Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Sound of Silence

Both photos from 2014 below come under the Heading: 
I Can't Believe I Did That!

Tea Party on Jellison Street, 2014


Off-hand I think I can safely say that my traditional Regency Lady Silence has sold more copies than any of my other Regencies, except perhaps Tarleton's Wife. I've often wondered why. Because it was closest to a soap opera of all my books? Or were readers intrigued by the implication of the title - a female who doesn't talk???

And then, years later, for my Blue Moon Rising series, I created a male who didn't talk. He did, however, speak through illusions, while my poor Regency heroine was stuck for years in a lie she had invented to protect herself as a child. I don't think I originally intended my Blue Moon character to be anything more than someone to add whimsy to the plot, but K'kadi is very endearing, and by Book 3 he gets his own book.

So how, when readers love snappy dialogue, do you present characters who never say a word?
But why should you do this, you ask? Well, why not? It's different, it's a challenge. I'm always searching for something new. "Same old/same old" just doesn't work for me. Here are a few examples of how I made it work:

From Lady Silence . . .

A portion of the introduction of "Katy Snow," age 12:

“Well, child,” said Mrs. Tyner, when the lost waif’s plate was polished clean and not a drop of milk was left in her mug, “what’s your name, and how came you to be out alone on a night such as this?” 
    The girl raised a pair of stunningly lovely, long-lashed green eyes to the housekeeper, who was standing over her, black bombazine gown bristling with the authority of her office.  The eyes widened; the child’s entire body radiated distress.
    “Well?” Mrs. Tyner snapped.  “Cat got your tongue?”
    Solemnly, the girl nodded.
    Mapes and Mrs. Tyner exchanged an incredulous look.  Cook shook her head.
    “You can’t talk?” the butler demanded, none too gently.  Again, the child nodded.
    “Everyone knows mutes don’t hear either,” said Mrs. Tyner, “yet you—”
    “Are you reading lips, girl?” Mapes snapped.
    The waif shook her head.
    “So you can hear me?”  At an affirmative nod, the butler forgot himself enough to whistle through his teeth.  “Well, what’s to be done with you I’m sure I don’t know.”  He looked at the two women and shrugged.
    “Ain’t you the one, Mr. Mapes,” chided Betty, the Cook.  “Think we’re goin’ to solve your problem for you.”
    “With the master going off to war, we don’t need extra help,” Mrs. Tyner mused.  “She can find a warm corner for the night, but in the morning she’ll have to be on her way.  Oh, for goodness sake, don’t shake your head, child.  What else am I to do with you?  Stop that!  You’ll shake yourself to pieces.”
    But the child had dropped to her knees, clutching the housekeeper’s stiff gown as if she would never let go.  And all the time her head kept shaking.  No, no, no, no, no!
    “Good God,” Mapes muttered.  “Stop that at once!”  He sighed. The child went still as a statue, still clinging to Mrs. Tyner’s bombazine skirt.  “Do you have any skills, girl?  Do you know how to serve in a gentleman’s household?”
    Slowly, with effort, the girl pushed herself to her feet.  The green eyes took on shadowed depths; her lower lip thrust slightly forward.  She gave a sharp, decisive nod.
    Mapes glared at the girl who stood before him.  A waif, a ragamuffin . . . yet her clothing had once been quality.  Her eyes pleaded, even as they shot defiance.  Proud as a peacock, she was.  No second parlor maid, this one.  With the Frenchies causing trouble again, few houses were hiring staff.  If Farr Park turned her out, it was the workhouse.  Or worse.  Mapes took another look at those eyes, rich as emeralds, proud as Lucifer.  No . . . as yet he judged her an innocent.  A bud not yet plucked by the raw cruelties that could befall a lost child.
    Mapes pursed his lips, heaved a resigned sigh.  There were, after all, limits to how hard-hearted even a butler could be.  Looking down his nose at the bedraggled but defiant child, he announced, “In the morning I will discuss the matter with the master.”
    With almost regal bearing, the girl inclined her head in a nod of gracious acceptance.  Almost, by God, Mapes thought, almost as if she were granting Farr Park the privilege of her presence.

    Desperate.  She’d been so desperate she’d gone on her knees.  To a housekeeper!  Let her eyes beg favor of a butler. 
    Fool!  She’d found shelter, a possible home; yet after all she had suffered, pride still rankled, threatening her safety.  When would she learn she had lost all claim to rank and privilege when she had run from the shelter provided for her?  When would she learn to be humble, to fit into the world below stairs?
    Now.  Now was the moment!  Her wandering days were done.

Six and a half years later:

    Merciful heavens!  Yesterday, her view of the returning hero had been obscured by misty eyes and a sudden attack of shyness that had kept her lurking behind Jesse, the tallest footman.  Still fixed in her mind was the half-drunken boy who had stumbled down the stairs on his way to war.  Not this whipcord-thin, dark-haired, broad-shouldered, lantern-jawed, imposing adult.  With lines radiating from the corners of eyes as dark as his hair, deep-cut slashes from nose to chin, cheekbones that formed lines of their own, and a mouth that looked as if it never smiled. 
    Yesterday, she had been afraid to put herself forward, afraid to join the homecoming celebration for fear that when Colonel Damon Farr remembered how she came there—when he recalled the careless largess that had resulted in her elevation so far above the waif rescued from a cold winter night, he would have her dismissed on the instant.  In the light of a fine August day, she had gathered her courage and had decided to brave the lion in the privacy of his den.  And all she was gaining was the knowledge that her savior, whom she had worshipped through all these years, was far harder and more implacable than she had ever dreamed.
    “Who are you?” he repeated.  Far more ominously.
    If you think I’m going to tell you, you are quite mistaken!  
    The blasted girl stuck up her chin and stared straight back at him.  Blond . . . green eyes.  A memory flickered to life.  A child with matted hair and a borrowed gown.  Something odd about her . . . ah, yes, he’d been told she didn’t talk.  “Ring the bell,” he ordered.  Silently, she glided across the thick Persian carpet and did as she was told.  “Stay!” he added sharply, as the girl continued on toward the door.  She skidded to a halt, folded her hands demurely in front of her.  She stayed.
    “Mapes,” the colonel demanded as the butler entered the room, “tell me about her.”
    “Ah . . .”  The butler cleared his throat.  “You may recall, sir, the little miss we took in the night before you left, the one that came to the kitchen door during a snowstorm?”
    “I recall a waif, Mapes, one not even fit to be a tweeny.”
    “You said we could keep her, sir.”
    “Yes . . . and I wasn’t myself at the time, as I recollect.”
    “A bit askew, as I recall, Mr. Farr, colonel, sir, but you never was one to turn a child out into the snow.”
    Damon drummed his fingers on the mahogany desk top.  “And what would you say we have now, Mapes?”  He waved a hand toward the girl who was standing regally straight, taking it all in.  “Who, pray tell, is this?  Lady Silence?”
    “‘Tis Katy Snow, sir,” the butler declared, happy to have a solid fact to grasp.  “You see, Mrs. Tyner said she looked like something the cat dragged in, so we decided to call her Kate or Katy.  And since she came to us in the snow . . .”  Mapes allowed his voice to trail off, casting a hopeful look at his master, who used to be such a gay, charming, and generous lad.
    “And she still doesn’t talk,” said the colonel flatly.
    “No, sir, not a single word.”

~ * ~ 

From Rebel Princess, Book 1 of the Blue Moon Rising series . . .

The introduction of K'kadi Amund, who has just stormed into a military mess hall and thrown himself at the feet of the sister he has not seen in eight years:

   “K’kadi is highly intelligent, Captain, but I fear his communication skills are somewhat erratic. He is—let me see—nineteen now, yet he does not talk, and he listens only when it suits him. Sometimes it is difficult to know if one is getting through or not.” She saw Biryani heave a sigh behind the captain’s back. “But perhaps he can show you what he feels.
   “K’kadi, are you listening?” Solemnly, he nodded. Dear goddess, but she’d swear he was even more beautiful than he’d been the last time she saw him. Like a diminutive angel from ancient lore, so different from herself it was almost impossible to believe they were related. Shoulder length blond hair surrounded a heart-shaped face, marked by brilliant blue-green eyes with an exotic tilt at the outer corners. His nose was perfectly proportioned above generous lips that always seemed on the verge of a smile. Except perhaps now, when apprehension warred with the delight of his reunion with Kass.
    K’kadi Amund was, quite simply, exquisite. No wonder an entire roomful of people crowded around, trying to get a good look at this startling newcomer.
    “K’kadi,” Kass said, “I would like you to show the lieutenant you are sorry you made him think you were a bad person.”
    A small dark cloud suddenly formed over their heads, lightning flashed, rain poured down. Some of those present would always claim they heard thunder. Others would swear they were soaked to the skin.
    Kass struggled to hide a smile at the sight of Tal Rigel with his jaw hanging open. Yet for her own mental feats, he hadn’t so much as twitched a muscle. The others? Too stunned to react, they were frozen in place.
    “K’kadi, you may show the captain how you feel about seeing me again.”
    Gasps of shock, fear, and awe as fireworks streaked above their heads. Bursts of red, blue, gold and silver, playing across the coffered ceiling, dancing around the pillars. Swirling kaleidoscopes of color reflecting on upturned faces.
    As the incredible display faded, Tal Rigel spoke at last. Kass was pleased to see it took him two tries before he got the words out. “Does he do anything else?”
    “K’kadi, disappear B’ram Biryani.”
The majordomo was gone. No longer standing behind the captain, he had simply vanished. The crowd found its voice in one great gasp of shock.
    “Captain, it’s illusion, not a force field. You may touch Biryani. Try it.”   
    The captain reached out, his fingers closing around what looked like empty space but clearly outlining an arm. “Fyd,” Tal breathed. “I feel him, he’s still there.”
    “Thank you, K’kadi. You may bring Biryani back.” The young Psyclid brought the majordomo back so fast the old man’s smile of satisfaction was clearly visible. Take that, Regulons, and that and that and that.
    “Remarkable,” Tal said, putting considerable feeling into that one word. “I leave you to your reunion, Kiolani, but be in my office at oh-nine-hundred tomorrow. Good-night.”
    Dear goddess, he wouldn’t . . . he couldn’t . . .
    Oh yes, he would. Kass suspected that when Astarte left dock, she’d be carrying not one, but two new crew members.

From Sorcerer's Bride, Book 2 of the Blue Moon Rising series . . .

Kass is doing paperwork and not happy about it when . . . 

    Flames shot up from the carpet six feet in front of her face.
    K’kadi, I’m going to wring your neck!
    Ah, fizzet, it must be important, because there he was in the flesh, stalking through the doorway, the flames rising to dance above his head as he stood, arms crossed, scowling as if whatever was wrong was all her fault. The flames cast dancing red highlights on his long pale hair and turned his azure eyes to glowing purple.
    “Tell me,” Kass said.
    The flames were replaced by a face it took her a moment to recognize. Where had she seen it? Crystalia. The rebel in the park. K-something. Killiri? Yes, T’kal Killiri, the man who had caught them sneaking away from the palace. As always, Kass was amazed at K’kadi’s ability to reproduce anything he had ever seen.
    A dragon materialized, expanding to the point of sending Kass leaping from her chair, scooting back against the wall. “Enough, K’kadi! That’s not funny.”
   T’kal Killiri’s head dashed for the door, the dragon following, its flaming breath licking at the long braid hanging down the rebel leader’s back. “Pok,” Kass breathed. “He didn’t. Tell me Jagan didn’t actually do that.”
    K’kadi folded his arms across his chest and simply stared at her. To emphasize his point, one pale eyebrow shot up, wrinkling his youthful forehead. Finally, after several moments of suspense, Killiri’s head popped back into view.
    “He’s all right?” K’kadi nodded. “Bless the goddess.” Kass closed her eyes, a sigh of relief whooshing out as she sank back into her chair. But she wasn’t the ParaPrime Designate for no reason. Without opening her eyes, she groaned and said, “There’s more.” Perhaps if she kept her eyes closed, she wouldn’t have to find out what.
    A hand touched her shoulder, warm and firm. Kass slitted her eyes to discover her brother’s face radiating disappointment that she was refusing to accept news from Psyclid. Well, pok! Little brothers—particularly weird little brothers— could be a pain. Reluctantly, Kass nodded.
    A full-length image of M’lani and Jagan formed, about one-third their actual size. A hologram was a child’s sketch compared to K’kadi’s perfect reproductions. And . . . a chandelier? This was something new.
    Suddenly, M’lani’s face turned red, the chandelier shattered. Both miniature figures hit the floor.
   “They are hurt? K’kadi, tell me this instant!”
    Her brother, eyes rolling with impatience, bounced both figures back to their feet and repeated the scene in greater detail, clearly showing M’lani’s anger, the windows shattering as well as the chandelier, and Jagan saving them both.
    Mouth agape, Kass turned toward her brother. “M’lani has the Gift of Destruction?” Solemnly, he nodded.
    Pok, dimi, and fyd! What now?
~ * ~ 

Grace notes on writing "silence": Foremost in portraying a silent character is "introspection" - the characters' thoughts and feelings are clearly all-important. But those thoughts have to sparkle. They can't be a stodgy "tell" approach: the author describing how "Kate thought or K'kadi felt. Their introspection has to come across with the energy of dialogue.

Silent characters are also revealed through how others view them. That's how you get in physical descriptions and dialogue from people who can talk.

And, of course, the characters must be involved in the main plot, even if, as in K'kadi's case, he is not a main character until Book 3 of the Blue Moon Rising series, The Bastard Prince. These silent characters have to remain interesting at all times, not be nudged aside because they cannot engage in the snappy dialogue so many consider necessary for a dynamic book. 

Silent characters must tug at the heart strings, but they must also have admirable qualities, even when they make mistakes. What was Katy Snow's justification for pretending to be unable to speak? How does a fey, possibly autistic prince, become a hero by Book 3? 

 And, of course, being innovative doesn't end with characters bound in silence. It's your story. If you can find a way to justify an oddball, exotic character . . . If you can get your readers to suspend disbelief just that necessary much . . . go for it. This is a case of "The sky is not the limit." You are limited only by your imagination and your ability to bring a "way out" character to life.

~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by,

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.  


  1. Love this post ... just starting to write a character that fits right into this idea of silence. Oh, but to read your excerpts and fret, because who can dare imagine they could match on such compelling writing? Missed those two books of yours, will be going back a getting them!

  2. Martha, thank you so much for the kind words. I hope you enjoy the books. Being able to see K'kadi develop over the course of three books has been amazing. I'm intrigued by what he may achieve by Book 4. (Only Book 1 is out at the moment.)