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Creating Credible Fiction Characters

Dana Bowman from the Beyond mystery series

Creating characters that resonate with your readers, characters that are three dimensional – in other words credible characters – is not always easy. But it can lead you down interesting and unexpected pathways and forge a bond between author and character. Sometimes that bond means the character thinks he or she is writing the story.

That’s what happened with the main character in my Beyond mystery series – PI Dana Bowman. Maybe it’s because as part of my book promo she comes to life when I dress up as her for presentations in libraries,cafes and the like.

I have to keep reminding Dana that is is my  name, not hers, on the book cover as the author.

And we really are not alike, so not the same person – as I keep telling Dana.

Here’s a  character comparison of us on my website

So how do you create credible characters? Do they suddenly appear in your head? Sometimes. Sometimes you get your plot first

Characters can come from real life, your imagination or by osmosis. Here are a few pointers

  1. If you create a character from real life, make sure you use the real person as only a kicking-off point – perhaps how they look, perhaps one distinctive characteristic and create from there.

  2. Don’t steal other authors’ characters – evenly loosely disguised as your so-called character.

  3. Personal experience and knowledge can help in creating and developing characters. but remember you are creating fictional characters for fiction, not writing a memoir.

  4. An oxymoron – fictional characters must come across as real characters, real people, so readers can connect to them.

  5. Once created, characters don’t remain static – they evolve; they change, even in just one short story, and more so in novels, especially series novels.

I have lots more info on this and will be teaching a workshop on Creating Compelling Characters this Sunday, November 5, from 2 p,m. to 4 p.m. with the Toronto Writers Circle at the Toronto Reference area. It is free and open to the writing public. Here is the library info about the group and location. If you live in the general area you might like to join us.

And here is my latest Beyond mystery book. Click on it for more info

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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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.

 

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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 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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Book Review of Shane Joseph’s Crossing Limbo

Just finished reading Crossing Limbo by Shane Joseph and below is my review as posted on Goodreads.

Crossing Limbo

by Shane Joseph,

published by Morning Rain Publishing

available at Amazon

at Chapters Indigo

And at the Toronto book launch this Saturday, July 8, 3 to 5 p.m. at Supermarket Restaurant & Bar, 268 August Ave. (in Kensington Market), Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Guest author readings by Sharon A. Crawford and Michel Dyet from their upcoming new books

The book’s title Crossing Limbo says it all – the main character or characters in each of these 13 short stories by Shane Joseph are stuck in limbo in their lives. In Greek mythology, the dead were ferried to the underworld by a boatman named Charron, who demanded payment. In Crossing Limbo, the characters have to make some payment, some trade-off to get to the other side of their limbo. For some the trade-off hangs in the future; for others it is now. Usually their past is a big factor. Whatever happens, Shane Joseph makes it original, yet the outcome is logical based on the main characters’ traits – on a scale of mean and nasty to troubled. All the stories reflect many current issues –divorce, online chat, finding a mate at a certain age, big developers versus property owners, writers who never make it versus jaded bestselling authors, death in the family, to adult “children” still living at home with dad. And Joseph brings out the emotions these characters go through when trying to cross their personal limbo, so that the reader gets it, even with the despicable characters.

In one of my favourites, Waiting for the Train, there are two main characters, an old man and a teenage girl who meet at night on the railway tracks. Both, for various reasons, are contemplating suicide, but their meeting and listening to each other forces a twist in their lives.

Then there ls the egocentric Arvind, the title character in The Supreme Leader’s Big Day, who  puffs himself up, as if he is God of the small country of Kanjipoor. Arvind forms secret pacts with his ministers, and orders killings. He is also a sex maniac who takes 16-year-old concubines to bed. On the day of the story’s title, he is expecting certain things to happen. But he gets a big surprise.

Perhaps the best story is also the most unusual – Shock & Awe, reflecting society’s attachment to their pet dogs, which is told from a dog’s point of view. Shep, a former police dog who got a little too violent with a drug dealer, is literally put out to pasture, living on a former police deputy, Bob’s, family farm/ Besides early retirement, Shep deals with many other issues akin to the human ones, love for a neighbour – Buster, the dog next door, dealing with Bob’s death in Iraq. But when what’s left of her family are faced with losing their home, Shep follows true doggy feat, proving that even with crossing limbo, dogs are still (hu)man’s best friend.

And in a world peopled by some of Shane Joseph’s characters in Crossing Limbo, that is a good thing.

 

 

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Book Launch Crossing Limbo July 8

Dana Bowman escapes from Beyond Blood again.

Creativity from the Stacks  presented by my East End Writers’ group last evening went over very well – despite a smaller audience than expected, despite the laptop falling over (and the connecting cable coming out – yes, everything was fine) and despite Shane and I mixing up some of the order of our skit (we did a lot of improv there, which I prefer, and it went over well). The food was good, everyone enjoyed themselves and I managed to get my main Beyond mystery series character Dana Bowman back between the covers of Beyond Blood. That despite one of Shane’s book characters, George Walton, stealing a copy of Beyond Blood.

Speaking of Shane Joseph, the Toronto Launch of his new literary book, Crossing Limbo, a collection of short stories, is Saturday, July 8, 3 to 5 p.m. at Supermarket Restaurant and Bar, 268 Augusta Ave. in Toronto’s Kenginston Market area. If you are in the Toronto area then, why not drop in? It is open to the public and there is no admission charge. And no, George Walton is not in the book. And oh yeah, I’m one of the guest readers and so is Michael Dyet.

Crossing Limbo’s 13 stories cover the harder and darker side of life – greed, desire, ambition, loss, illness, death, and the driving quest to find purpose in a meaningless world.

Below is a sized-down version of the poster for Crossing Limbo.

Cheers.

Sharon

 

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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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Beyond Faith new novel

The second beyond book.

The contract for Beyond Faith, my third Beyond mystery book is signed and yesterday I completed the second last rewrite for the publisher. There will be one more kick at the … no, not cat – no cats in Beyond Faith – there is a dog,but I do not kick dogs, or cats either. I will get one more chance at any rewrite after the editor at the publisher has another look at it.

He and I have worked together to get Beyond Faith ready for publication this fall and once the last rewrite is done, I will pull our the book promo ideas now running round in my brain (and some no doubt taking a nap), and what I have read in emails and social media and get them going.

But the rewriting has been intense. Shane, my editor has pointed out things that are unclear, silly and inconsistent, and like all editors (myself too when I wear my editor hat), things that can just be deleted. I found a few of all those on my own. From there I was able to rewrite a better story, make my characters more interesting and realistic and hint at what’s to maybe come in future Beyond mysteries.

It is an experience for me to be the one whose novel is being edited instead of the other way around. I do say that I work from both sides of the fence – writing and editing. This full fence position (positions?) gives a wider perspective of the writing and rewriting process.

I like going deep deep into the story with its rewriting. Sometimes I get so carried away I forget to get up and eat lunch at a reasonable time. And I find myself acting out scenes – although many times it is to get the logistics of what is happening. Without going into a lot of details to spoil it, Beyond Faith has a whole lot of pushing going on (and I don’t mean the drug-dealing kind). Trying to see how someone would fall when pushed (as opposed to tripping and falling) isn’t as easy as you think.

What do you do? Get a friend to push you or persuade them to let you push them so you can see it from behind? It is important to get these details right, but at what cost? No, I didn’t get friends involved, but I did some research online and I moved around inside and outside to get a better idea.

This going inside your novel’s story and characters and seeing where it takes you and then having it make sense and flow, but be interesting and different is what I like doing. It is like going into another world, although it is debatable who controls it – you or your characters.

But if I didn’t do it, the novel would be superficial.

And while I’m doing it, God or somebody else help anyone who phones or comes to my door; If jerked suddenly out of this intense creative state, there is no telling what I will do. Although I seem to be more mouthy (as in “what do you want?”) instead of pushy.

What about you? .

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

 

 

 

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Rolling out the author readings with Canadian Authors Toronto

Now that spring is here, it is time for me to get back into author readings.So next Tuesday evening, April 4, I will be taking my Beyond books for a reading at a Toronto library branch. Four other authors will join me: Bianca Lakoseljac, K.V. Skene, Michael Pawlowski, Ellen Michelson, Catharine Fitton

The readings are being held by the Canadian Authors Association Toronto Branch. This branch has been shall we say “sleeping” the past couple of years, but now branch president Chris Canniff has kick-started it with this author reading which is open to the public.

The Canadian Authors Association has been around for close to 100 years. It was started in 1921 by some prominent Canadian authors, including Canadian humorist, Stephen Leacock. It’s focus has been and still is “writers helping writers”, which it does in many ways. These include work with copyright issues for writers, establishing literary awards including the annual CAA Literary Awards for non fiction, fiction, poetry, and drama. CAA also came up with the first book contract between authors and publishers.

And, oh yeah, members are both published and non-published authors.CAA has branches right across Canada.

Some of these branches have a Writer in Residence. Vancouver branch’s WiR is well-known poet, editor, and short fiction author Bernice Lever. Bernice used to live in my neck of the woods and she was one of my mentors. She used to run a writing critique group in Richmond Hill, just north of Toronto. When I lived in the area, I attended it. Bernice inspired me to start my East End Writers’ Critique group in September 2000 and EEWG is loosely based on the Richmond Hill group.

I, too, had the honour of being Writer in Residence for the CAA – the Toronto branch, from 2001 to 2003, and then again from 2009 to 2015, although the current Toronto branch website still has me listed as WiR. The website is to be updated shortly.

You can check out more about the Canadian Authors Association here. There are links to the branches and much more information.

As for the Toronto branches Authors Reading evening, here is the “dirt” according to Chris Canniff and a link to the CAA Toronto Facebook page. And you don’t have to be a CAA member to read at this event, but if you are in the area you can drop in to meet us.

“We want your stories! The Canadian Authors Association Toronto Branch is having a meeting on Tuesday, April 4 at 6:15pm and we want you to come prepared to read, or come to listen to what others are writing. Event details are below Bring your best work, or a work in progress! Please RSVP to president@canauthorstoronto.org to sign up for a reading. Readings are generally 3-5 minutes long, but that can be extended depending upon the number of readers. Beverley Burgess Bell, who hosts an Oakville Writers Group, will be moderating. Come out, bring a friend, and help us make this meeting a success. We look forward to seeing you there! Check out our new Facebook page, at > https://www.facebook.com/CanadianAuthorsAssociationTorontoBranch/ And our soon-to-be-updated website www.canauthorstoronto.org Event Details: What: Member Reading. Non-Members are also welcome to attendd, but all members and non-members should RSVP. Non-members are encouraged to consider membership!
When: Tuesday, April 4 from 6:15 – 8:15 Where: Toronto Public Library [Annette St. Branch] – 145 Annette St. Website: http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/detail.jsp?R=LIB022 Location Details: Closest major intersection is Keele and Annette Streets. Branch is located on the southwest corner of Annette Street and Medland Street.”

And if you click on the Beyond book icon at the top it will take you to more info about my books.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

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