Grace's Mosaic Moments


Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Tale of Three Books

My daughter's neighbor took this photo last week. I suspect the bear-proof lock wasn't down tight.


Taken outside a school. Aargh!

A Tale of Three Books



Over the course of the last few weeks, I have had occasion to edit three extremely different manuscripts - two by  beginners with widely varying talent and attitudes and one from a published author who is not only good but ought to be well on his/her way toward the best-seller list. And the odd thing is, I enjoyed working on them all, though  I anguished over having to tell one of them a total rewrite was necessary.

The simple truth is that I enjoy editing, particularly the "content" part, from awkward sentences to gaps in the plot. I have no idea why this appeals to me - must be that I was born into a long line of teachers. In any event, I tackle each new book with wonder - what will this one be like?

A quick review from past Mosaic Moments. Why should you have someone edit your book? Unless you have a strong background in English and the patience of Job, you need help. There's no way any book is going to read well without judicious self-editing by you, plus content and copy editing by those willing to deal with the nitty gritty. I recently groaned over Book 2 of a series I really like. It had some truly egregious errors, the kind that indicated nobody had bothered to proofread, let alone edit. Fortunately, Books 1 and 3 in the series were a clean read, so giving the author the benefit of the doubt,she is still on my "read" list. (Believe me, there are authors who are not, because I felt that when they failed to edit, they did not respect their readers. Including me.)

Now to the Tale of Three Books . . .

The three books I've worked on over the last few weeks brought home to me the truth of all I've been preaching since the start of this blog in January 2011. The same beginners' mistakes seem to occur over and over and over again. (As well as a few "doozies" I hadn't run into before!) Here are a few home truths and reminders sparked just by the three most recent books I edited.

Attitude.  Although every author needs confidence in his/her work - and huge doses of perseverance - it can be fatal to ignore expert advice. Never assume that your first draft is perfection and you only need a little help with fact-checking (or punctuation or whatever). We're all guilty of this arrogance at some time - I once had a contest judge deduct five points from my score, calling the the alien language I had so carefully crafted "misspelled words"!  But seriously, if you go to the expense of hiring an editor, pay attention to what he/she tells you. You don't have to accept every comment and correction, but consider that a professional editor just might know what he/she is talking about. . For example, if told the overuse of "then" is the mark of an amateur, make an effort to get rid of as many of those pesky little words as you can.


Subjective Editing Decisions. Cooperate with your editor when asked your preferences about the many variations in grammar and punctuation allowed in Fiction.

Self-edit. For heaven's sake, self-edit! Run Spell Check daily. Edit at the end of every chapter or two. Edit for content - did you actually say what you thought you were saying? Edit for clarity. Add more description and color, missing motivations, etc.. Delete sentences that sound like running-off-at-the keyboard - words that obfuscate rather than clarify. Words that detract
 

Five weeks, three books. Here are some of the classic lessons I pointed out in my critiques. (Most you've read in great detail on Mosaic Moments over the last few years.)

1. Identify. Always identify your characters clearly as they are introduced. (If in the midst of an action scene, do it as quickly as possible afterward.)

2.  Clarity. Write clearly, using the principle of "Less is more." Make sure you don't leave things your readers need to know inside your head. Remember: Everything you want your readers to know must be on the pages of the manuscript.

3.  Motivation.  In most cases you can bring off the most incredible plot if you provide enough motivation, explanation, set-up, etc. Do NOT just plop some twist into your story and expect readers to swallow it. There must be set-up, hints - something that prepares for the reader for the big revelation, dramatic action . . . whatever. The reader needs to understand what is happening and is entitled to an explanation in a reasonable amount of time.

4.  Big Moments. Do not be in such a hurry to get through a scene that you forget to give special moments the attention they deserve. Readers love details. And they absolutely hate it when you slough off what should have been a Big Moment with only a few words.

5.  Secondary Characters. Do not allow them to overshadow your hero and heroine. They are there to add color, be foils for dialogue, etc. You can make them interesting, sassy, evil, whatever, but we do not need their life stories as part of this particular book.

6.  Show vs. Tell. Yes, authors are still having trouble with this one. All this phrase means is that you have to get inside the heads of your main characters and let us see what they see, hear what they hear, feel what they feel. Do not, as author, TELL us. Let them SHOW us through their introspection, action, and dialogue.

7. Self-edit.  Once again, do not be so arrogant you think what you wrote the first time around is perfect. Self-edit to improve your content, choose better words and phrases, add better descriptions, better clarity, more clear motivations, etc. Always self-edit at least twice before letting anyone else see your manuscript. Don't let your ego, or laziness, get in your way. That's why editing at the end of each chapter is easier. You don't find yourself at the end of the book with ALL those chapters waiting for a first "read."

Don't be the author who trips over that old saying, "Pride goeth before a fall." Listen and learn. Your work will be far better for the time it takes to edit. 


 ~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace
 
For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.  








Saturday, September 17, 2016

God Wept

This post was planned for last week, but my new "used" computer died, and I was finally forced into the modern world, kicking and screaming, with an "All in one," which absolutely can't be a computer and Windows 10, which turned out to be a lot less scary than I'd been led to believe. Thanks to the best of the Geek Squad, who salvaged programs that go back to 2003, as well as my $300 Oxford English Dictionary. Wow!

So here is the post that should have appeared late last Sunday after a very moving 9/11 Memorial in Oviedo, Florida. I was there because The Citrus Singers were performing two numbers, and my daughter, their director, was singing "Amazing Grace." The event started late, due to a sudden squall, which came back right in the middle of all the speeches. Susie sang from "under the canopy." I had brought an umbrella and was one of the few who didn't have to take shelter. And as I heard the Moderator, the Mayor, a Seminole County Commissioner, and our District 4 Representative speak - and watched memorials dedicated to the fallen policemen and firemen from Seminole County while the rain beat down and we remembered not only the 3000 who died in the towers but all the first responders who have died of diseased lungs since, I could only think, "God Wept." The gloom seemed fitting.

But through some mysterious means, the clouds parted for The Citrus Singers, only one of whom was even born in 2011. The girls were able to stand and sing in the open at beginning and end without being deluged.  Below - hopefully - is a link to their final number, "America the Beautiful."

For the Citrus Singers, click here. 

And here are three photos I took in spite of the rain. The soldier in the white coat stood even more stiffly than the guards at Buckingham Palace, but I notice he bowed his head while Susie sang "Amazing Grace." The entire event, by the way, was outside Rock & Brews in Oviedo, a franchise owned by the rock group Kiss.






Fifteen years, and we each still remember where we were that day.) I was living in Venice, Florida, at the time, and Susie called me just long enough to shout, "Turn on your TV!" And, alas, Venice turned out to be the place where the leader of the pilots learned how to fly. He even lived in my part of town - I'm quite sure I saw him walking to the airport two or three different times. 

Our sleepy little town was swarmed by the FBI the next day. They even confiscated all the computers in our quiet little library, as that is how he communicated with the others. Needless to say, that flight school never operated again. 

So I was very glad I had an opportunity to attend such a well-organized memorial service, even if  we all ended up rather damp. It might have been conducted in the parking lot of a Rock & Roll restaurant in the pouring rain, but it was sincere and well done. I'm glad I was there.

~ * ~  
Thanks for stopping by,

       Grace
 
For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.  

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Transforming Truth into Fiction





 This week's Hurricane Hermine, Florida's first hurricane in eleven years, reminded me of the opening chapter of my Shadowed Paradise, and that it was an excellent example of how to take a true incident and incorporate it into a work of fiction. Shadowed Paradise is chockfull of truths adapted to fiction. This week's Mosaic Moments features one of them. 

The actual incident:

Way back - sometime in the late 80s or early 90s - when I was living in Venice, Florida, we were hit by a "no name" storm that dumped 29" of water over three days, isolating many homes and washing out the center of a bridge less than two miles from my house. When I heard the story on the news, I jumped in my car and went to take a look. I even walked part way out on the bridge to get a good view of the gap. The night before, in a blinding rainstorm, a nurse on her way home from her shift at the hospital had driven into the c. 18-24" gap in the in the center of the bridge cut by the rushing waters of Alligator Creek. Fortunately, those were the early days of cell phones (which I presume is what she used to call for help), and she was promptly rescued by local fire and police.  That, of course, is the background to Chapter 1 of Shadowed Paradise. As you will see in the Author's Note, I also used a number of other actual incidents when writing my first Romantic Suspense. Below, please find that Note plus Chapter 1 of Shadowed Paradise.




Author’s Note

A surprising amount of this book is true. After all, how could anyone make up such a bizarre incident as a snake climbing a typing stand after a terrified tree frog? It happened to me while I was writing this book. The bridge washout, the car trapped in the gap, occurred about a mile and a half from my house. Spiders the size of saucers, alligator attacks, jungle rivers the color of strong tea, a “city” with a thousand roads to nowhere—they all exist on Florida’s gulf coast. A great deal more of the story, including the serial killings, are based on fact, but, beyond that, I leave it to the reader to guess where truth ends and fiction begins.

Blair Bancroft




Chapter One

Somewhere behind the waterfall there was a road. The Toyota’s wipers, valiantly slashing through the deluge, allowed Claire intermittent glimpses of gold reflectors crouched on the center line like an undulating row of one-eyed alley cats waiting to pounce. To the right was her other lifeline, the white stripe marking the edge of the pavement and the deep drainage ditch just beyond.
In the three miles since she turned off U.S. 41 Claire had seen only one other car. Obviously the natives had sense enough to stay home in a monsoon. Or perhaps no one was out there at all. No reassuring glimmers of light shone from the houses whose dark deserted shapes loomed behind the curtain of water, their snowbird owners flown safely north well in advance of the scalding heat and daily downpours of summer along Florida’s Gulf Coast.
A blue-white flash of lightning illuminated the scene in stark relief, revealing the looming shadows as nothing more sinister than modest ranch-style homes with neat lawns, swaying palms, massive live oaks. Thunder crashed down, enveloping the car in a reverberating roar of protest from the seared black clouds around them.
From Claire’s right came a small whimper, quickly choked short.
“It’s all right, Jamie,” she said brightly, eons more confidently than she felt. “We’re almost home. They have storms like this all the time in Florida. We just have to learn to get used to it.” If there was one thing her son didn’t need, it was more fear.
Claire gripped the wheel so tightly her knuckles ached. She allowed herself one tiny glance away from the road. Jamie’s frail shoulders were rigid, his eyes glued to the steady swish of the wipers struggling to part the waterfall on the windshield. His small hands clutched the shoulder strap in front of him.
Claire winced. Eight-year-olds should not have to suffer from white knuckles. What were they doing out here?
Simple. She had succumbed to the sight of Jamie’s chin sagging toward his small chest as he heard the TV weatherman announce the possibility of record rainfall. It had been raining for three days—not the area’s usual late afternoon thunderstorms, but solid, hour-after-hour driving rain. Claire went off to work each morning, leaving Jamie and his great-grandmother to endure the tedium of no sun, no beach, no walks along the Intracoastal Waterway. Smitten to the heart by her son’s silent endurance, Claire had proposed an excursion to the latest Harry Potter epic. And was amply rewarded by a wide-eyed, “You mean it, mom?” followed by a whoop of joy and a beatific smile.
Such a simple outing. Now, too late, Claire recognized her Florida newbie mistake. While she and Jamie sat enthralled by Harry’s adventures at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the storm had increased from downpour to torrent. And now they were fighting their way home through a nearly impenetrable wall of water.
Jagged lances of lightning stabbed the swirling clouds, exploding into great sheets of light. Thunder enveloped them. Claire heard Jamie draw a deep breath, that heart-rending gasping sound that said he was going to be brave, no matter what. Her visibility worsened in a sudden misting of her eyes. Guilt swept over her. Not even Harry Potter was worth the resurrection of Jamie’s terror.
Lightning continued to flicker like an erratic neon sign, illuminating the drenched world around them with eerie intensity, shimmering off the waving palms, the Brazilian peppers, the swaying Spanish moss dangling from gigantic oaks. Off the tangle of mangroves.
Mangroves.
Claire slowed from a determined twenty miles an hour to less than fifteen. Although she was a new resident, she had visited the area all of her life. Mangroves grew in salt water or the brackish places where rivers met the sea. Their octopus-like roots anchored the soil and provided a habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. Mangroves meant they were entering the causeway leading to the bridge over Heron Creek.
The narrow two-lane causeway, about the length of a football field, crossed the estuary where Heron Creek emptied into the bay. Usually, the creek was a placid band of water meandering through mud flats and mangroves. Tonight, each flash of lightning revealed roiling waters on both sides of the road. White caps swirled, splashing against the embankment. Suddenly, directly in front of them, the golden cat’s eyes winked out, drowned under a blanket of water. The white line disappeared.
Water over the bridge.
Fearful of braking on wet pavement, Claire took her foot off the gas. The lightning, capricious as always, moved out into the Gulf, leaving nothing to illumine the bridge but the Toyota’s headlights.
“Mom?” Jamie, clinging to being brave.
They were less than a mile from home. The only other bridge across Heron Creek meant a six mile detour. She drove this bridge daily. Knew it had survived hurricanes, as well as countless Florida rainy seasons. Water, only a few inches deep, covered less than twenty feet of road. Home was straight ahead. She could do this, she knew she could. Claire put her foot back on the gas and moved forward at a steady ten miles an hour.
She was almost on it before she saw it. Not a steady stream flowing over the bridge but rushing, roiling, white-capped water. Bubbling up. Not just over, but up. Through an ominous streak of black that ran the width of the road.
Oh, God! Claire pumped the brakes, shouting for Jamie to hang on, knowing it was too late. The car slid inexorably forward. They were going in. Claire slammed into the steering wheel. The front end tilted down, sagged into the black abyss. Came to an abrupt, teeth-jarring halt.
The crack was not wide enough to swallow them up.
A ragged gasping noise. Claire had not realized she was holding her breath until her agonized lungs forced her back to life. “Jamie! Are you all right?”
“I . . . think so.” Jamie sat stock still, instinctively aware of what the slightest movement might do.
The Toyota’s front end was angled down by thirty degrees, rocking ever so gently in the swift current which had eaten away the pavement at the center of the bridge. In the storm and darkness it was impossible to tell how fast the gap was widening. Only one thing was certain. There was no backing up. The front wheels were in a void, and any movement could peel back the pavement, sending them plunging into the raging river.
The car shuddered as something, possibly a large branch, bounced off the upstream tire and was swept on into the bay.
“Mo-om!” It was Jamie’s nightmare voice. The one Claire had hoped never to hear again. A tiny choking sound. A hiccup.
“Listen to me, Jamie.” Claire couldn’t believe the steady, mommy’s-got-everything-under-control tone that rolled off her tongue. “Sit very still while I shut off the engine and put us into Park.”
Claire unglued her right hand from the wheel, eased the gear into place. She was grateful it was too dark for Jamie to see the terrified grimace on her face as she pulled the hand brake upward. Except for the rocking of the current, the car did not move. With what she hoped was an inaudible sigh of relief Claire switched off the ignition. She left the headlights on, giving dim but definite comfort. And a warning to anyone approaching the bridge from the other side.
“Good boy, Jamie.” Mom’s bracing commendation for her son’s bravery. The need to hear the sound of a voice. Any sound but the incessant beat of the rain and the ominous roar of the flood below.
What next?
“Jamie, I want you to unhook your seat belt. That’s right. Good boy. Now, very slowly, open the door. Step down carefully.” Oh, God, what if there was a hole there too?  “Jamie!  Hang on to the car until you’re sure the road is solid. Okay?”
“Okay.” Thin but brave. Jamie Langdon was experienced at being brave.
Unfortunately, Jamie took her words so literally, moving with such extreme caution Claire had to clench her jaw to keep from shouting at him to get a move on. Who could tell how fast the pavement beneath them was crumbling?
“Mom?” Mom, the door won’t open.”
“Try it again.” Claire hissed, struggling to keep her voice calm.
“Mom, I think it’s locked.” Patient. Faintly superior. Even at a time like this, his father to the life.
Automatic door locks. Idiot! She should have remembered. In the dark all the buttons felt the same. Claire pushed each one until rewarded by a satisfying plop as all four doors unlocked. Sinking her teeth into her lower lip, Claire took a deep breath. They would survive this. They really would. “Okay, Jamie, try it now.”
As his small hand pulled at the handle, the world burst into a blaze of light. A blinding white light that turned night into day. Claire and Jamie gasped. The Toyota bucked in a sudden rush of current, then settled into a gentle rocking motion as the unrelenting light sparkled off the waters that had swallowed its front tires.
Claire grabbed Jamie’s hand, held on tight.
Dear God, surely nothing more . . . Please . . . nothing more!
A rush of raindrops, cool damp wind. Movement behind her. The car seemed to sigh, settling back on its haunches as something large and heavy slid into the rear seat. A voice spoke in a deep, rich baritone. “Everybody okay?”
“Just scared,” Claire managed, relief flooding through her. They weren’t alone. And the voice had all the reassurance of a true hero.
“What’s your name, son?”
“Jamie.”
“Okay, Jamie,” said the stranger without the least hint of urgency, “I don’t think this car’s going anywhere, but just in case, we’re going to take it real easy. It looks like I outweigh both of you together, wringing wet, so you could probably go out the front door, but to play it safe, you just crawl on back here with me and I’ll scoot you out the rear door. Okay?”
“Okay.” Jamie, small and agile, made short work of wiggling his way through the gap between the front seats.
“Go straight to my pickup,” the firm baritone instructed, “and climb in. Your mother doesn’t want to have to worry about you while she’s getting out of here. Right?”
“Right.” There was another rush of damp air, rain and rumbling river. No cry for help, no sound of a young body plunging into an abyss. Claire bit back a sob of relief.
Long moments of fearful silence. “He’s in the truck,” announced the disembodied voice from the back seat. “Now it’s your turn. Just do what Jamie did and you’ll be fine.”
Impossible. There was no way she could get out from behind the wheel, bump over the gear box, the raised hand brake, and crawl through a four-inch gap. “I can’t,” Claire protested hoarsely.
“Look, lady, in case you hadn’t noticed, your front tires are in the damned creek. Lucky for you the break’s not too wide—your front bumper’s on the far side and hanging on. But more pavement could go at any moment. So take those little fingers of yours off the wheel and move it!”
Miserable Florida redneck. If Jim had ever spoken to her like that . . .
Claire uncurled her fingers from the wheel and began to hitch herself across the central gear box. Hard, uncompromising pieces of metal and plastic bit into the most sensitive parts of her anatomy. Propelled as much by discomfort as by fear, she thrust herself backwards through the impossibly narrow opening between the seats. Large, none-too-gentle hands grabbed her in places she didn’t care to identify, and suddenly she was sprawled, breathless, in the Toyota’s rear seat, her back pressed up against a broad chest only slightly less firm than a boulder. The side of her breast was squashed into an equally hard knee cap as arms as strong as Mr. Clean’s steadied her against thighs of steel. She was also embarrassingly aware of being pressed tight against a more delicate portion of their rescuer’s anatomy.
The powerful arms that pinned her suddenly let go. “You okay?” The baritone had slipped to bass.
“Uh-huh..” The most articulate remark she could manage.
“Okay. Now get the hell out of here. Slowly.”
As their rescuer swung the door open, Claire crawled over the solid bulk of jean-encased legs and out into the lessening rainfall. Beneath water that sloshed up to her ankles the ground was solid. Beautifully, wonderfully solid . . .
Wrong. Beneath her feet was black, crumbling pavement. They were far from safe. They were still on the bridge, suspended over a relentless river. Claire leaned back through the car door. “What about you?” she asked, frowning.
“Move and I might be able to get out!”
Stung, Claire stepped sharply back. What if his considerable weight was all that was keeping the car from tumbling into the river? What if it started to sink while he was getting out?  She planted herself firmly by the rear tire and waited. Did she actually have delusions of being able to hold on to that much male body hurtling into space?  Who was she kidding?
A well-worn western boot topped by classic blue denim jeans poked through the open door, slid slowly down toward the water that flowed over the pavement. As a second boot followed, the Toyota shuddered. The boots froze as the car shimmied, then settled into a steeper angle. The gap in the bridge had widened. “Get out,” Claire shouted. “Now!”
Out of the depths of the car a body unfolded, gathering momentum as it moved toward the brilliant light behind them, carrying Claire with it as easily as a fullback with a football tucked against his chest. So much for her dramatic plan to be helpful.
They ended up well back from the ominous gushing black fissure, both breathing hard, Claire’s head pressed against the stranger’s chest, where the thump of his heart against her ear assured her that he wasn’t quite as unflappable as he appeared. Even soaking wet, the stranger’s chest was the most comforting resting place she’d experienced in a long, long time. Claire gasped out her thanks, well aware her words were ridiculously inadequate.
“No problem.” As if cued by the laconic response, the deluge shut off, dwindling into a light drizzle. An onslaught of civilization broke the dark loneliness of the night. Flashing blue lights stabbed the darkness on the far side of the bridge as a county patrol car pulled up and parked sideways across the road to block traffic from the south. A cacophony of sirens sounded from the long winding stretch of road Claire had driven from the theater. Wails, aa-oo-gahs, and banshee screams marked the arrival of two more sets of flashing blue lights, the red and white pulse of an ambulance, and the long bulk of a fire engine.
“I called 911 before I left the truck,” admitted the voice above her on an almost apologetic note.
Truck. Jamie. Oh, dear God, Jamie! Claire broke away from her safe haven and ran toward the white light she could now see was nothing more than the awesome power of four floodlights mounted on a rack atop a bright blue pickup. Standard equipment in Florida for those who liked to go where few had gone before.
Claire flung open the truck’s door. Halfway up onto the high leather seat, she saw that it was empty. Her voice rose to a wail. “Jamie!”
“Damn it, I saw him get in!” Rough hands thrust her aside.
 Brad Blue peered between the front bucket seats into the narrow space behind. Crouched on the floor in the extension behind the passenger seat was a forlorn figure, his wet blond head bent between his knees, hands pressed to his ears.
“He’s here,” Brad called over his shoulder, ignoring the woman’s frantic efforts to get past him. Odd. It had been thirty years since he was this kid’s age, but to the best of his recollection, most boys would be having the time of their lives, noses pressed to the glass, awed or smugly satisfied at their own part in an adventure that had turned out three patrol cars, two ambulances and a fire engine.
And yet, the boy had been rock steady when abandoning a car precariously balanced over a flooding river.
Brad instinctively reached out to give comfort, but paused a scant inch from the glistening thatch of hair. Slowly, he pulled back, his fingers moving instead toward the floodlight switch, snapping it off. He backed out of the pickup, gave the woman a boost up, then shut mother and son inside the privacy of the cab. With a shout he headed off the rescue workers who were inching their way toward the Toyota. No need to have to rescue the rescuers.
Funny about the kid, though.
Brad fielded a barrage of questions, tossed back a few terse replies. One of the deputies played his flashlight over the crazily canted car, where water surged up and around front wheels still wedged into the ominous black crack that split the bridge in two. “Hey, Brad,” he called, ambling toward the pickup, “what happened just now?  That was one hell of a scream.” Twenty years earlier Deputy Pat Farrell had caught passes from Brad Blue during their years at Golden Beach High.
“Woman thought her kid was missing. Tow truck on the way?”
“Lucky that’s all we need. Damnedst thing I ever saw. Don’t think there’s been trouble with this bridge since it was built.”
“Never had this much rain before.”
“Sure didn’t.” Deputy Farrell glanced at the pickup, then eyed the phalanx of emergency vehicles. “Think we’re gonna need the medics?”
Brad cracked open the cab door. “Everything okay in there?  Need a medic?” The woman’s pale face appeared in the opening between the front bucket seats. Somehow she had gotten into the small space where the boy was crouched.
“No. Send them home.” Claire bit her tongue. What a stupid, ungracious remark. “I’m sorry,” she gasped. “Please tell everyone thank you. But lights, sirens, people asking questions would only make things worse. We just need to go home.”
Her rescuer didn’t question her judgment. He simply fished a notebook out of the glove compartment and a pen, dripping wet, from his shirt pocket. “Name, address, phone. Twice. I’ll have Pat—the deputy—give one to the tow truck driver. Then we can go. Pat can wind up his report tomorrow.”
To the hypnotic accompaniment of flashes of red, white and blue, the glow of gold from the fire engine, Claire printed out the requested information, scrawled her signature across the EMS release form; then, sick at heart, she turned back to her son’s bent head. Jamie’s chin was sunk between his knees, shoulders hunched forward in utter dejection. Had he relapsed into memories of terror, or did he think he’d disgraced himself by hiding from the flashing lights? Other than a steady murmur of inane reassurances, words failed her. Either way, her son was suffering agonies of the soul, and there wasn’t even room enough in this miserable sliver of a cab extension to scoop him up and hold him tight.
The voices outside died away. Cab doors banged. Through the pickup’s rear window Claire watched the two ambulances and the fire engine back off the causeway, reverse into a side street, and head back up the road toward town, red taillights casting a glow on the glistening pavement.
Jamie didn’t see them. He never raised his head.

~ * ~ 

Grace Note: The lesson from today's Mosaic Moments: Look around you. It's amazing how many real-life events you can adapt for use in your books. 

***

SAD NOTE: Below is a link to the explosion of the Space X rocket that was scheduled for launch on Saturday, September 3. The oxygen tank at the top blew up, followed by the explosion of the rocket and the payload (a satellite that would have brought the Internet to much of Africa). A $250,000,000 loss. For video of the explosion, click here.


~ * ~  

Thanks for stopping by,

       Grace
 
For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.  

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Character Development - the Unexpected 2


I call the Grammarly video linked below, "The Alligator Stroll." Filmed in Pasco County, about 60 miles from Orlando.

For this vignette of suburban living in Central Florida, click here.

~ * ~



THE UNEXPECTED
When Your Characters Seize the Bit & Run with It

Grace note:  B'aela Flammia and Rand Kamal are characters in my Futuristic Paranormal series, Blue Moon Rising. Like K'kadi Amund (profiled last week), both are examples of characters who seized their bit parts and refused to give up when their fifteen minutes of fame were done. And as long as they're never allowed to overwhelm the two main characters—I do write Romance, after all—this is okay.

B'aela Flammia. B'aela has a bit part in Rebel Princess, Book 1 of the series. She's not quite a villainess, but she's definitely not popular with the book's heroine, Princess Royal of a planet called Psyclid. The princess may not want to marry Jagan Mondragon, the Sorcerer Prime, but she's never going to be friends with his long-time mistress! But B'aela is also a witch, the sorcerer's primary assistant. She can't just go away; she is essential to the success of the pyschic phenomena the rebellion plans to use against the Empire. Even after Jagan marries the Princess Royal's younger sister, in Book 2, Sorcerer's Bride, B'aela is still around. Supposedly not in his bed, but certainly a thorn in the side of the younger Psyclid princess. B'aela is, however, mostly off stage, hers a character with only a few lines here and there. 

And then, suddenly, B'aela is sent on a mission, to sighs of relief from both princesses, yet somehow she refuses to fade away. She bursts onto the pages with the tale of what happens when her undercover assignment goes wrong, and, lo and behold, a stir of sympathy for the despised mistress. When B'aela is saved in a gallant rescue effort by yet another bit-player who insisted on bumping up his role, the big question is: what do we do with her now? She has become a "someone." And "someones" are impossible to ignore. B'aela is now an integral part of the long-running plot. I'm not going to be the "spoiler" here, as the resolution of B'aela's story is yet to come. Let's just say that by Book 4 B'aela rises to stardom.

Why? I have no idea why the despised mistress became a heroine. It just happened. This is why an author must always be flexible. If you are one of those people who must outline, then please, pretty please, remember that you don't have to stick to it! Allow room for creativity to blossom. 

Warning:  I am talking about characters transforming in a series, not within the course of one book. Yes, a bit player can show signs of developing into something more within the confines of a single book, but that would still be with the idea of growing that character in a different book in the the series. In the course of a single book, you must never allow a secondary character to become too big for his/her britches, which definitely detracts from the impact of your hero and heroine.

 Rand KamalIn Rebel Princess, the action ranges over an entire sector of the galaxy but features only the rebel side of the rebellion. In Sorcerer's Bride, the action is confined to the occupied planet Psyclid and one of its moons, the blue one, which is rebel headquarters. Therefore, we see commanding officers of the Empire for the first time. Admiral Rand Kamal, nephew of the Emperor, is the enemy. He appears early on in Book 2 but only comes to power as Governor General after two previous GGs come to bad ends when the people of Psyclid learn how to use their psychic gifts as weapons. Kamal has already been set up as more moderate than his predecessors, and then he meets B'aela Flammia. By Book 3, The Bastard Prince, he is wavering on a crisis of conscience. But, wait . . . is he willing to help the rebels because he believes in their cause, or because he has his eye on becoming the new emperor?

Did I plan any of that? Absolutely not. Rand was just supposed to be a more moderate Governor General, one who wasn't going to lay waste to Psyclid when things start going wrong. (Can't kill off our main characters, right?) But somewhere along the way, he became a character in his own right, participating in an interesting, if doomed, side romance, as well as adding considerable doubt about who is going to end up running twelve star systems if—er, when—the rebels win. 

Summary:  Yes, walking the fine line between not letting your secondary characters overshadow your hero and heroine and letting one or more take their role to a higher level is a challenge. But above all, never cease to be flexible. The scope of a single book has little wiggle room for the development of secondary characters, but the scope of a series is quite different. Don't be afraid to let your characters become what they want to be. Let the cream of your bit players rise to new heights and make your series that much more interesting.

Caveat. Speaking as an editor who frequently works with beginners, I have to emphasize that if you are writing a single title book, you have to keep a rein on those secondary characters. They are there to add color, advance the plot, add warmth, cynicism, commentary, etc. They are not there to have major scenes on their own with characters other than the hero and/or heroine. My blogs on Secondary Characters seizing the bit refer to series only.

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Thanks for stopping by,

Grace
 
For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

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