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Tag Archives: Fiction Plot and Characters

When in doubt kill the character off?

 

Dana Bowman from the Beyond mystery series. Still alive.

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments, please.

Cheers.

Sharon.

Sharon’s latest Beyond mystery links to Amazon

 

 

 

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Keeping the suspense in your novel’s plot

As an editor I have read and edited a variety  of fiction manuscripts. The creativity of many of the  writers and the wide range of story lines is very interesting. But one thing (among others) I sometimes find is the lack of sufficient suspense. The story drags; the story, well, it flat lines. Here are a few tips on creating suspense in your novels.

1. Leave your reader hanging – at the end of the chapter is a good place because it not only raises the reader’s interest, it gets him or her reading the next chapter. Here is an example from my mystery novel Beyond Faith.

“From what Sister Olsen had told me about her brothers, I had some idea what might be bothering Eli. Too bad neither Eli Foster nor I had all the facts.”

2. Ask a question. You know the old saying “questions are the signs of intelligence.” Questions also make the reader want to continue to get some answers. These are questions in the narrative, the character’s inner thoughts, not in dialogue. Obviously in dialogue, another character will usually answer the question although they might lie.

Again from Beyond Faith, “Who were they? And why did one seem familiar?” (all Beyond Faith excerpts, copyright 2017, Sharon A. Crawford, published by Blue Denim Press.)

3. Don’t tell all at once. Keep some information from the reader. I do a lot of this in Beyond Faith. The idea is you build up your plot with tidbits even if the character knows more than she is letting on. This is just the opposite from the example in point one above.

4. Use foreshadowing.This is often in conjunction with another technique. Again, see the example in point one above. Another example of foreshadowing is when the character is heading for an encounter they don’t relish. Perhaps with someone they don’t like and know is a nasty person. Build up the tension by getting inside the character’s head. How does the character feel? Scared? Are they sweating? Do they try to avoid meeting this character or delay the meeting by driving the long way to the meeting place. If it is in a restaurant, do they drink a lot, drop the cutlery, knock over a glass of water?

5. Or as a twist, the person is overly confident about meeting someone – a piece of cake, the character thinks. Then, wham, when they get to the meeting place, something happens – a car runs her down; someone takes a shot at her. She finds the person there all right at the meeting place – lying dead on the ground. You can tell I write mystery novels.

6. One suspense-building technique that I use is to have two main characters both heading for the same place at the same time – maybe one knows the other is there; maybe not. But one or both of them know that there is danger at the other end. Each one is racing to get there and perhaps save the other. You flip back and forth between the characters in separate scenes or short chapters. Show the reader what each character is thinking and what is happening to them. And don’t make it easy. In Beyond Faith I have PI Dana Bowman following Eli Foster in their respective cars; then I flip over to her fraternal twin, Pi Bast Overture who is not following anyone, but he has found out vital information about another character and figures out what this character is going to do so he is off to stop it. And no, I don’t tell all to the reader. And I’m not telling you any more here.

There are many more ways to create suspense. The twisted plot is one. And you can get ideas by reading published novels, the ones that do build suspense. Yes some crappy novels get published and I am not referring to self-published here.

And keep writing and rewriting, rewriting, rewriting.

And join a writing critique group for feedback.

And when you have rewritten a lot, hire an editor.

Then you can do some more rewriting.

I just started reading Hunting Muskie, a collection of literary short stories by Michael Robert Dyet (Blue Denim Press, fall 2017 – yes, same publisher as me). The first story “Slipstream”, has many plot threads popping up – all connected to a theme. And it keeps you reading. It also breaks the idea that some people have (mea culpa sometimes here) – that all literary stories don’t contain suspense.This one sure does have suspense.

Happy reading and happy writing.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

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Beyond Faith is here – some author thoughts on writing, rewriting and publishing

Beyond Faith has arrived at Blue Denim Press – my publisher. Soon I will get some print copies in my hands; soon it will be available on both the main Amazon site and the Canadian Amazon site. Check these current links for when. The book launch is still scheduled for October 22 at Supermarket Restaurant and Bar; I’m headed for Bouchercon the big mystery writers conference Oct. 11 to Oct. 15, and etc.

Whew! I need to take a deep breath and think. Think about how an author gets to this stage – at least this author – and how it feels.

This is my third Beyond book but still the elation, wonder and gratitude is there – just like  with the first book, and the second book. Although supposedly I am an old-hand at all this (and that is a myth – you always learn from each book’s writing, each book’s marketing – the whole she-bang). Among other things, with Beyond Faith, I learned a lot about revisions and working with the editor at my publisher’s. Some of you may know that I am also an editor, albeit a freelance one. Sometimes experience on both sides of the fence can be a help; sometimes not. The main thing is to remember which side of the fence you are on at that time. Sure past editing experience may help you with rewriting, but you are not the editor. Having said that, the book editor and the book author must not work at cross-purposes. You have to work together to create the best book possible. I like to think that’s how Shane and I brought Beyond Faith to publication.

The little voice in my head is whispering, “I should hope so – after eight revisions requested by Shane since the first submission. And that’s not counting all the revisions pre-submission and when I made all the changes, additions and deletions with each revision. It doesn’t come with the first try. Revision 1, Revision 2 and so on required several rewrites, only to go back the next day to make more changes to that revision.

In between all this and even during, my mind was whirling around with ideas of what and how. Sometimes I had to go out to my garden and pull weeds; sometime go for a walk, sometimes sleep on it. I don’t think I dreamed up any ideas, but sometimes when I woke up, an idea was there in my mind.

Shane would make suggestions for what needed changing and even say something had to go because it didn’t work. One example is in a scene I  had with David, Dana Bowman’s seven-year-old son, who was out walking the dog, Buddy, with his babysitter. The sitter goes into the drugstore and David and Buddy have a confrontation with a couple of the other characters. Shane pointed out that a seven-year-old, particularly David, wouldn’t talk like that. So, I had to do some rewriting to keep the plot intact but make David, well David. Usually I can do this, but something was definitely off. I was also told to put in more menace to have something frighten David then. And I did.

So while waiting for the publisher to deliver the actual print book author copies, I feel a sense of accomplishment, relief but also some trepidation. Because Beyond Faith now has to sell. And while I love doing book promo, there are never enough hours in the day to do all that I think is needed for that. And I am still learning how to do many of those things.

And do you know what is high on my list of impediments to doing book promo? Same as gets in my way of writing.

Screw-ups and other problems in other areas of my life – especially those caused by what I call “outside” – others screwing up, bad weather and the like. Things like unexpected house repairs, health issues, other people wanting me to do things for them now, late and delayed public transportation, bureaucratic and bank errors – all things that steal from my time.

And yes, they all make fodder for future stories. Some of them are at the basis of some of the happenings in Beyond Faith – all fictionalized, changed to be more menacing than in real life. Sorry, folks, not telling which happenings or even which characters fit that category. I will say that I do have an axe since 2014, but it’s used for chopping the ice that sometimes forms on sidewalks in the winter, not for chopping up people.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

author of the Beyond mystery series

Sharon holding up the previous 2 Beyond books at WOTS

 

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Beyond Mystery Serial Part 6 and words from Dana and Sharon

The arrival of Beyond Faith, the third book in the Beyond mystery series is getting closer.

Dana Bowman here. And Sharon A. Crawford, the real author, always here.We have an update. Beyond Faith’s appearance is coming closer.

Dana: Sharon has negotiated for Beyond Faith and Beyond Blood to get into the Dealers’ Room for Bouchercon 2017. New business cards are in the works.

Sharon: And sorry, Dana, you aren’t on them – like my editor would say – no space.

Dana: That’s okay…at least for now for this serial story which could be called Beyond Reason features me . Part 6 follows.

Dana: Fielding, what do you mean some of the characters here don’t exist. David certainly does and so does Ms. Dugan.

Fielding: Look on the floor and tell me what you see.

Dana (looking down): The floor.

Fielding: But what is there on the floor?

Dana: Nothing. Hey, who stole the hooded guy? Oh wait. Sharon made him disappear.

Fielding: Sharon? I  don’t see any Sharon. . .

Dana: Sharon A. Crawford, the author of the Beyond books.

Voice of Sharon: Ah, hah. You are finally admitting it.

Dana: Yes. No. What the hell?

Dana, turning around and looking at Ms. Dugan and David sitting on the office couch: Well, you two are still  here. So you must have seen Sharon make it disappear and then disappear herself?

David: Mommy, Mommy what do you mean? Sharon. She just disappeared. Maybe she took the dead guy?

Ms. Dugan: What dead guy? There is just us here.

Dana, looking around: Where’s Bast? He was just here too.

Ms. Dugan: Never saw him. Just you, David and me, and of course, Sharon.

Dana, scratching her head: What the heck. And I suppose you didn’t see Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding either?

Ms. Dugan: Who?

Dana: The detective who was investigating your brother.

Ms. Dugan: I don’t have a brother.

Dana: Yes, you do.  He was banging on the door here and he was caught coming out of a hardware store carrying a screwdriver which he is alleged to have used in some break and enters. And he was living with you for now.

Ms. Dugan: I live alone.

Dana: Well, if all this is true, then tell me what the hell you are doing here and what have you done with my brother? I… oh my head hurts.

Dana falls to the floor.

TO BE CONTINUED…. MEANTIME:

Check out my website to see what Dana and I  have really been up to. And yes, Beyond Faith is a reality .

Sharon A. Crawford

and

Dana Bowman

Sharon A. Crawford mugshot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dana Bowman mugshot

 

 

 

 

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A word from Dana Bowman and mystery serial part 4

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It’s coming. Beyond Faith, the third book in the Beyond mystery series. Dana Bowman, Private Investigator here. Yes I’m out from between the book covers. But which book? With the number of proof readings my author Sharon A. Crawford  and I have been doing for Beyond Faith, that would be the book. But the book is coming in early October. And soon you’ll get a peek at the cover. And… oh rats, Sharon is waving  her computer mouse at me to get cracking with the next episode in this online serial story

Bast, Ms. Dugan and Dana turn towards the balcony. They can hear the crunch of branches as something moves up the tree. A figure in a hoodie and sunglasses appears in the window by the balcony door.

Dana: Stay put, Ms. Dugan and David. Bast and I will check it out.

Ms. Dugan: Call me Carla.

Dana, stands up and glares at Ms.Dugan: I thought it was “Emily.”

Ms. Dugan: That, too. Call me either.

David grabs Dana’s arm: Mommy, Mommy, the creature is coming to the door. I left it open when I came in.

Bast charges over to the balcony door. Before he can close it, the hooded figure steps inside. Bast grabs it and the two tousle.

Dana: David, get Fielding here.

Dana runs to help her brother who is clearly not getting the better of the confrontation. She is just reaching down to grab the creature when a voice sounds from behind.

Voice: What is going on here? And who let that person wearing the hoodie in?

David, sounding scared: I did, but not on purpose, honest

Voice: Well, that person is NOT supposed to be out yet. Dana Bowman, what are you up to now? I can’t leave you alone for one minute and you get into trouble.

Dana: Oh, Oh. I really had nothing to do with it. Neither did Bast or David. But Ms. Emily or Carla or whatever-he-name-is Dugan just might have.

Ms. Dugan: Not me. I just came here for help for my brother.And who are you talking to?

Voice: She’s talking to me. And you should be able to hear me now.

Ms. Dugan: I can now. Who are you?

Voice: Why, I’m Sharon A. Crawford, the author of the Beyond books and I want to know why you Dana are pulling characters out of Beyond Faith.

Sharon A. Crawford mugshot

The second beyond book.

 

 

                   Read more about Dana Bowman here.

 

 

 

 

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Beyond mystery Part 3 serialized here

BEYOND FAITH IS COMING THIS FALL

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 occurs just just before that.Sharon is

Sharon is also saying to check out her website. Updates will be posted there about Beyond Faith

And now my continuing story…

The police have arrived – Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding from Major Crimes and Detectives Stewart and Tractor from Forensics. Dana, Bast, David and Ms. Dugan are sequestered in the Attic Agency Office, waiting for Fielding to question them. Outside the agency door, Tractor and Stewart are doing their forensic job.

Ms. Dugan, pacing around the room: Oh my God, my brother, Wayne, I can’t believe he’s dead. Who would do this?

Dana: Really. He was involved in some questionable activities.

Ms. Dugan: Not now. He was not doing those break and enters. He was going to fix my door hinge.

Dana: Well, maybe or maybe not. He still had some questionable associates as the police would say. I mean he is now dead…

David: Mommy, Mommy, you gotta help Ms. Dugan.

Dana: That’s what we are trying to do here, David.

Bast: Dana, let’s not be harsh. Ms. Dugan

Ms. Dugan: Emily, please.

Bast: Emily’s brother has just been murdered.

David: Mommy, Mommy….

Dana: David, quiet please. Maybe you should go back onto the balcony.

David: Mommy, we gotta help Ms. Dugan. We…: David is shouting now and stands up.

Dana: David. Do you want the police coming in here now? They are going to separate us soon. I’m surprised they didn’t do it sooner.

Bast: There is a body outside the door.

Dana: Right. Okay. So, Ms… Emily, do you recognize that voice from the other side of the door?

David: It’s one of his friends. He did it. He..

Dana: David. Okay, that’s it. (She points to the balcony). Out onto the balcony.

David: Aw Mommy.

Dana: Now.

David pouts and stomps towards the balcony.

Dana; Leave the door open but keep quiet. Now Ms…. Emily. About that voice outside the door.

Ms. Dugan: Not Wayne. He would have been dead. I didn’t recognize the voice – it didn’t sound natural;

Dana: But it could have been one of his assoc… friends disguising his voice. Okay, we need you to give us Wayne’s friends names and their contact info.

Ms. Dugan: There’s Doug Pinchard, Mike Green, and Steve Sumach. They all went to school together and hung out then and afterwards.

Dana: And got into trouble together?

Ms. Dugan: Yes, juvenile stuff – vandalism, joy riding.

Bast: And as adults?

Ms. Dugan: No!. Oh all right. They did do a few break and enters – but that was three years ago and they did their time in prison for that. And Wayne was going straight. He even just landed a job at fast-food place and was to start next week.

Bast: And the other three? Did they find jobs?

Ms. Dugan: I don’t know.

Dana: Come, come, Emily, you say you are close to your brother..

Ms. Dugan: Wayne didn’t tell me everything.

Dana: But he was living with you so you would know if his friends came round.

Ms. Dugan: Not necessarily. Not when I was teaching.

Dana: Wouldn’t you see evidence of them being there when you returned home?

Ms. Dugan: What do you mean?

Bast, interrupting: Dana means evidence of eating – maybe empty potato chip bags, dirty glasses, cigarette butts.

Ms. Dugan: Yes, I suppose so.

Dana: Come come Emily – either there was evidence or not.

Ms. Dugan: Oh all right. I did find a few dirty glasses – once – and cigarette butts, but Wayne smokes…smoked. Oh, I can’t do this. My baby brother is dead. Someone killed him. (She starts sobbing).

Bast: Take it easy. Do you want some water?

Dana: She might want something a bit stronger, Bast.

Ms. Dugan: Water is fine.

Bast pours some water into a glass from the pitcher on the file cabinet and hands it to her. Dana hands her a writing pad.

Dana: Start writing Wayne’s friends names and contact info – what you have. Also your impressions of each. It might help us figure out what happened.

Ms. Dugan: Okay. (She starts writing)

David charges into the room.

Dana: David, what did I say?

David: But Mommy, someone is climbing up the tree to the balcony.

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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Show not tell in fiction

The second beyond book.

How many times have you read (or written) a scene in a novel or short story that reads something like this?

John decided to tell Mary off and do it loudly.

“Mary, you are a disgrace to the club,” John yelled.

What’s wrong here?

It not only tells the reader what John is going to do,but then puts the same thing in dialogue.I call this overkill and is an insult to the reader’s intelligence. It is equivalent to hitting them on the head and slapping them in the face. Show, not tell the reader works better.

So, what can you do here? Delete the narrative where it tells what John plans to do and go right to the dialogue. Of course this is taken out of context (NOTE: not anything in particular – just off the top of my head  – before said head was hit, of course).

Besides the dialogue you can show John in action. Does he point a finger at Mary. Does he throw a book? Does his face contort into a red mass of fury? You can also show how John feels about doing this. Maybe he is scared to stand up to Mary as he may be on the shy side and Mary is a forceful person. So maybe his yelling and actions show this.

Having said all this, it is okay to have some narrative which can include telling your story, showing what characters are like and what your Point of View character feels and thinks.

Just don’t tell when you can show. And never do both around dialogue.. Readers don’t like being insulted.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

The next book in Sharon A. Crawford’s Beyond mystery series, Beyond Faith (published by Blue Denim Press will be out this fall 2017. Meantime, click on the Beyond book at the top of this post and get more info about Sharon and her Beyond books.

 

 

 

 

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