Tag Archives: Fiction beginnings to grab the reader

Writing critique group comes through

Beyond the Tripping Point Cover 72dpiI have posted before about writing critique groups and how they can help us writers. But it never hurts to add more on the subject because we writers write in a vacuum of me, myself and I. So we often think in opposites – our short story, or essay, or novel is brilliant or our writing piece is awful. Sometimes we think with wisdom – we know something is just not working but we don’t know exactly what or if we do, we don’t know how to fix it. Enter a writing critique group.

As the organizer and facilitator of the East End Writers’ Group in Toronto, I don’t always bring a piece for critique to our almost monthly meetings There is only so much time for a limited number of authors to read and get their work critiqued, so  If I did bring something to each gathering, other members might think “oh, she runs the group, so she can do this.”  This isn’t true as I find we are all helping each other whether we bring in something or not. And we are polite as well as giving constructive criticism. Nobody should feel their work is really bad.Each of us has our own individual writing experience and knowledge which we can put into the critique – even if we don’t write in the genre of the writing work being critiqued.

So, last evening I brought in the first five pages of a humorous mystery short story for critique. And I learned a few things. One author who also writes short stories wanted to know the age of the two main characters. The ironic thing here (and I got it and mentioned it) is I am always suggesting he do the same in his stories. Somebody else misread the ages of these two characters and it was from what she read and also what wasn’t there for her to read. She asked me how old the two characters were and when I told her, she said they were much too young as women at that age nowadays would be more technical savvy. She said that one sounded like she was retired. After I explained that the “retired” one was currently unemployed and she was the one not technically smart, but the other one  was and that the latter was in the story, I realized that I needed to include some ages, fix the bugaboo I had in with the technological luddite, and mention she is currently unemployed. She should be early 50s and her friend 15 years younger. The latter would work, not only because she has an elderly mother who figures in the story, but my son is late 30s and is very tech savvy – in fact his work is with computers, software and architecture and the like. And he is my computer expert who helps me with my computers.

So you can see how a writer’s tunnel vision can work, or not work. I didn’t even consider including the characters’ ages. As one of the others said, and I paraphrase. You see in your mind how your story is going and presume everyone else knows as much as you do.

Wise words, and something for us writers to consider.

Do you belong to a writers’ critique group – in person or online? If so, how has the group helped you?



And if you want a looksee at my collection of published short stories in Beyond the Tripping Point, just click on its icon at the top.




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Don’t Write the Same Old Same Old

The latest Beyond book in the series

The latest Beyond book in the series

When writing fiction, particularly mystery, thriller and suspense, don’t develop plots and characters that have been used before. Do readers really want another jaded police detective who is an alcoholic? How about yet another body found in a trunk?

Readers want to be surprised, entertained, and have something different. Those who like to try to figure out who done it and why like a challenge. If it is too easy, that won’t work.

Twists and turns in suspense, mystery and thriller novels work very well – provided they are different. And if you are writing a series, you need to write the unexpected even more so your readers don’t get too comfortable with your series characters. You want them to relate to the characters and develop a bond, but you have to shake them up with each book’s plot and characters.

Remember your characters need to be like real people – they can’t be stagnate. Throw them lots of curve balls and see how they act and react.

Some authors that are masters at this are Julia Spencer Fleming, Peter Robinson and Harlan Coben. The latter writes standalone mystery-suspense, while the former two write series mysteries. Spencer Fleming, for example throws a big curve with each book. Just as something seems to be sorted out between her two main characters – Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne –  right at the end of the novel, something happens that seems to come out of the blue.

But it is not really out of the blue – if you go back throughout the novel you will see events and what the characters are doing that make the unexpected logical. Some examples (without stating which novel) are when the priest and the cop finally get their relationship solidified, the priest who was previously in the armed forces and is now on reserve, is put on active duty outside the US. Right at the end of the book. Great hook to get the reader to read the next one in the series.

The reader knew Clare’s background here,so that wasn’t grabbed from the air. It was the timing.

And that’s what is important. Timing. In my Beyond novels, I build up the suspense with (among other things) a growing relationship between the main character PI Dana Bowman and Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding. Both are relationship shy – that isn’t too different. But how it evolves (or does it?) is different because of other things going on in the novel. The ending has a big twist.

This is the novel I’m still putting the finishing touches on for the publisher. So, I’m not going into more details. The previous and most recent one, Beyond Blood has a bit of a cliff hanger at the end – the premise here being, when a crime victim has been rescued, it may not all be rosy and comforting for them. In fact, it isn’t in real life.  I took that idea and left the reader wondering about a character’s dealing with after effects. The short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point has four stories featuring Dana Bowman and most of the rest of the Beyond gang. These stories take place the year after. And the current Beyond book is later that same year and the character is still suffering some after effects.

Unexpected events change people – how they live their lives afterwards.And that varies with each person. So, too, should your fiction.

Don’t be lazy and write the same old same old. Surprise your readers – but make it logical. That may sound like an oxymoron, but be creative.

And read what is already written to see what works, what surprises and what doesn’t. Read books by Julia Spencer Fleming, Peter Robinson and Harlan Coban, and yes my Beyond books too.

You can get more information about the Beyond books by clicking on the Beyond Blood icon at the top.





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Writing the right story beginning link to Sharon A.'s short story collection link to Sharon A.’s short story collection

If you have ever started to read a novel and became bored by the end of paragraph one, it might not be that the story is dull. There is a good chance that what you are reading isn’t really the story’s beginning.

One story beginning, particularly with novels, that has me yawning is the big character background story. Or the big travelogue of a city or a town. As my old journalist and creative writing instructor would say, “So what?”

You can start with character or setting or both together. The trick is to bring in something about your story. Something that will grab your reader. You need a good lead (or “lede” as it is sometimes spelled), as we old journalists call it.

I was a freelance journalist for 35 years and writing a good lead for my articles was very important. Otherwise it was impossible to write the rest of the story. The lead lets the reader know something about what the story is going to cover and teases them in to read all the details.

So when I write fiction or edit other authors’ fiction, I always pay attention to the lead. Sometimes the lead is hidden a few pages later or even a few chapters later. One author’s novel’s actual lead was a chapter near the middle. She needed to pull out that chapter and a few after it and bring them to the front. And then do some rewriting.

Rewriting, of course, is always necessary when writing fiction and ho-hum leads can be fixed then.

Off the top of my head here is an example of a bad story beginning.It is made up and not from any client’s fiction or any of mine.

Ellen was born in 1960 in the town of Crystal, the third in a family of four siblings. Her mother was an Osborne before her marriage to James Clark. She was a shy child who didn’t say much in school but she always got good grades. Her mother was also quiet and her father spoke in a loud boisterous voice. Ellen’s two older siblings, Daniel and Robert, teased her. Her younger sibling, Gail got on better with her brothers.

And on and on ad nauseum.

Do we really care about Ellen and her family?

Let’s see what we can do with that beginning – if we want to get some family background in and make it relevant to the story. If we want to make the reader care about Ellen and her family and read on. Something like this:.

Ellen Clark had always been shy and withdrawn. Until now. If her older brothers, Danny and Robbie, could see her now, they would be sorry they spent her childhood teasing her. They would be proud of her for what she just did for them, for her, and for the rest of the family. Especially Gail. Poor Gail. Best friends with Danny and Robbie had not helped Gail.

Ellen smiled as she looked down at her feet and what lay there.

Or something like that. Hey, I write mystery fiction. Anyway, let’s compare the two story beginnings. We still have Ellen, her shyness, her two brothers and the fact that they teased her and her sister Gail hanging out with the two brothers. We don’t mention Ellen’s birthday year or the town,  or her parents names or their main traits. That can come later. We have woven in a few things to tease the reader in. What did Ellen do just now? How did she go from being shy and withdraw to taking some kind of action. And what about Gail or the parents? What is lying at Ellen’s feet? Or should that be “who”?

This is the type of lead to draw in the reader. Even if you are not writing a mystery, a story needs some suspense, which could  very well be about the relationships in that Clark family. Or it could be something else – whatever your imagination conjures up.

I’ll end with the beginning of one of the short stories in my mystery collection Beyond the Tripping Point as it does have some family background woven into it. And I’ve used another technique to start the story and then pushed into the family background.

“The police can’t find her, Ms. Bowman,” Robin Morgrave says.

Rosemary Morgrave has gone missing and I’m putting on a brave smile for her twin brother. Robin sat on the other side of the desk in The Attic Agency’s third floor office. Only my twin brother, Bast, nodding, stops me from losing it. Ever since David, my seven-year-old son, was abducted last August, I’ve been living in Panicville.Sure, we got him back, but how much of him returned? He follows  Bast around like an investigator-in-training. His brown eyes stare right through my soul.I wish he’d just say how he feels. But since his return, David hasn’t opened his mouth except ti swallow liquids and food. He doesn’t even cry. (Excerpted from Beyond the Tripping Point, copyright Sharon A. Crawford, published  by Blue Denim Press, 2012).

You can pick it apart and try to guess what will happen in the story. Or you can read it. If you click on the BTTP icon at the top of this post, it takes you to my Amazon profile as well as to information about Beyond the Tripping Point and the novel (with the same three characters) Beyond Blood.


Sharon A. Crawford




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Getting Started Writing That Book

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

A friend wants to write a book and is having trouble getting started. She has done the necessary research and her mind is overflowing with ideas. But actually sitting down at the computer and writing it is presenting a problem. I know that feeling of having too many ideas brewing and circulating in the mind – even AFTER I have begun writing my books .

Both my friend and I have journalist backgrounds and I wonder if that has something to do with it. Journalists are known for collecting way too much information and many procrastinate about actually starting. But journalists often do an outline first to narrow down what exactly the want to include in their story. When I wrote newspaper and magazine articles, that’s what I did. I also had one peculiarity. I had to get at least a good draft of the story lead before I could write further. And I’ve mentioned this before, for one story I had four possible beginnings and not until I phoned another journalist and read out the four beginnings and she chose one, could I proceed further.

Some of these journalist habits can be transferred to books – fiction and non-fiction. In particular, do an outline. Some writers seem to be afraid to do an outline but if you remember that it is not sealed in granite and changes are possible as you actually write the book (and that is so usual with fiction), it can free you to do an outline.

Or if you don’t want to actually do an outline, do a list of the most important ideas and information you have. Often just getting it down, frees the chaos in your mind and also gives you some reference points.

I still try to get a good beginning draft, but try to keep in mind that it will probably change. Just yesterday, while doing more rewriting of my next Beyond novel, I changed the beginning somewhat – more the presentation than actual content. And yes, it came from an idea percolating in my head (plus a previous comment from the editor at my publisher’s about how I was handling a certain aspect of the novel, which included the beginning). In my case, the focus was coming up with something different in presentation and format from Beyond Blood.

If you still can’t get started and freeze in front of the computer, maybe try some freefall writing to unlock your creativity. Think of an emotion you are feeling now, or something bothering you in your life and just start writing about it for 15 to 20 minutes. Stop only to breathe (although you probably won’t even notice that you are still breathing). Go where the emotion you are feeling leads you. Go where the words lead you. You might go off on a tangent you hadn’t anticipated.

And you might just get writing something you can use in your book.

At any rate, your creativity will  be unleashed and your self-confidence will get a boost.

I also suggest reading Julie Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way for her ideas on getting going with your writing. Because the other thing is you have to set out some regular writing time and days and stick to it. Treat it like  your job and the payoff isn’t necessarily in money, at this point, but a book manuscript that you are finally starting to write.



And the usual, click on the Beyond Blood icon at the top for more info about my books and go to the Gigs and Blog Tours Page for more information on my upcoming author events.


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Recharging your novel in progress

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

My editor did it. He gave me the boost to get my third Beyond book out of stall mode.

A few weeks ago I blogged about a lot of problems (house, health, utility, income taxes) stealing from my writing time including coming up with plot development. See

This big surge happened a couple of weeks ago when Shane, my editor at Blue Denim Press, and I did a joint marketing presentation (author and publisher) at the Beaches Library Branch in Toronto, Canada. Two things Shane said did it. On the panel, he was answering a question related to submissions and editing. He pointed to Beyond Blood and said my book went through several edits and at first it needed a lot of changes. He said I needed one murder within the first 50 pages. So he said that I wrote in two murders. After the presentation he was saying that today’s mysteries that sell aren’t so much cozies – but edgy like my Beyond the Tripping Point short story collection. I reminded him that my prequel novel Beyond Blood is also edgy.

However, it got me thinking. The Beyond novel I’m currently writing tended to meander too much in the beginning. It needed to be made sharper with more twists and turns. As for the murders, there is one within the first 50 pages and another incident in the beginning that is left hanging whether it will turn into a murder or be an attempted murder.

Letting all this percolate in my brain, as well as being open to whatever ideas materialized, finally worked. So I’ve been writing and writing – well, not all the time. There are still house and property problems and potential problems thanks to weather. And I am suddenly getting more editing clients – which I wanted and needed to help pay the bills.

I also like helping other writers – but more on that in another post.

For now, if your novel or short story has hit stall mode, don’t give up. Get another perspective from another author and/or editor. Join a writing critique group and listen – maybe even read that stalled chapter for feedback.

Do something besides moan and groan. You never know what might percolate in your mind.


Sharon A. Crawford.

Reminder: Next Thursday, April 16, I join Crime Writers of Canada writers Nate Hendley and Rosemary McCracken for a writing presentation to the Storytellers writing group at Angus Glen library in Unionville, Ontario, Canada. Check my Facebook page for more info Scroll down beyond the bad customer service post to the Meet-up post.


Sharon A. Crawford is the author of the Beyond book series. More info at and including a link to a radio interview at Online TV interview from Liquid Lunch is at

Beyond Blood Book cover at the top of this post links to my Amazon author profile. If you buy a copy, please write a review on amazon. Thanks.


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Fiction Characters Interviewing Fiction Characters – Part 45 link to Sharon A.'s short story collection link to Sharon A.’s short story collection

All fiction is about people, unless it’s about rabbits pretending to be people. It’s all essentially characters in action, which means characters moving through time and changes taking place, and that’s what we call “the plot.”

– Margaret Atwood

The missing Bast has suddenly appeared at the dining room table with Robbie Stuart and the ghosts of Roger Stuart and Susan Stuart. Bast looks pale.

Dana, staring at the dining room table: Bast, are you okay? How did you get here?

Swan: Yeah, how? Did Robbie make you materialize somehow?

Fielding: Shut up Swan. You’re in no position to ask questions. Bast, answer your sister’s questions.

Dana, slightly agitated: Wait a minute. I need to ask Mr. Swan a question first. Who is sitting at the table with Bast?

Swan: Why Robbie Stuart of course.

Dana: Nobody else?

Swan: Who else would there be? The rest of us are over here. That’s why I want to know…

Fielding: I said shut up, Swan. Now, Mr. Overture, please answer your sister’s questions.

Bast: I’m fine, a little tired and weak. I had help getting here from Susan and Roger.
Swan: Wait a minute. You’re telling us that a couple of dead people helped you?

Bast: Yes. Susan and Roger are sitting right with me here. I gather you can’t see their spirits.

Susan’s Spirit: Bast, you’re right. Both Dad and I working together managed to keep you out of harm’s way temporarily and bring you back safely here. Sorry, Dana and you three cops, but we couldn’t say anything until you had Swan under control for Bast’s safety.

Dana: But you are really back, Bast?

Bast: Yes.

Fielding: Now, Mr. Overture, you have some explaining to do.

Bast: What Susan, Roger and Robbie said is true. Robbie has a memoir accepted for publication and I was to do another newspaper article on it with a sort of update. What you don’t know is Robbie also wanted me to write the Forward to the book. Both these, particularly the newspaper article, would give details of Swan’s shenanigans in the past and current. And he didn’t want that happening, so he took measures. Susan and Roger helped me. (He turns to them). Thank you. But you know me, Dana, the old crime reporter, I have to find out what is going on, so sorry, I had to disappear from Susan’s protection to find out and I couldn’t tell you for safety’s sake. Swan caught up with me and tried to use David’s and Aunt Doris’ safety as a lever. You know the rest.

Dana: So, you will be writing the story?

Bast: Oh yes, but maybe it will be delayed for a bit until Hutchinson or Fielding take Swan into custody.

Hutchinson (standing up): Get up Swan. I am arresting you for kidnapping, pointing a firearm, blackmail, uttering threats. And there will be more added later. You have the right to a lawyer…”

After Hutchinson finishes his spiel, Dana stands up and walks over to the table: Thank you Susan and Roger and Robbie, too.

Susan and Roger: You are welcome.

Susan: Now that we see justice is being done, we will leave you. But I will be keeping an eye on you Dana and Bast and your family. If you need me, just touch the painting in the library boardroom and I will appear.

Roger: Yes, it feels good to finally come clean with the full story. Now, as Susan said we must leave.

Susan’s and Roger’s spirits disappear. Dana sits down beside Bast.

Swan: What just happened? Are you all nuts? I see just Bast, Dana and Robbie at the table.

Hutchinson: Shut up, Mr. Swan.

Robbie looks up finally and glares at Swan: My sister and Dad didn’t keep you in the spirit loop because you are bad. And I’m glad I wrote the memoir to set the record straight.


Sharon A. Crawford

Dana, Bast and the others will take a rest for a bit. But they will be back with more original stories based on the stories and characters in Beyond the Tripping Point.

Next week’s blog will talk about fiction writing – short story versus novel, particularly when both use the same series characters. So, in a way, Dana and Bast will be back to illustrate some ideas here. Watch for upcoming posts with guest bloggers. Stay tuned. Meantime…

Sharon A. Crawford’s prequel novel Beyond Blood, featuring the fraternal twins will be published fall 2014 by Blue Denim Press. Stay tuned.

Meantime, you can read more about the characters and their stories in 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.
More info on Sharon A.’s upcoming gigs, workshops, guest blog posts, etc. at


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Interview with Fiction Characters by Fiction Characters Part 43

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

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

There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers. Your job isn’t to find these ideas, but to recognize them when they show up.
— Stephen King, On Writing

In the last post, suspect Cory Swan suddenly appeared pointing a gun at the interviewing/séance session with Dana Bowman, Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding, Detective Larry Hutchinson, Robbie Stuart and the spirits of Roger Stuart and Susan Stuart. PC Oliver is still present but has remained silent, as if in a stupor, from seeing the spirits.

Hutchinson: Put that gun down, Swan before someone gets hurt.

Swan: Why? So you can arrest me? No. I have something to say and I’m going to say it.

Dana: You’re going to tell us all.

Swan: That’s right.

Dana: You’re going to tell Detective Hutchinson, Detective Sergeant Fielding, PC Oliver, Robbie Stuart, and me.

Swan: Of course. You’re all here, all five of you.

Dana (looking at Susan’s spirit. They nod at each other as if in cahoots): Very well. Speak.

Fielding, clearing his throat: Okay, please sit down over there and put that gun down.

Swan: No, no, no, no. I remain standing and keep the gun. You three cops though, take out your guns slowly and put them on the side table over there. Or I start shooting you one by one and Robbie Stuart is first.

The three police officers comply.

Swan: Good choice. Okay, I heard you discuss my story – so far, but not all of it. And I want immunity before I go any further.

Hutchinson: We can’t promise you that.

Swan: Then I don’t talk.

Fielding: We can probably reduce the blackmail charges to a plea bargain.

Swan: A good start, but I expect more.

Dana: And I expect my brother back safe and sound and alive.

Swan: All in due time, Ms Private Eye. Okay. What you guys were talking about is somewhat correct as far as it goes. Sure I blackmailed Roger Stuart and made a pretty penny until he had the audacity to croak. (He looks at Dana). That’s your brother’s fault for interviewing him and getting a lot more details from him.

Dana: And were you there hovering and hiding for that interview.

Swan moves closer to Dana and waves the gun a few inches from her face: Shut up. This is my story.
Dana, her voice shaking: Very well. Continue.

Swan: Thank you. Yes, I was around when your brother interviewed Roger but not hiding. Bast and I arrived together as he wanted me to take pictures of Roger. But that’s not all I did. I took photos of her, too.

Dana: Her?

Swan: Yeah, the second bogus Mrs. Roger Stuart. She walked in right near the end of the interview. She was furious, ranting and raging about Roger blabbing family secrets. She threatened him and Bast if the story got printed and me if the photos got printed. Then the bitch grabbed my camera and pulled out the film. Too bad we didn’t have digital then but I guess she would have just smashed the camera. Then she went after Roger. She picked up a lamp and charged towards him. Bast and I managed to grab the lamp and stop her. We were going to call the police but Roger said, “No, please don’t do that. I can calm her down.”

Roger’s spirit is nodding “yes” at this.

Swan: Bast and I left when she appeared to be sitting calmly at the table. But… we should have stayed because Roger Stuart died later that evening of a heart attack.

Hutchinson: Are you saying that the second Mrs. Stuart scared her husband into a heart attack?

Swan shrugs his shoulders.

Roger Stuart is nodding again: She attacked me again that evening. She knew I had a heart condition. She hated my first wife and my kids. I couldn’t take it and so I died.

Hutchinson: So, you wanted all this to be suppressed in Robbie Stuart’s memoir? And so that’s why you kidnapped Bast Overture?

Swan: No, you got that all wrong. I wanted the memoir to be published. But Mrs. Stuart No. 2 got wind of it and…

Dana: She’s in prison.

Fielding: Ms Bowman, you should know that doesn’t stop anyone.

Swan: You got that right Detective.

Fielding: So, where does Bast Overture fit into all this?

Dana: Yes, why did you kidnap my brother after he returned from his first disappearance?

Swan: I didn’t kidnap your brother. He suddenly appeared in my office demanding answers. He didn’t want to co-operate with me…
Dana: So you tied him up and kept him prisoner?

Swan: What choice did I have? He was going to have me arrested? And that didn’t fit in with my plan.

Dana: But he got away.

Swan: Yes, damn him.

Fielding: But that’s when you started threatening Doris Bowman and David Bowman?

Swan (smiling): Of course. Nothing like a little family pressure to get someone to come round.

Dana (standing up): You scum.

Swan: Sit down Ms Bowman or you’ll meet the same fate as your brother.

Dana: What’s that? What have you done to Bast?

Swan: Not telling right now. First, I need police co-operation – no charges against me and you put me in witness protection – or whatever you call it here in Canada.

Hutchinson: No, you’re wrong. First you tell us where Bast Overture is now because it is obvious you have him somewhere.

Swan: Not yet. I still need him.

Dana: What for?

Swan: Why he is going to come out of retirement and write another newspaper story about the Stuart saga, sort of a preliminary to Robbie’s memoir and also with some updates about what really happened during that other interview.

Susan’s spirit, looking at Dana: Time for Dad and me to step in.

Roger’s spirit, Robbie and Dana nod. Detective Sergeant Fielding and Detective Hutchinson both stand up. Swan raises the gun and fires into the air.

PC Joseph Oliver suddenly becomes alert to what is happening.


Sharon A. Crawford

Sharon A. Crawford’s prequel novel Beyond Blood, featuring the fraternal twins will be published fall 2014 by Blue Denim Press. Stay tuned.

Meantime, 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.
More info on Sharon A.’s upcoming gigs, workshops, guest blog posts, etc. at


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Interview with Fiction Characters by Fiction Characters – Part 42 link to Sharon A.'s short story collection link to Sharon A.’s short story collection

But first an announcement from Sharon A. Crawford.

My prequel novel, Beyond Blood, is being published By Blue Denim Press this fall (2014). That means readers will find out what really happened to David Bowman before he became psychologically mute. Dana Bowman, Bast Overture, Great Aunt Doris Bowman, Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding, PC Joseph Oliver will be “back” as well as a few other characters including the mysterious “Him.” Stay tuned. Meantime check out my other blog for the post about getting another book published
Now back to our current story (and I promise it will be resolved by Easter – this year).

In the previous posting, Detective Hutchinson, Detective Sergeant Fielding and Dana Bowman were interviewing a couple of spirits (Roger Stuart, Susan Stuart) and a live one (Robbie Stuart) to get information on where Bast is and why he was kidnapped. Susan Stuart has just announced that her brother Robbie has written a tell-all family memoir being published this year.

Fielding: This payback isn’t just against Bast, is it Susan?

Susan: That’s for you to figure out.

Hutchinson: Quit playing games.

Susan: Or you’ll what? Do I have to keep reminding you I’m already dead and so is Dad?

Dana: Again, let me talk to them. My guess is you are also after Cory Swan, but I have a question. How did he find out?

Robbie: I told him about the memoir – I needed permission for some of his photos from the newspaper story.

Dana: And I suppose you contacted my brother for a similar reason – permission to use his story?

Robbie: Well, I called him, but after I talked to Swan. Bast had disappeared before I had a chance to talk to him.

Susan: Like I told you Dana, I really was trying to protect your brother from Cory Swan so brought him over to our side. But he got away and came back. And I really don’t know where he is now.

Fielding: Do you Roger?

Roger: No.

Fielding: Robbie?

Robbie: No.

Voice from behind: But I do. And I’m not telling where until you do as I say.

Dana, Fielding and Hutchinson turn around. Cory Swan stands inside the dining-room door. He is holding a gun.

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.
More info on Sharon A.’s upcoming gigs, workshops, guest blog posts, etc. at

And stay tuned for more goodies on Beyond Blood.


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Start your story with a bang

“If in the first chapter a hurricane is going to blow down an oak tree which falls through the kitchen roof, there’s no need to first describe the kitchen.”

— James Thayer, Author Magazine

We’ve all read short stories and novels that begin with a long description of a scene or a lot of telling about one of the major characters which may or may not include the character’s back story.

None of those is bad in itself. It is when these story beginnings are presented as a dull almost-exposition that leaves the reader yawning. I don’t know about you, but I always read the first page of a novel before deciding whether to buy the book or borrow it from the library. If I start flipping through the pages for something to grab my interest, I usually put the book back in the shelf.

Thayer says it so succinctly above. Why would you describe the kitchen first?

Some authors might figure they are building up the suspense slowly. News flash: This is the story or novel’s beginning. Sure, you want to create suspense but you want to jump right in with any suspense, not draw it out – leave the latter to later in your plot.

Let’s look at one of my earlier beginnings for my short story “Porcelain Doll.”

Sarah Holden eyeballed the porcelain doll in the window.  It sat among old tea sets and silver candleholders in Hanover’s newly opened antique shop. The doll’s eyes hypnotized Sarah back to 1965.  She saw another porcelain doll, her father dealing cards, and her last train ride.*

Although this isn’t the worst of beginnings, it is far from the best. It tries to grab the reader’s attention by trying to insinuate that something happened in 1965 but it doesn’t really excite the reader.

The first sentence in the second paragraph doesn’t help much either.

Sarah shuddered.  Her thoughts fastened on to that train ride.*

Maybe a little enticement with the “shuddered.” But the third paragraph nullifies any reader-grabbing potential.

That 1965 train trip started much the same as any other summer’s trip.  Sarah’s father worked for the railway which guaranteed the Holden family free train rides.*

*(All excerpts above Copyright 2002 Sharon A. Crawford)

You could get away with the above if you had a dynamite beginning. But with a weak beginning, the reader doesn’t care.

Flash forward to many, many versions later and to the final being published…

I can’t stop staring at the porcelain doll in the window. It sits among old tea sets and silver candleholders in Hanover’s newest antique shop. I keep trying to look away, but I can’t, despite my heart dancing inside my chest and my breath trying to keep time with it.

I have no business coming back to this area. I should have left the past with Mama when she died last fall from a tumble down the cellar stairs. But when I sorted through her clothes, a newspaper clipping fell from a dress pocket. Of course I had to read it. (Excerpted from Beyond the Tripping Point, copyright 2012 Sharon A. Crawford. Book available fall 2012 from Blue Denim Press)

The biggest difference is changing the Point of View from third person to first person (and we will cover POV in future posts.) That draws in the reader. We also still have Sarah staring in the window. But we also get her emotions as she does so. The reader wonders why and wants to read on.

The next paragraph goes into the past – but not back to 1965 yet. Here we get more teasers and realize there is more to this story than Sarah just looking at a doll in the window of an antique store.

So how can you start a story to grab the reader”

  • Create suspense as in “Porcelain Doll” above.
  • Start with dialogue but make it interesting. Don’t talk about the kitchen décor but get right into it. For example, my story “Gone Missing” begins with

The police can’t find her, Ms Bowman,” Robin Morgrave says. (Excerpted from Beyond the Tripping Point, copyright 2012 Sharon A. Crawford. Book available fall 2012 from Blue Denim Press)

You can also use a newspaper, radio or TV news excerpt (real or made up for your story), e-mail or text message to start. Just make sure it ties in with your story. For example a news story about a hurricane in Florida beginning a story about finding a missing child in Toronto won’t work – unless the search takes the main character to Florida or the hurricane spreads to Toronto and figures in the climax.

  • Blend in the setting with the story as I do in “Unfinished Business.” This also is an example of a longer lead.

Lilly Clark sat cross-legged on the park bench. She leaned forward, resting elbows on tanned knees. The background hum of cars on the nearby expressway competed with her daughter’s singing Sarah McLachlan’s I Will Remember You while flying high on the swing.

Trish, at 12, was perched on the edge of womanhood.

Lilly, at 12, had lost her childhood and fought the urge to revisit it. She’d only faltered once, but even then hadn’t given in completely.

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

  • Create a mood consistent with your story. The cliché is a character hearing footsteps in the fog. Come up with an original mood – this works in mystery and suspense stories. Just make sure you put the character in the scene and show the character’s feelings and actions. I start “My Brother’s Keeper” with

Dear Danny:

It’s a bleak hide-inside winter’s day. Did the wind shudder that day you went to your studio for the last time? Did you have to push through deep snow from the house to the end of the driveway? Why the studio? Were you making an artistic statement setting the scene among the clay sculptures and paintings that, since Ellen’s death, were all you had left? (Excerpted from Beyond the Tripping Point, copyright 2012 Sharon A. Crawford. Book available fall 2012 from Blue Denim Press)


Sharon A. Crawford

Author of Beyond the Tripping Point



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