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Category Archives: Writing to solve real life problems

Writing fiction from anger

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford's mystery short story collection. Click on it for publisher's website

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

Do you get angry at the crap that happens in your life? Some stupid motorist running a red light nearly hitting you when you cross the street? You or a family member keep getting sick or suffer a serious injury? You get a lot of “junk” phone calls and/or emails? Some utility has messed up your bill? Your garbage isn’t being picked up but all your neighbours’ garbage is? And customer service for the latter two is rude and unhelpful. You get the picture. You feel a swirl of emotions and often anger is at the core. Maybe you even want to kill the person causing the problem – or making it worse.

Don’t do that.Instead  write about it. I don’t mean a play-by-play of your situation – but fictionalize it. One way to do this that can work very well is writing a noir satirical short story.

I do that all the time. Many of my stories in Beyond the Tripping Point are based on something bad that happened to me or someone else or something that really makes me see red, purple, and blue. Examples from BTTP include The Couch, For the Love of Wills, and No Breaks.

Currently I am writing a short story about something I have been (and still am) inundated with – telemarketers. Usually I ignore them or pick up the phone, get sarcastic and tell them off, then bang the phone down. But many of these telemarketing calls are also scams and are computer-generated, so you get a recording – which if you don’t pick up the phone will actually go to your voice mail.

So, I’m writing about telemarketers and two women’s revenge of one telemarketing company. But as I write mysteries, it is not that straight-forward. The characters are not me or anyone in particular in my life. However, I have used one tactic that I did in No Breaks – two female friends, but not the same two friends. And I make it humorous, quirky and yes sarcastic. Does the telemarketer get just desserts? I’m not telling – that will come out whenever the story gets published.

To get started on that you need to develop your quirky characters. One or both are victims of the problem and one is usually not so smart or sophisticated as the other. It works better to tell your story from the point of view of the victim who isn’t as savvy as the other one. And you need a villain or two – and if writing a mystery you need some red herring type of villains. Depending on your story you might need a police officer. In my telemarketing story I do have a police detective Larry Hutchinson, who made his first appearance in “For the Love of Wills” in Beyond the Tripping Point.

You also have to develop a plot – based on your characters and their situation.

As regular readers of this blog know from previous posts, I am a seat-of-your-pants plotter. I take my characters, my idea, figure out a few plot developments and then run with it. I let the characters (particularly the POV one) take over, along with what happened to me in real life – which is also in my mind.

I also keep focusing on how much fun I am having with the bad guys getting their come-uppance.

Of course, the plot isn’t that straightforward – like real life it gets messy and goes on tangents. But in the end if the baddies get their come-uppance, that is good. Because in real life that often doesn’t happen.

As an old boyfriend once said, “Life is not fair.”

That’s why we have fiction – to at least right some of these wrongs.

And as usual,if you click on the book cover at the top of this post, you can link to more info about it and Beyond Blood.

Cheers.

Sharon

 

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Why do writers write?

Sharon reads from her Beyond book series

Sharon reads from her Beyond book series

If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it.

 

  • Tennessee Williams

 

I was hit with this question and connected it to my crime fiction Beyond Blood and Beyond the Tripping Point.

The trigger was listening to best-selling author Linden MacIntyre being interviewed this morning by Mike Duncan on Classic 93.6 FM radio station. MacIntyre was talking about his new novel Punishment and its theme of vengeance versus justice. And he is also a former journalist, albeit a high profile broadcast journalist lately host of CBC’s investigative TV show The Fifth Estate. (More information on MacIntyre in this Toronto Star story http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/books/2014/11/21/linden_macintyre_on_community_vengeance_and_punishment.html

 

What is it about journalists turning to writing fiction, often crime fiction?

I’m beginning to think it is our sense of justice, justice not really being meted out today to those who commit crimes, especially heinous crimes. And as journalists we certainly see our share of that in the true stories we write, as well as in what we read in the newspapers and magazines, whether in print or online. (For the record – now that is a journalistic phrase – I read both print and online.)

With me, this sense of justice is something I have carried from my childhood. Blame it on my Catholic background. As an ex-Catholic I can no longer stand by some of those beliefs. Although I have to admit that my sense of justice comes more from the “eye for an eye” of the Old Testament.

That may be where the vengeance factor fits in.

In all my short stories in Beyond the Tripping Point, no one who commits a crime gets away with it. Not all the baddies get arrested but they get their just desserts. For example, in “Unfinished Business” a woman who was sexually assaulted as a child gets her chance to get back at the guilty party when he becomes a threat to her 12-year-old daughter.

Then there are the four-linked stories featuring the fraternal twin PIs Dana Bowman and Bast Overture. Here all the baddies do get arrested. Dana and Bast both have a great sense of justice. Bast was a former crime reporter so he’s seen a lot of bad things and talked to a lot of bad people. As a journalist he had to try to sit on the observation side. As a PI, especially in my new novel Beyond Blood, he can do more.

But it is Dana who drives this search for justice. Especially after her son David is kidnapped. Then it becomes more personal. Nothing like motherly love to motivate someone.

Maybe that has something to do with my sense of justice – at least adds fuel to the fire. My son is in his mid-thirties now and was never kidnapped but there have been instances over the years where I went to bat for him, even if just the normal growing-up incidents that happen.

Of course, there are other reasons why I write and why crime fiction. I’ll cover them in future blog posts.

For now, I would like to know

Why do you write?

Please comment.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

This Saturday, Nov. 29, 11 a.m. to  4 p.m. I will be selling copies of Beyond Blood and Beyond the Tripping Point at the Toronto Heliconian Club Fine Arts and Gift Sale, 35 Hazelton Ave. (Yorkville area), Toronto, Ontario, Canada. For more info about the Toronto Heliconian Club and this sale (open to the public), see http://heliconianclub.org/ Scroll down a bit – it is there.

For those not in the Toronto, Canada area, you can click on my book covers below – they will lead you to my publisher Blue Denim Press’s website. Scroll down and you can see where Beyond Blood is currently available, including at www.bluedenimpress.com.

And check my website www.samcraw.com – click on Beyond Blood. I constantly update my gigs on that site.

Cover of Beyond Blood by Sharon A. Crawford, published by Blue Denim Press. Click for link to purchase e-copies

Cover of Beyond Blood by Sharon A. Crawford, published by Blue Denim Press. Click for link to publisher’s website

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford's mystery short story collection. Click on it for publisher's website

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford’s mystery short story collection. Click on it for link to publisher’s website

 

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Writing fiction as a diversion from problems

Amazon.com link to Sharon A.'s short story collection

Amazon.com link to Sharon A.’s short story collection

Writing is a struggle against silence.

– Carlos Fuentes
Many writers freeze up when overloaded with problems or buried in deep depression. You don’t have to and I’m living proof.

When I was depressed for a number of years, writing was my main hold on life. The depression started as post-partum blues in the late 1970s and escalated to full-blown depression.

Disclaimer here: the psychiatrist diagnosed it as reactionary depression and some high anxiety. In other words outside events caused me to feel depressed. So, perhaps the type of depression had something to do with my ability to keep on writing. I also had a regular freelance writing gig, doing a weekly column and feature articles for one of the local newspapers. And I had a son to raise. Those were the two responsibilities that I focused on.

Not to say I didn’t fall off the wagon. But that’s another story.

I haven’t been depressed for years but I still have the high anxiety – a regular fallout from outside events. Instead of depression, I get angry. But anger makes me get going and accomplishing things. Including writing, particularly fiction.

So, how can you use your fiction writing as at least a distraction from your problems and/or your depression? Let me illustrate the ways.

1. Instead of writer’s block when you turn on your computer, write. Start by writing where the fear, where the anger is and where it leads you. This is called freefall writing. That will open up your creative juices to get to No. 2. Or you may be able to skip No. 1.

2. Start a new short story or novel chapter – or work on one already started. Force yourself to start writing. It may take a few go’s, but once you get into it, you become absorbed in what you are writing. Your characters and their concerns will fill your mind and you will connect to them so much that your problems will go behind the back burner of your mind.
3. If you want to do something about the problem, for example if someone is causing you grief and you are stymied about a solution, then write a short story loosely based on the problem. Or do as I did in one of my stories in Beyond the Tripping Point – put the infuriating person in your life into your story. And don’t make them a nice person. This particular relative had been giving me grief about something I had put in the original version of my memoir. I was so upset I wasn’t going to let her off the hook. So I used her essence, i.e., her age and appearance for one of the characters in that short story (“Gone Missing,” if you really want to know). I even had the character working in the same type of “industry” but in another capacity. And here is the crème de la crème – that character was one of the suspects who turned out to be very bad. I often mention this in my talks and readings from Beyond the Tripping Point, with the added comment, “You don’t want to tick me off.”

4. Keep a journal. Yes, I know journaling about your problems on a daily basis is nothing new. But how about doing a twist on that. Use the fiction writing angle. One way is to write the daily postings from the point of view of one of the characters in your short stories or novel. Get inside your character’s head. How would this character see and handle the problem and/or problem person? Or better still, skip your goody-two-shoes character and use a nasty one. How would your nasty character see the problem and handle it?
Using the above, you might find a possible solution to your problem. Or you might get more insight into your characters and write more fiction. At the very least, you have found a creative way, an all encompassing way, to distract you for some time from the misery in your life.
And that’s not just good for your writing; it is also good for your health.
You can read about my characters and their stories in my short story collection 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 http://www.amazon.com.

More info on Sharon A.’s upcoming gigs, workshops, guest blog posts, etc. at http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/BeyondtheTrippingPoint.html And keep checking http://samcraw.com/Articles/BeyondBlood.html for the latest news on the release of my first mystery novel Beyond Blood, also published by Blue Denim Press http://www.bluedenimpress.com More info on the Beyond Blood page as we get closer to the date.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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