into her realm to protect him from Cory Swan the photographer. Bast, however, managed to return to earth and was then kidnapped by Swan. Now he is missing again and Detective Sergeant Fielding and Detective Larry Hutchinson (along with Susan’s spirit) are off to Thurston to find Bast. Dana stays behind with a police constable awaiting Susan’s return with news. Except for Cory Swan, all characters are from stories in Beyond the Tripping Point by Sharon A. Crawford (Blue Denim Press, 2012)

Dana, staring at Constable Joseph Oliver: How did you, head of Records Bureau, wangle coming here? I was expecting a newbie.

Oliver: I convinced Fielding I would be the best choice as I am shall we say close to you and Bast professionally.

Dana: You mean you are our police source.

Oliver chuckles: Glad you can keep your sense of humour.

Dana nods: Yes, well in that vein I would like some more information about my brother’s kidnapping and in particular, why Cory Swan is so upset about that photo of Bast, Susan and Robbie Stuart.

Oliver: You know as much as I do.

Dana: Come on, Oliver.

Oliver shrugs his shoulders: Very well. Swan has a checkered background.

Dana: In what way?

Oliver: He was well connected to the Stuart family.

Dana: What do you mean? Beyond photographing Robbie and Susan for Bast’s story.

Oliver: No, before then…with their father.

Dana: Roger Stuart? The one who disappeared with his secretary years ago?

Oliver: Yes. I shouldn’t be telling you this. But Swan took some photos of Roger and his secretary…

Dana: Yes, but Roger is dead and the secretary is…

Oliver: I know. But for some reason Roger was taken with Swan – it wasn’t only his photography that connected him to people. He was also able to get people to talk about themselves and listen as if it was the most important thing in the world. We think that Swan found out about Roger Stuart ’s impending disappearance with his secretary and Roger paid him some money before he vanished.

Dana: You mean blackmail money?

Oliver shrugs his shoulders. Perhaps.

Dana: All right, say it was blackmail. How does my brother fit in with this? Roger Stuart disappeared before Bast became a crime reporter.

Oliver: We think that Bast uncovered this part of the story and confronted Swan with it – probably outside the interview with Robbie and Susan.

Dana: So, did he include it in his story? Where is that story anyway? Fielding, Hutchinson and I only found the photograph. We don’t know where it was published so can’t check the newspaper morgues.

Oliver shrugs his shoulders.

Dana: Oh, I get it. You did find the story. Come on Oliver, give it up. What did the story say?

Oliver: There was no mention of the connection between Roger Stuart and Cory Swan in the story.

Dana: So, what got Swan riled? Bast isn’t a reporter anymore.

Oliver: This. (Oliver hauls out a piece of paper from his folder.)

Dana leans over to look. The abstract painting starts vibrating and there is loud pounding on the door. The lights go out.


Sharon A. Crawford


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Interview with Fiction Character by Fiction Characters – Part 37

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

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

In order to have a plot, you have to have a conflict, something bad has to happen.

          Mike Judge

In last week’s post, Dana, Fielding, and Hutchinson were interviewing Robin Stuart, brother of the murdered Susan Stuart. Stuart, the artist who painted the abstract in the Thurston Public Library boardroom was murdered in the story “Missing in Action” in Beyond the Tripping Point by Sharon A. Crawford (Blue Denim Press, Oct. 2012).  Detective Hutchinson arrested her murderer in that story. But now, Susan seems to be “popping up.” Last week Stuart’s picture started vibrating again. This week… read on.

The abstract stops vibrating and a woman’s head appears in the painting. She continues wailing.

Dana covering her ears: Shut up.

Hutchinson, wide-eyed and pale: Susan Stuart? You are dead.

The waiting stops and the woman’s lips switch to a soft feminine voice.

Woman in the picture: My body is dead, but not my soul.

Dana: What have you done with my brother?

Fielding, glaring at Dana: Dana. Let Hutchinson and I ask the questions.

Woman: It’s okay. She has a perfect right to ask. I did not kidnap her brother but shall we say, I extracted him temporarily from this life to protect him. But I wasn’t strong enough and he returned to Thurston and was then kidnapped.

Fielding: Who kidnapped him?

Woman: I thought you had already figured that out.

Hutchinson: Cory Swan?

Woman: Yes. While Sebastian was with me I told him that his story about me and my art was coming back to haunt him (She chuckles a bit) and I was trying to protect him from Cory Swan…

Dana: How did you know all this?

Woman: You mean how would a dead person know this? Well, our spirits can travel freely throughout the universe. And I’ve been keeping tabs on my paintings, where they are exhibited. While doing this I saw Cory Swan had an unusual interest in this painting here. He has made several trips to this room to look at it.

Fielding: We checked with the library’s listing of who used this room and he wasn’t listed.

Woman: He probably snuck in with a group meeting here.

Dana: She’s probably right. Various community groups meet here. Perhaps one was a photographer’s group.

Fielding, pulling out a printed list: Hmm. No photography list here, but the historical society, a ratepayers’ group, a quilting group, and Ms Dana Bowman.

Dana: Well, he certainly didn’t come in when I was here.

Fielding: You haven’t specifically answered why you took an interest in Bast and how did you know he was in danger?

Woman: It was that photo Cory Swan took of my brother, your brother Dana, and me that tipped me off. Like I said, we spirits get around, and I saw Swan packing up his Thurston office. He pulled out a photo – the one I just mentioned – and kept staring at it. He was muttering under his breath something about “that crime reporter, he knows something about her and he’s going to tell me.” At first I was just curious but when I saw him try to break into the Attic Agency and follow Bast around, I knew something bad was up. So because of what happened to me and how Robbie felt afterwards, I decided to try to save Bast. And the only way I knew how was to bring him temporarily into my world. And try to get a message to all of you. But all I could do was play around with my painting. Your son, Dana, caught on that I was here. Children are more receptive and with his situation, he was more so.

Dana: Did it never occur to you that dragging David into this could hurt him?

Woman: I was only trying to help.

Fielding: If what you say is true, why didn’t you try to communicate with us outside this room?

Woman: My spirit powers are limited. While I can move around anywhere, I can’t connect to any of the living except through something of me that remains behind – my painting.

Dana: So where is my brother now?

Woman: I don’t know. He managed to get himself out of my realm and back to earth. Like you, I only found the remains of his presence in Swan’s old Thurston office. But I did see Swan dump an envelope in your Aunt Doris’s mailbox.

Fielding: And the anonymous threatening phone call to Doris Bowman?

Woman: I knew nothing about that until you interviewed her here in this room.

Dana: What about Doris’s next door neighbour.

Woman: Just a nosey neighbour. I checked him out. Look, I’ve told you all I know.

Fielding: Well, I suggest you think harder about why Swan wanted Bast and took that photograph of the three of you while we check out Swan’s new office and residence in Barrie.

Woman: I’m coming with you…in spirit.

Dana: But you can’t communicate with us anywhere but here.

Fielding: That’s why you, Dana will remain here, along with a constable I will assign here.

Dana: But, I need to go to Barrie – it’s my brother; it’s…

Hutchinson: Better listen to Fielding. He and I will go. Keep your cell on and I hate to say this, your eyes on the painting. If…(he points to the face in the painting) she discovers something we don’t see, she can tell you and you can relay it back to us. Let’s go Fielding.

The two police detectives get up and leave. Dana is left staring at the face in the abstract.


Sharon A. Crawford

You can read more about the characters and their stories in from Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012). Click on the book at the top and it takes you to Sharon A. Crawford’s profile – including book reviews – at The book is available there in print and Kindle. For Kobo e-book  go to or go to any bricks and mortar store and order in a print copy. Spread the word.

Also see more of See Sharon A.’s Upcoming Gigs, workshops, guest blog posts, etc. at


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Interview of Fiction Character by Fiction Character – Part 17

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

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

Character gives us qualities, but it is in actions – what we do – that we are happy or the reverse….All human happiness and misery take the form of action.

– Aristotle

Today Bast Overture interviews C.U. Fly. After his previous interviews with Annie Everglades, Ratty, those two wacky sisters-in-law and their dog, Brutus, from “The Couch” by Sharon A. Crawford (Blue Denim Press, 2012)m Bast isn’t sure what to expect. There’s a knock on the door and two people enter. One in trousers and jacket is easy to identify as C.U. Fly.  The other, a middle-aged man going bald and to belly fat is not. However, from his proprietary arm around C.U.’s back, Bast has his own idea. The latter introduces himself as C.U.’s lawyer.

Lawyer: You can understand that at this point, C.U. can’t divulge all. So I will monitor the interview.

Bast: Fair enough. It is not my intention to give away the whole story to the readers. Please sit down.

The two sit down. Bast looks C.U. in the eye, causing the PI to look down.

Bast: Okay, let’s begin. C.U. – may I call you that?

C.U. Nods in the affirmative.

Bast: I’d like to go into your background a bit. I understand you were raised by a single mother. Do you know who your father is?

C.U. No…

Lawyer: What does that have to do with anything?

Bast: The readers would like to know more about C.U.’s background.

Lawyer: The story “The Couch” already gives a lot of that.

C.U. looks at the lawyer: It’s okay. I don’t mind talking about my background. As far as I know my mother was never married. She once told me that my father was someone she dated briefly in high school; they broke up; she found out she was pregnant with me, and he wouldn’t help. And that was that. She never mentioned his name. Fly is my mother’s maiden name.

Bast: Okay. Now, I gather you and your mother were close. How did this affect your adult years?

C.U.: Well, as you know from “The Couch” she used to confide in me and I seemed to be a good listener so I carried that into high school.

Bast: You decided to become a P.I. instead of a psychiatrist because of all the years of university for the latter. What did your mother have to say about that?

C.U. She was supportive. Remember we lived on a tight budget so no money for a long time at university. So I became a PI and opened my business.

Bast: And became rich and overwhelmed with too many clients, many who are shall we say somewhat “shady.” Didn’t this bother you?

Lawyer: You don’t have to answer that.

C.U. But I want to. Yes, it did bother me. So did the time I spent with work. I wanted some free time.

Bast: To spend with Annie Everglades? Tell me about that situation.

C.U. Nothing much to tell. I fell in love with her.

Bast: And she didn’t reciprocate?

C.U. Not at first. But I was sure she would once I got rid of some of these clients.

Bast: Got rid of. That’s an interesting way of putting it when you nearly…

Lawyer: Don’t answer that. (He stands up.) This interview is concluded. Come on C.U. We have a meeting in an hour.

C.U. stands up and looks at Bast as if wanting to say more, but doesn’t.

Lawyer and C.U. exit the office. Bast turns off his recorder. He is glad he at least recorded the interview.

You can read more about  C.U. Fly, Annie Everglades, Honor Rita, Amelia, Brutus II and of course the couch, in Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012). Click on the book at the top and it takes you to my profile – including book reviews – at The book is available there in print and Kindle. For Kobo e-book  go to or go to any bricks and mortar store and order in a print copy.

Sharon A. Crawford continues to take Beyond the Tripping Point to several readings this month. For October’s events go to


Sharon A. Crawford


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How and Where to fit Back Story into Your Fiction

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

Everyone has a story to tell, including the characters in your novel and short story. Back story is part and parcel of who the characters are. Many authors have trouble fitting the back story into their fiction.

Where should it go? How much? All at once like a bio? Start the story off with the bio? Introduce each new point-of view character with his or her bio? Work in little chunks where appropriate throughout the story? Skip it as back story per se and just filter in references to it as the story unfolds.

Think about what you have read in back story in published novels and short stories. For obvious reasons, short stories will have less, even when appearing in chunks. But in novels, how did you react when the author started the novel with the back story or started each scene featuring a new POV character with a chunk of their past, especially if it went on for pages. As my late creative writing instructor, Paul Nowak would write on my manuscript – “so what?”

Sure we need to know some of the characters’ histories. But it should reflect what is happening in the story and why the characters are doing what they are doing. Going on back story tangents can lose the reader.

However, the other main way (which I use) – working in little chunks where appropriate can also lose the reader, especially if a lot of action is happening. But it can be done. Here’s the beginning excerpt from “For the Love of Wills” where I actually filtered in some background.

“Clara, I’m going to fall.”

“Pipe down, Mother. Do you want them to hear us?”

“I can’t move. I’m stuck. See.” She tried tapping her toes against the stone rock wall, but to no avail.

“Well, whose idea was this anyway?” I whispered.


“Mine?  Now, listen here….”

“Shush. Do you want Will and that blonde Bimbo to hear us?”

That blonde Bimbo is what got Heidi Anastasia Clarke started. Bad enough that on her 62nd birthday, her husband of 40 years, William Everett Clarke, decided to toss her out of their old-money mansion in Toronto’s Rosedale. All this for a post-mid-life crisis which brought his oh-so-much younger secretary in and sent my mother packing.

“And they’re not even married,” Mother had said.

How could that be? Mother didn’t want a divorce. Although I didn’t condone Dad’s actions, I’m a realist. What happens, happens, and I believe in making the best of it and moving on. Mother, however, has to grab the situation and yank it for all it’s worth. Bleeding her husband half dry in a divorce didn’t appeal.

“You’ll get a lump sum, half his pension and half the house,” I had said.

“I can’t live in half a house with them living in the other. No, Clara I’ve got a better idea. We’ve got to see his will.”

“His will? What the hell for?”

“I need to see that he’s still leaving me everything and hasn’t changed it to the Bimbo.”

“Wouldn’t it be simpler to just ask William, Jr.? He is the family lawyer?”

She’d smirked and muttered something about keeping her ideas close to her mind.

“Fine. How do you propose we see this will? Do you know where or even if Dad keeps it in the house?”

“Of course he does. A copy, at least. Why else do you think he kicked me out and changed the locks?”

I hadn’t reminded her about the secretary moving in but suggested I visit Dad and ask him, which sent her into a hissy-fit.

“And let him know what I’m up to? No. I have a better idea.” She’d brought her tantrum to a full stop and curled her thin lips into a misshapen smile. Oh, oh. She had mixed trouble into her stew.


That was how we arrived here, as dusk turned to dark, scaling up the back wall of the three-storey family mansion, harnessed into a rope, anchored at various protrusions along the way: metal awnings, window ledges, open window shutters, and the irregular jutting stone wall. Now, on our last leg, I managed to throw our anchor up, hooking it to the top balcony railing. Heidi had insisted it was the only way in without being noticed. (Excerpted from Beyond the Tripping Point, Blue Denim Press, 2012, Copyright Sharon A. Crawford 2012)

If you analyze the above excerpt you will see that it covers not only some of the mother’s and Clara’s background, but also some events in the immediate past leading up to now.  The big priority is to begin the story with NOW and work your way back. Only use what is relevant to your story. Here it includes the mother’s age, marriage background (but only what is necessary), the relationship between mother and daughter. Everything is from one person’s – the daughter’s – point of view. Watch that you don’t end up writing the big tell. Show the reader by using dialogue and the character’s reactions to each other’s dialogue and behaviour.

Flashback is another way – if handled well. Next week we’ll go into using flashback techniques to work in your back story.

Meantime, you can hear and see me read an excerpt from another story – “The Body in the Trunk” from Beyond the Tripping Point at  Click on “Sharon A. Crawford Reading”

And check out my website for upcoming Beyond the Tripping Point readings in person at


Sharon A. Crawford


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Making your characters speak – Part 2

Often I’ll find clues to where the story might go by figuring out where the characters would rather not go.

– Doug Lawson

In my short story, “No Breaks,” Millie and her friend Jessica are driving up to a cottage when the main brakes fail. The following excerpt shows Millie going where she would rather not go but her only other choice is a possible collision.

This calls for controlled action, Millie decides. She steers the car over to the shoulder of the road, hits the parking brake, and when the vehicle slides into a stop, switches on the car’s double blinkers. The shakiness sweeps through her body. Her fingers smash against her open purse, knocking out most of its contents.

“Shit,” she says.

“Millie,” Jessica replies. But it is only a half-hearted reprimand. Jessica is bent almost into a ball ready to roll onto the floor. But she’s still hanging onto The Berry. Mille can see it peeking out from her right hand.

“You okay, pal?” Millie asks. “Hey, come on, we’re going to make it…”

(Excerpted from Beyond the Tripping Point, copyright 2012 Sharon A. Crawford. Book available fall 2012 from Blue Denim Press).

As you can see from the above passage, readers find out about your characters from what they say, what they do, what they think and what other characters say about them. What they do ties in with Doug Lawson’s quote above. And it is better to show what your characters are doing instead of telling the reader. That can be incorporated with the other three criteria.

Let’s look at what characters say and how their dialogue shows them to the reader. In the above conversation between Jessica and Millie, we can see that Millie is irreverent, speaks first and thinks later, has a short fuse, is probably scared and is definitely not pleased at the situation she finds them in. When Millie really looks at her friend, she realizes how scared she is and tries to reassure her.

We can also see from Jessica’s actions that she is scared. She is bent over double but she’s still hanging onto her BlackBerry (nicknamed The Berry by Millie, which also shows something about Millie – that comes earlier in the story – Millie is not a fan of current technology).

Both women are scared, but they each react differently.

Let’s look at another excerpt from further along in the same story. Millie and Jessica have finally found a gas station with a bay. While waiting their turn to get the brakes fixed, they go for a sundae at the attached fast food place.

“Want a sundae, pal?”she asks Jessica.

“All right. But no whipped cream.”

Jessica develops stubbornness to a fine art when the pasty-faced counter girl oozes whipped cream on top of her vanilla sundae.

“Remove the whipped cream,” Jessica says.

“But it comes with the order,” the girl replies.

“Then take it off.”

“I can’t. It’s already on.”

“Oh, here,” Millie says. “Give me that sundae, and the other one you make you just hold the whipped cream. Get it?”

“But you wanted chocolate.”

“So? Here, let me.” Millie grabs the spoon, removes the whipped cream, places it on a napkin and pushes the sundae towards the girl. “Okay, now you can bring the chocolate. And I want the whipped cream.” (Excerpted from Beyond the Tripping Point, copyright 2012 Sharon A. Crawford. Book available fall 2012 from Blue Denim Press).

Here we have a problem with a food order where the server messes up. Instead of telling the reader what happens, the dialogue and the characters’ actions show the reader. We learn that Jessica isn’t just the scaredy-cat we might have thought and we also see that she is particular about her food. It is also her way of gaining some control in the bad situation of the main plot. The server is shown as someone who won’t accept responsibility for her mistakes. Millie again shows she is impatient and has to take some action so she butts in. We can visualize this scenario and relate to it because we’ve all had bad restaurant service at some time and maybe we didn’t have the nerve to do more about it than complain to our dinner companion. So, here we are connecting to the reader emotionally as well in an “aha” way.

The other points to remember about creating dialogue (besides showing the reader the characters) are:

  1. Dialogue must be relevant to the story, not just the characters, and move the plot along. The first dialogue excerpt above does this.
  2. Dialogue must be relevant to the characters. We’ve looked at what the characters are like from their dialogue but you wouldn’t have characters speak out of well, character. For example, an uneducated young man would probably say “ain’t” but wouldn’t speak like a university professor or vice-versa. However, remember, characters can change as the story progresses and they have to learn how to deal with their situation. That won’t make the uneducated young man suddenly talk posh – unless he goes through a Professor Henry Higging remake as in the play and movie, My Fair Lady.
  3. You can also work a character’s looks into dialogue. In “No Breaks,” at one point Jessica says that Millie has a nice heart-shaped face.
  4. Incorporate the character’s emotions into what she says rather than telling the reader. In the second excerpt above, it is clear that Millie is riled by their brake situation and so uses the sundae episode to try to take control…of something.
  5. Remember, the reader should be able to hear your characters speak.

Show not tell


Sharon A. Crawford


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