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When Your Fiction Characters take over

Dana Bowman from the Beyond mystery series

Fiction characters taking over writing your novel or short story is usually seen as a good sign that your characters are developing.

But where do you draw the line?

For the past couple of years I have been dressing  up as my main Beyond mystery novel character, Dana Bowman, and do short comedy skits at libraries, cafes, etc. In the past few months, when rewriting Beyond Faith for my publisher, Dana has been taking over. It is like I am channeling her.

This isn’t the first time that was picked up. A few months after the previous Beyond novel – Beyond Blood – was published, I was interviewed on the Liquid Lunch on thatchannel. com. Sandra, one of the interviewers said it was like i was channeling my characters. Hmm. Around about the time I started doing skits featuring Dana.

But now Dana is claiming to have written Beyond Faith? What? We have internal discussions about that. Right now I’m letting her think she co-authored Beyond Faith with me. Really, it is my name on the book cover, although she gets mentioned on the back cover – in the book synopsis.

Internal discussions may be the key word to some sort of sanity. Or if out loud in the privacy of your writing space, your office, your home. You don’t want to be like the pour soul on the subway last evening.

He was a young fellow in a hoodie carrying a backpack. Which could be a red flag. He was running back and forth to the different subway cars – something not allowed on the old subway cars with actual doors between cars. As he entered the cars he would look at someone and carry on a conversation about something that made no sense. Then he would dance around a bit, grab the bar overhead and start swinging. After a few minutes of this, he went into another subway car.

I suspect he was high on something. But what if he was in character? What if he is an author and he was letting his character speak? What if?

Probably not. But it could serve as a guideline of how far not to go with your character acting out. Public transit and public streets no. But if you are a scheduled author presenting at a library or conference, yes, be your character.

And in the privacy of your writing area, yes – if it helps you develop your character, develop  your plot.

There is a fine line between madness and sanity and I’m not sure where authors can safely cross the line.

As for Dana Bowman, I’ll still channel her; I’ll still carry on conversations with her. I will sometimes listen to her.

But I wish she would listen to me sometimes.

The bane of creating characters.

If  you want to see how Dana is invading my life, see the comparisons between the two of us posted on my website here.

And please comment to answer this question. Are your fiction characters taking over writing your plot? How do you feel about that? Is it a help or hindrance to your writing?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Here’s the cover of the latest  Beyond mystery novel. Click on the cover to see one of the places the book is available. And as you can see Dana Bowman’s name is not on the cover.

 

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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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The Beyond gang head for Word on the Street Sunday

Dana Bowman PI from Beyond Faith and Beyond Blood

Dana Bowman PI from Beyond Faith and Beyond Blood

It’s official – Sharon A. Crawford and Dana Bowman will be at Word on the Street – the big annual book an magazine at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. Still up in the air is if Dana will be kept inside the covers of Beyond Blood or if Sharon will let her out. Sharon is set to appear at the Crime Writers of Canada booth from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the company of four other crime authors. All will have copies of their books to sell, but also to talk about Crime Writers of Canada.

Dana will need a briefing if she is to do some of this. And Dana likes to follow her own ideas. She is a private investigator after all. But Sharon is a former journalist and she also like to stick her nose into things.

The other appearance is one author and one other volunteer for Sisters in Crime Toronto’s booth from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. – perhaps more to Dana’s liking to appear here.

That will have to be sorted out on Sunday. For now, let’s talk a bit about Word on the Street, CWC and SinC Toronto.

Sharon here….

I’ve been going to Word on the Street almost since it started in 1990. The first few years the location was Queen Street West from Spadina to Bathurst St. – not a particularly long stretch. But it sure seemed like it if you wanted to go to a specific booth at one end and another one at the other end, particularly if you were on a time-line to get to a workshop or reading or signing in a particular tent. The booths lined up in the street on both sides, plus the crowds moving through, made it difficult. And the availability of washrooms was limited to coffee shops and restaurants with long lineups – unless you wanted to use the portable toilets.

Fast forward to September 2007 and WOTS was now being held at Queens Park – no not in the legislature building or other Ontario Government buildings, but in an actual park, a circular park with booths positioned all along the east and west walkways and at the front and bottom. You could cut across the park to get to bootha on the other side – or walk along the circular walkway. Some tents were in the actual park. The setting was very relaxed and yes, there were portable toilets but also washrooms in nearby Victoria College on the University of Toronto campus. The college also held their annual book sale the same day, so it was a big day for books – the print kind.

At the 2007 WOTS I did my first appearance in a tent talking about freelance writing – interviewing techniques and the like. I was also running a course (in my house no less) a couple of weeks after and this WOTS talk was a great opportunity to get participants for that. It was also a lot of fun as I called people up from the audience to be the interviewee while I played interviewer for role playing. And my son and his then girlfriend, dropped in to watch the proceedings.

In future WOTS at Queens Park, I appeared at the Crime Writers Canada booths to promote and sell the Beyond books. One year the CWC booth was facing the sidewalk instead of the street, so it attracted less people. The location had some personal history with me. The CWC booth faced the Ontario government building where i had my first job at age 18 and 19 when I was a secretary (in another life, of course).

This Sunday, September 24, WOTS is in its third year in its third location- Harboufront Centre on Queens Quay West on Toronto’s waterfront. I have mixed feelings about it. On the plus side you are on the waterfront and the events are outside and some indoors. Some areas seem a bit crowded and the first year I was there, the SinC booth was at the end side of a long group of tables of various organizations. To get to the SinC spot you had to go in at the other end. At that end one of the poetry societies held were readings. The poet stood on the table and performed his or her poetry.

We’ll see how it goes this year and what Dana does and says if she doesn’t stay between the book covers.

Beyond Faith won’t be there – it’s still at the printers. But the flyers for the book launch will be and so will copies of Beyond Blood and Beyond the Tripping Point.

Maybe I’ll see you there. Look for one or both of us – Dana’s photo is at the top and mine is below here.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

and

Dana Bowman

 

Sharon A. Crawford author of the Beyond books

 

 

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Beyond mystery serial Part 5 and Dana Bowman on Beyond Faith

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It’s coming. Beyond Faith, the third book in the Beyond mystery series, this October 2017. Dana Bowman, Private Investigator here. Yes I’m out from between the book covers. And we do have a book cover now. Sharon A. Crawford, the author has made her choice. Stay tuned for a sneak look – coming up soon in a post here. Meantime Sharon is frowning and standing here in front of all of us in this ongoing seat-of-your pants story.

 

Voice: 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.

Dana: I’m not. They are just appearing.

Sharon: No, they’re not. You’re doing it.

Dana: I am not. Look here, just whose story is this anyway?

Sharon: That’s what I’m wondering.

Dana: Well, you may have something to do with the Beyond mystery books but this online story is MY creation.

Sharon: Really?

Dana, pointing a finger: Yes, really.

Ms. Dugan: Hey, what about my brother and what about me and that…that hooded person on the floor over there?

Sharon, waving her right hand and arm around like a want: I can take care of that. Begone.

The figure disappears.

David: Hey, it’s magic. You are really a cool author.

Dana: David.

David: Aw Mom, so are you.

Ms. Dugan, frantically waving her arms: Hey, can I get your attention, please. What about my brother? What about my story?

Sharon: Well, what about i?. Dana, you said you are writing this one. So, go through it. But no more characters from Beyond Faith.

Ms. Dugan: But I’m in it.

Sharon: You get a few brief mentions. So don’t exaggerate here. Now, I’m out of here…for now.

Sharon strides out of the agency office as Detective Sergeant Fielding walks in.

Fielding: Dana, I need to talk to you. We have been looking into this matter and some things don’t add up.

Dana: What do you mean?

Fielding: It seems there is some question about some of these characters.

Dana: What?

Fielding: Some of them don’t seem to exist. Can you explain that, Ms.Dugan?

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 in the series

 

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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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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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Writing a new short story finally

The latest Beyond book in the series

The latest Beyond book in the series

I am finally writing a new mystery short story. And I am amazed that I actually found time. Despite my good intentions to try to tame time, except for perhaps a couple of areas, it has not been working. Most of the blame is what I refer to as “outside crap.” Included in that is even more and new computer problems. I won’t go into the sad saga here now, except for the one that is connected to this author blog.

WordPress in its “infinite wisdom” has a Set Featured Image feature. Technically (pun intended) it should work for only the actual blog post you are writing for the image withing the actual post and is not the image (my headshot) that appears at the side outside all blog posts. That one stays. But if it the image is in a blog post and you set it as an “Update” you now have two photos the same side by side on your live post. If you delete one from the one post when you are in Edit Post for update mode, it deletes all the same image on all the posts that have it. Those with another image in the post seem to keep that image.

What were the WordPress designers thinking?

For the ongoing computer crap problems, you will have to check my personal blog, for future postings on it. Meantime, my son the computer techie will be helping me remotely to resolve some of these computer issues later today.

As for the time management plan – the actual writing is getting in there, although not as much time each day as planned and hoped for. I have cut back my email time to 20 minutes a day (using a timer), except for family. All email replies and even new ones with promised information are being prioritized according to content date. So, something happening the end of the month doesn’t get priority over something happening today. I use a timer. So I can write. We writers are driven to write.

Someday I’ll write a noir satire mystery on computer problems and time management, but not in this new story. The story does take something from the news (no, not Trump’s election to the US presidency) but something else that has already been satirized on satire websites. So, I’m not doing satire here. I’m taking the news item and going on a “what if such and such happened? What if the character was like such-and-such?.

And so the story goes. But I’m not writing a fiction based on fact, something writers have to clarify when they are writing; Just because I’m writing fiction doesn’t mean I don’t need to do research. Besides the news stories, I have to research the laws connected to their content, medical issues connected to content, police procedure and most important develop my characters. I have two – a new one and the Toronto Police Service Homicide detective Larry Hutchison from “Missing in Action,” one of my short stories in Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012),  Both stories take place in the same time period – NOW. I have wanted to put Detective Hutchinson in more stories, so this is my first go at that. .

I am also trying something new for me. Telling the short story from two different viewpoints – the new character and Hutchinson to develop the cat and mouse suspense.

It is interesting. I have to follow the fiction rules – one character’s point of view per scene with extra line space and/or asterisks in between scenes.

In some future posts I’ll go some more into the ins and outs using two characters points of view in short stories.

For now, it’s back to writing the actual short story…I hope. There better not be any more computer problems.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

And for this post, the Beyond Blood icon a the top does take you to Beyond Blood at Amazon.

 

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