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Category Archives: Plot and Characters

Getting story ideas from your neighborhood

The latest Beyond mystery. Click on it for more info

In the last post I talked about getting story ideas from your garden. But here’s another story source – your neighborhood. Maybe the house down the street is a marijuana grow -op ( there was one kitty-corner across the street from me a few years ago. Unfortunately I was out when the police raid went down.). Maybe there are always loud arguments from the house next door. Maybe…

Well, never the maybes here. This morning a couple of legal surveyors knocked on my door to let  me know that they would be doing a survey of the next door neighbor’s house – on the other side of my driveway – just to let me know they were there and what they were doing. The wouldn’t tell me why, said they don’t know and aren’t told. Yeah, right. When I found them on my verandah taking pictures of my property i called them on it and they said they need to get the properties next door for boundaries as the underground metal stakes weren’t found.

Oh! Oh!  Even though they said they were probably removed (these houses go back to 1949 and 1950), it got me thinking – what if the underground metal stakes are under my driveway? What if they have to dig up that part of my driveway. What if somewhere the property line is wrong and part of my property is really theirs? And what are they going to do? Build a fence around their property? Sell their house? Or add an addition? Because they have three kids and they are all getting older, and the boy’s room is tiny, I’m guessing it’s an upper addition. Except for selling their house, most larger renovations including fences, require a permit and before that a property survey. If they are building an addition, does the city give  notice to  us living near in case I want to object? I don’t know about Toronto, but when I lived in Aurora, they did when the neighbors wanted to do so. because it would invade our privacy (on higher ground than our house), my then ex-husband and I formally objected. They couldn’t build an addition, so they build a swimming pool and held noisy parties late into the night. Some of us called the police.

You can see where this real life occurrence can give you story ideas? What if the surveyors were actually casing the joint to do a robbery? What if they are actually who they say they are and the boundaries are wrong. What about the change starting a neighbors’ feud – which could lead to murder? What if…?

What is going on in your neighborhood? Does your neighborhood have a neighborhood gossip? Most do. Ours does and I’m going to talk to her, although I suspect in this case I know more. Stay tuned to what is happening in your neighborhood and your neighbors. You may just get an idea for your next story. Just don’t forget to fictionalize it – use the real situation as a kick-off point for your story and create if from there.

And for those in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada area, I’m one of several authors reading at an event for the alumni of workshops and/or courses taught by well know southern Ontario writing instructor and editor Brian Henry this Sunday afternoon. Specifics are:

Author Readings at The Wallace Gastropub

Sunday, June 10, 2018

12 noon – 4 p.m.

Location:

The Wallace Gastropub

1954 Yonge St, Toronto (Just north of Davisville)

Sharon A. Crawford reads from Beyond Faith as she joins other alumni of Brian Henry’s writing classes to showcase their writing creations. More info here.

Cheers.

Sharon A, Crawford’

Author of the Beyond mystery series

 

 

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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.

Cheers.

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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Plan some novel writing time during holidays

Sharon’s latest Beyond mystery.

When you are overstuffed with turkey and Christmas cake; when you have had it with family cheer; when you are…well…bored with all the Christmas songs, sales, and noises, just write.

Shut yourself in your room, the rec room, your office – somewhere away from everybody, and start writing that short story, that novella, that novel, that personal essay, that memoir, that poem, that play, that… Well, you get the idea.

And speaking of ideas, maybe you have a story idea – plot or characters or both running around in your head, but you just haven’t had the time to do anything with it because you have been buried in Christmas paraphernalia. Once the hoopla of Christmas is over with and before you get into New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, and all those new resolutions, get a head start.

That last paragraph describes me. Instead of visions of sugarplums dancing through my head, the next Beyond mystery novel is swirling around. I have an idea for a plot premise and new characters (and old ones, too  this is a series, after all). Each time I think of it, more ideas run through my mind. However, unlike my other Beyond books, I can’t seem to come up with a beginning – what to start with and where to start it. Considering the ending for Beyond Faith (and you’ll  have to read it to find out. No spoilers here), it is no wonder this is happening.

So, I’m going to get at it between Christmas and New Year’s. Not even going to wait for Boxing Day to pass. I hate crowds so don’t do Boxing Day (or week) Sales. And while I’ll get some things online, clothes aren’t part of that. I have to try things on first. So during that time I will  start by getting some of these ideas in a Word file and maybe even do a rough outline. Maybe even get at least an idea of the beginning. I know some of the remnants from Beyond Faith will require some research, so I might also do that.

Sounds ambitious? I’ll let you in on something.

Starting tomorrow, December 19, I’m taking two weeks holidays (staycation or is that stayvacation?) but the first few days will be spent finishing Christmas shopping, wrapping presents, and spending Christmas Day with my son and his girlfriend. I am also hoping to get together with a few friends outside of Christmas Day.

What I am not planning to do is working on client projects, volunteer work, and answering any related email. Strong emphasis on the latter. My days seem to include too much time replying to email that is not from friends and family. And one of my new year’s resolutions will be to have set times to do emails and if they don’t get done that day, they sit in the pending file. I mean, even my client work time was suffering because of dealing with emails.

Just as long as the email accounts are working – there has been a bit of some accounts not working in the past month.

I’ll let you know January 4, 2018 how it went, because this is my last author post here for 2017. I am still posting to my personal blog next week and the next – because that’s personal. In case you are interested in reading those posts, here is the link. Not too much about writing, except memoir writing, goes in there, but…. I will still post to Facebook (my main account) and my author Facebook page, and Goodreads. I better post to Goodreads. I am still updating the list of books I have read this year and doing book reviews for some of them. Finally got off to a good start a couple of weeks ago and then got side-lined by…you guessed it…email. Well, also shovelling snow.

Meantime, have a happy and health holiday. And write.

Oh, yes, if you click on the Beyond Faith book above, it will take you to one of the online places where it is available. There is a New Year’s Eve scene in it and PI Dana Bowman, the main character, isn’t spending that time making new year’s resolutions.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

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When in doubt kill the character off?

 

Dana Bowman from the Beyond mystery series. Still alive.

In last week’s fall finale of The Blacklist, Tom, one of the major characters was killed off in a very brutal way. Those following the British series Inspector Banks were jolted in one episode where a major character DI Annie Cabbot was killed. Blue Bloods killed (off screen/between seasons) a minor, but important to the series character, Linda, Detective Danny Reagan’s wife.

Near the end of last season, NCIS Los Angeles killed off Michelle, the wife of NCIS Agent Sam. Michelle’s roll wasn’t even as a regular, but as a recurring guest. But in a twist, the actor who played Grainger – Miguel Ferrier – a regular –  died in real life. Instead of following suit, the writers and producers had Grainger quit NCIS and go off to some faraway place.

 

 

Perhaps the weirdest one is the actor who played the original Morse on the old Inspector Morse series. Yes, the producers had Morse die of a heart attack when they were killing the series. But not long after the segment aired, John Thaw, the actor who played Morse died  also, but from throat cancer.

Lately, TV series seem to be in a killing mood. Want to delete a character from the series. Kill him. Actors playing the characters want more money than the new contract will offer. Kill off their characters.

So what does this have to do with fiction characters in novels? Maybe something as some of those series originated from books.

To me, killing off a character just to get them out of the TV series, out of the novel series, or even just out of a novel is a poor way to do it.  If you are going to kill a character there must be a reason within the story itself, something with the character and his other relationship with another character or characters.  Even in murder mysteries, characters are bumped off for some reason – maybe they were going to reveal something bad about the murderer, maybe they stood in the way for the murderer to inherit money, maybe revenge and yes even the so-called random killing spree where the killer kills for no apparent reason. there is always some reason even if just in the killer’s mind.

If a character in your novel dies from natural causes,  it has to be worked into the plot. Let’s look at a scenario from Beyond Faith, my latest Beyond mystery. There are two brothers – Gerrard Olsen and Larry Olsen. Near the beginning one of them gets killed. Without giving any spoilers, I had to think which brother and why and of course, who killed the brother and what led up to the killer doing so. That doesn’t come out right at the beginning, but PI Dana Bowman and her fraternal twin brother PI Bast Overture, and Det. Sgt. Fielding are trying to find out. Like most of my mystery novels and short stories, it is not straightforward. It all rises from the characters – who they are – what they have gone through and are going through in life and would they cross that line to kill? That latter is very important for an author to consider. Some characters are such bad assess in what they do that killing is believable. Other bad ass characters commit a lot of crime and/or are mean and ill-treat the people in their lives, but draw the line at killing them. Then there is the so-called good character who is pushed beyond his limits to the point where they kill.

Iit really all boils down to the character and the plot – and the two go hand in hand and drive each other. If you want one of your novel’s major characters to exit the novel, killing them may not be the only answer. That often comes across as lazy writing. Tthat can happen in mystery novels too, although when you get to the end and the good guy confronts the bad guy (or gal – guys don’t have the monopoly on being bad asses), the author has to “get rid” of the bad guy, but shooting her dead is not always the best way. The author has to consider who the good guy/gal is and how she would deal with it. Would she arrest the bad one? Or shoot him? Torture him? Push him into the lake and let him either swim or drown? Having said that, sometimes the good guy (or gal) isn’t the trigger-happy person, but is forced into a situation where it is ether the bad guy’s life or his. Then he might have to shoot – but not always to kill. Be creative. Many authors are. They have killers disappear during one novel only to return in a later novel. Chances are with this type of scenario, the novel’s protagonist probably has had some kind of a relationship with the baddie – so he will have to deal with the before and after. Unless you are a sociopath, you will be scarred  by the death of someone close to you. You will have to grieve.

Back to Inspector Banks and the killing of Annie. That does not happen in the books by Peter Robinson the British series is based on. And to me that is a disrespect for the original author. True, TV series don’t follow the novels they come from and often go off the novel’s track, often for a good reason. They can’t get all the novel contents in a movie or limited TV program. And series have to expand beyond the novel’s plot.

Killing a character on TV or in a novel shouldn’t be done just to eliminate him. There has to be a reason – beyond the character just being bad or leaving the TV series. Haven’t these producers heard of just getting another actor to play the part? It was done years ago with the comedy series Bewitched when the actor playing the husband died. And it was done recently with the British series Jack Taylor. A different actress now plays the part of Kate. Both work.

What are your thoughts and ideas on killing off characters in books and TV. Do you kill of any of your fiction characters? Why or why not?

Comments, please.

Cheers.

Sharon.

Sharon’s latest Beyond mystery links to Amazon

 

 

 

 

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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 Faith rewrite done, now what?

Dana Bowman preparing for her next appearance later in June

Last week I finally completed the last rewrite of Beyond Faith for the publisher. I say “final” as there will still be one more when it is partway through production to check it over for minor things – such as the odd spelling or punctuation mistakes. No big changes are supposed to occur as at this stage, changes will now cost the publisher money.

So, what’s next? Promoting Beyond Faith. of course. The publisher has already started that and so have I. I will be a guest reader at the book launch of literary fiction author Shane Joseph at the Toronto book launch of his new short story collection Crossing Limbo, Saturday, July 8.  3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Supermarket Restaurant and Bar in Toronto. I will read a short excerpt from Beyond Faith – using the manuscript 8 1/2 by 11 1/2 sheets and maybe pump up the font size for my bad eyes – well the left eye. (If I don’t continue to use the various prescription eye drops I go blind in the left eye. All these health issues – beyond eyes – are interfering with my life – writing and otherwise. One of the others is dental and the editor at my publisher’s joked that the next Beyond book should be title Beyond Teeth).

So with all this medical crap going on with me, I decided to do some transference in Beyond Faith. Without going into details, I will just say that one of the main twin PIs, Dana Bowman, has her own medical issue crop up that she has to deal with and that influences how she operates to sort out all the criminal issues going on and who is responsible.

And that is the way I liked to do it – i.e., I write complicated plots with plenty going on and lots of twists. And I might do some hinting at that in future blog posts. For now, I’ll just say that Dana’s medical problem has nothing to do with eyes or teeth. And leave it at that.

Meantime, Dana and her comedy skit partner, the aforementioned Shane Joseph and several of his books’ charactes are preparing for another performance where fact is mixed with fiction. More on that in another post. For now here is a link to Shane’s blog post about Crossing Limbo.

As for Dana Bowman, she is staying between the book covers – for now.

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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