Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Creating Secondary Characters, Part 2

 "Way back when," The Last Surprise was published in both print and e as part of a Christmas anthology. I always felt it needed more words than an anthology allows to give this poignant tale of three orphaned sisters the rich texture it deserves. So over the last few months, A Lady Learns to Love has been given a new title, expanded by ten thousand words, and revised, line by line, in an effort to more thoroughly portray Lady Christine Ashworth and her struggle to overcome a series of disasters that have left her incapable of appreciating the blessings right under her nose.

Available November 1, 2018

~ * ~

SPECIAL NOTE:  Next Mosaic Moments - October 6, 2018

As mentioned in Part One of "Creating Secondary Characters, there are very few "rules." You can be as creative as you like when crafting the characters around your Protagonist(s). But there are one or two things that that are mandatory. 

1. NEVER allow your Secondary Characters to overwhelm your Main Character(s). Think of this as the Cardinal Rule of writing Secondary Characters. They are there to provide color and contrast, a sounding board for the hero or heroine. Sometimes they are a pivotal part of the plot, but be extremely sparing about allowing them a Point of View. Do not use them to "tell" us about the Main Characters. Secondary Characters can be wonderful, but they must remain SECONDARY. Do not let them seize the bit and run with away with your story. If you have a Secondary Character you like that much, do what so many other authors have done in the past—give that person his/her own book.

2.  IDENTIFY. Secondary Characters, like Main Characters, need to be identified when they are first introduced. This does not mean you go into a detailed description which brings the story to a dead halt. [Vic's sister, Jane. Mrs. Knightly, my next-door neighbor. She'd known Ben since third grade. He served with Tim in Afghanistan.]

3. SECONDARY CHARACTERS IN ROMANCE. It is even more essential in Romance that you never, ever allow the Secondary Characters to detract from the Hero and Heroine. They can add color, aggravation, and/or comedy to your story, but keep them in their place. Readers want to see the one-on-one relationship between the Hero and Heroine, not a whole slew of distractions. Which means that the use of Secondary Characters tends to be less in Romance than in other genres.

4.  SECONDARY CHARACTERS IN MYSTERY & SUSPENSE. Here, the role of Secondary Characters is a bit more murky. Do the person or persons who meet with disaster in the opening scene count as Secondary Characters or are they merely Victims? I'd say that depends on the author. In some books, particularly well-crafted mysteries, the detective— whether law enforcement or private—gradually uncovers so much information about the victim that that person becomes a true Secondary Character, even though he/she died in Chapter One. In other books, the Victim never rises to the true definition of a Secondary Character. But RULE ONE still applies. Never let any Secondary Character, no matter how interesting, distract the focus of your story from the Main Character(s).

A few more examples:

I am currently reading Lethal White by Robert Galbraith. What a magnificent panoply of Secondary Characters! Yet there is never the slightest doubt that the story revolves around Cormoran Strike and his partner Robin.

And then there's Janet Evanovich. What an incredible string of Secondary Characters she has crafted through 20+ books in her Stephanie Plum series. Stephanie Plum series, hmm. That means Joe, Ranger, Lulu and Gramma Mazur are Secondary Characters. (Ranger & Lulu very much so in the early books.) Yes, they've become favorites, with actual "rooting sections" for Joe vs. Ranger, but the books are still Stephanie's. She's the Main Character in every last one, and Ms Evanovich never lets her readers forget it. YOU mustn't forget either, always keeping your Main Character(s) to the forefront and keeping those pesky Secondary Characters for window dressing.

If you'd prefer more classical references . . .
When it comes to Secondary Characters, you can't do better than Shakespeare. His plays are peopled with veritable hosts of Secondary Characters, even his darkest tragedies alleviated by contrasting comic scenes. Where would Hamlet be without Polonius or Rosencrantz and Gildenstern? Romeo and Juliet without Mercutio or the Nurse?

In addition to those already mentioned in this series, here are a few more authors who do an excellent job of writing Secondary Characters while combining Romance with Mystery, Suspense, Sci Fi, or Paranormal: C. S. Harris, Catherine Lloyd, Rhys Bowen, Tasha Alexander, Kim Harrison, Linnea Sinclair, Susan Elizabeth Philips.  

Exceptions to the "Rules":

As much as Regency authors like myself are devoted to Georgette Heyer, she has a couple of books that make me grind my teeth. They are books where she features a Secondary Character over what I consider the "heroine" of the story. In these books the Hero, being a hero, is attempting to help some silly little twit throughout the entire course of the book, while the Hero's intended languishes in obscurity. Frankly, I just want to grab up these silly flibbertigibbets and give them a good spanking for embroiling the poor hero in their stupidity. And yet, the first, or even the second, time I read these books, I believe I enjoyed them at their face value, agonizing over all the impediments that cropped up to defy a happy ending. No more. I've grown too wise to the "whys" and "hows" of writing a book. But that doesn't make them bad books. Just examples of what a highly successful author can get away with—but definitely not recommended unless you already have a devoted following.

Gothic novels:

I realized as I wrote these two articles on Secondary Characters that Gothic novels, such as my Regency Gothics, also violate the "rules" for Secondary Characters. They are considered Romance, and yet they are written like Mystery or Suspense with a single Main Character, relegating the Hero to the role of Secondary Character. An inevitability with books written in First Person. And also part of the "aloneness" demanded of the Heroine of a Gothic tale. The threatening atmosphere, the suspense, the deaths are the primary ingredients of these stories. And the Heroine is primary. The Hero, of necessity, must remain somewhat in the shadows, both heroine and reader never quite certain of his love or loyalty. (That said, I'm about to violate that in my latest, The Ghosts of Rushton Court—or maybe not—I haven't quite gotten that far yet. Being an "out of the mist" author, who knows what will happen when I actually begin to type?)

Examples from TV and the Movies:

In the examples above, I hope everyone found at least one author whose work was familiar. If not, here are examples from the worlds of Star Trek and Star Wars.

Incredible as it may seem, Mr. Spock started out as a Secondary Character. So did the rest of the bridge crew of the Enterprise, but they ended up as the best known ensemble in the history of television or the movies. I suppose that doesn't make them all Main Characters, but they took their characters far beyond their initial characterizations. Secondary Characters on steroids.

Luke Skywalker started out as the young hero of Star Wars but gradually became a Secondary Character as the long-time series progressed, possibly due to the scriptwriter's plans, or perhaps more because Han Solo and Darth Vader stole the limelight. And what about Chewbacca, R2D2 and C3PO, surely some of the best-known Secondary Characters of all time?

Secondary Characters are wonderful, providing support, sounding boards, color, comedy, heartbreak . . . whatever your imagination can think up. But DO NOT ever allow them to overshadow your Main Character(s). They are there to support and defend, not take over the story. Does your genre allow a Secondary Character to have a Point of View? Make sure you know that before you sit down to write. In Romance, probably not. In Mystery, Suspense, Sci Fi, and other genres, the rules are more flexible, but never waver on Rule One: Secondary Characters must remain Secondary Characters. Do not let yourself become so fascinated by these people you've created that you let them detract from your focus on your Main Characters or on your Plot.

~ * ~
For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.
For a link to Blair's Facebook Author page (updated 9/14/18), click here.
For a brochure for Grace's Editing Service, Best Foot Forward,

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, September 15, 2018

Track Changes & The Aphrodite Academy

Another gem for my collection
(and proving I'm not the only fuss-budget out there)

Again, my apologies for changing the announced topic - more on Secondary Characters next week - but two things came up that took precedence: the publication of my first "boxed set" and—Wow!—I finally tamed Track Changes in Word 2016. I felt the Track Changes miracle (after two years of off-again, on-again struggles) was well worth shoving everything else aside, so I could reveal my breakthrough.

It's possible I'm the only dinosaur out there, that everyone thinks the Word 2016 version of Track Changes is just wonderful . . . but I hated it so much—finding it not only difficult to work with but impossible to decipher in a welter of strikeouts & keeping deletions on the same line with additions—that I simply threw up my hands and continued to edit in an older version of Word. 

But what were my editing clients seeing when I sent the manuscript back? Were they getting the clean lines of the old version of Track Changes, or were they getting the jumbled-up mess with strikeouts? So this week I sat down yet again, determined to figure out how to clean up the edits in Word 2016. Below is what I finally discovered, and if you hate strikeouts as much as I do, you can make these changes and find it much easier to distinguish what was deleted from the original and what was added by the editor. This, of course, is a matter of personal choice, but for those who are like-minded . . .

Here is what I wrote for my own information, as well as to send to my clients when I return a manuscript: (Please pardon the repetition from the paragraphs above.)

Revising the Look of Track Changes in Word 2016 - 

 a special primer for those who prefer the old 
Track Changes (before Word 2016)

Call me a dinosaur, but for two years after I bought a new computer with Word 2016, I was so appalled by what I saw when I tried to use Track Changes that I continued to do all my editing* in an earlier version of Word. (I kept my old Word program, as all my downloads to Amazon were there, and I didn’t want to take a chance on losing them.)

But this week, after several previous attempts, I figured out how to keep an edited manuscript from looking like an unintelligible bunch of chicken tracks (inline strikeouts of deleted material littering the page instead of popping neatly into an on-the-right “editing” column, along with editor’s Comments). The old way worked. The new Track Changes was a total mish-mash.

*(Grace note): I am referring to the editing work I do on other authors’ manuscripts, not self-editing. But, if you would like to view what your editor says with the clarity of the old Track Changes, here’s the way to do it. (If you like strikeouts, lack of color, and general confusion, well, you can skip the following.)

After much grinding of teeth and trial and error, by George, I think I’ve got it!  Here’s what I recorded for myself and for those who might be interested:   

1.  Click on Review in the menu bar.

2.  Except WAIT - there is NO place in the Review Menu to make these changes. (That I had already discovered.)  But . . .

3. In the SEARCH bar ("Tell me what you want to do"), type: Track Changes Options

4.  Change the Balloons line to “Revisions” 

5.  Reviewing pane - Off

6.  Click on Advanced Track Changes Options.

7.  Insertions - “Colors only”

8.  Deletions  -  “Hidden”

9.  Changed lines - select “Right border”

If you’re lucky, you will find you have converted Track Changes to the cleaner, more legible style in the older versions of TC. (Microsoft made these menus extremely hard to find, but they are still there.)

Please note:
The above directions are what I wrote for myself. Although I do not use the Reviewing Pane when editing, but you may find it helpful when viewing what your editor said. That’s personal choice. I prefer the old way of Deletions and Comments in a single column on the right.

Hopefully, these instructions will help. (Your Comments welcome.)

~ * ~


Stories from the Regency Darkside. The Aphrodite Academy series features four young women who desperately need second chances. Belle, Cecilia, Holly, and Juliana come from varying backgrounds, but all have one thing in common: life has not been kind. The language of the books is frank and saucy, but the stories are driven by character and plot, not sexual content. If you would like a peek at the other side of sweetness and light while still having confidence in a Happily Ever After ending, these might be the Regency romances for you.


After her father offers her as a gaming prize, Lady Arabella Pierrepont runs away. She is aided by one of the gamesters, who takes her to the Aphrodite Academy, an all-female establishment where young women are trained in academic and—ah—other subjects. There, Belle is given three choices: the respectable but dull life of a companion, a marriage well below her station, or training for the life of a courtesan. Unfortunately, none of her choices include her savior, Gabriel, Viscount Ashford.


Cecilia Lily’s greatest desire is to become the mistress of a titled gentleman. But when the Marquess of Longmere becomes her protector, she learns the truth of the old adage, “Be careful what you wish for.” Yet even after suffering a severe beating, Cecilia finds it difficult to adjust her rigidly formed views of class when help comes in the form of the alleged lord of London’s Underworld. No matter what Nicholas Black offers, she cannot see past his guttersnipe origins. Cecilia has many realities to face before her world comes right.


Holly Hammond, an independent, sharp-tongued former tavern wench, has reached the pinnacle of her ambition, flying high as a sparkling London courtesan—until she finds herself out on the street, pregnant with twins. But Holly, a graduate of the Aphrodite Academy, is not alone. Out of the blue, she receives an offer of marriage from merchant captain Royce Kincade, who snatches at the bribe offered—his very own ship—without considering his bride’s determined independence, her babies’ natural father, or the possible outrage of his relatives. Not surprisingly, Happily Ever After teeters on the brink of extinction.


Juliana, Baroness Rivenhall, is headmistress of The Aphrodite Academy. Once an innocent bride, she married a charming, insouciant gentleman who promptly taught her aspects of love not generally practiced in Regency bedchambers. Even going so far as to include Darius Wolfe, his man of business, in a ménage à trois. With Darius Juliana learns the true meaning of love. But when her husband is killed in a duel and she is free at last, she is so horrified by events endured during her marriage that she turns from Darius, setting up the Aphrodite Academy to help other young women who have found themselves in dire situations. Six years go by before Juliana’s friends band together to push her toward the happy ending she has provided for so many others.

 For a link to The Aphrodite Academyclick here.

More on The Aphrodite Academy on my updated Facebook Author Page. See link below.

~ * ~

For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.
For a link to Blair's Facebook Author page (updated 9/14/18), click here.
For a brochure for Grace's Editing Service, Best Foot Forward,

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, September 8, 2018

Creating Secondary Characters

Now available - Boxed Set of my Aphrodite Academy series

A look at what I call the Regency Darkside. These novellas feature the stories of four young women from different backgrounds who have one thing in common: life has not been kind. The language of the books is frank and saucy—my only books marked "18+"—but the stories are driven by character and plot, not by sexual content. If you would like a peek at the other side of Regency sweetness and light while still having confidence in a Happily Ever After Ending, these might be the books for you.

For a link to The Aphrodite Academy Boxed Set, click here.

~ * ~


Grace Note:  I sat down and scribbled off four pages of notes about Secondary Characters in less than a half an hour before I wrote Word One of this week's post,so I already know there will be more than one entry on this topic.

What is a Secondary Character?

Hmm - now that's a harder question than I thought. Many books have a single main character—the central figure in the story, male or female. Romances and many tales of Mystery and Suspense feature two main characters, a Hero and a Heroine. But that's it. Unless your story revolves around your Villain in a tale told primarily from the Villain's Point of View, that Villain is a Secondary Character. (Scrooge jumps to mind as a Villain who is a main character, although unlike most villains, he gets a Happily Ever After following his dramatic Comeuppance.) 

Needless to say, your Villain can be anyone, anywhere, his/her sins great or small. The variety of villains, the quantity and quality of their sins is limited only by your imagination. On a list of unusual Secondary Characters, you might include Nana, the St. Bernard in Peter Pan. Tinker Belle too, although I'm ambivalent about Moby Dick. The whale may get the book title—and one can't deny the story revolves around him—but I can't get my head around calling him the Main Character. By default, that makes him a Secondary Character. (Comments from those who disagree are welcome.)

Secondary Characters are frequently the most fun to write, as they are allowed more freedom in what they do and say. Minor faults are tolerated in Heroes and Heroines, but for the most part they must remain likable, sympathetic, people readers can root for. Secondary Characters, however, can have a multitude of sins or be true blue. (Some, like Hawk in Robert Parker's Spenser series, are both.) Secondary characters can be loyal, back-stabbing, supporting, snarky, overly talkative flibbertigebbets . . . or maybe a dragon. They  can be the Main Character's outspoken best buddy, the nasty person next door or at the office, the cliché of the nagging mother or mother-in-law, the little kid who puts a rock through the heroine's window. The list goes on ad infinitum. Two widely varying Secondary Characters come to mind: Mrs. Bennett from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Tiny Tim from Dickens' A Christmas Carol. We all love Elizabeth and Darcy, but who do we remember, wincing, but Mama, who puts her foot in it every time she opens her mouth. And then there are Mr. Bennett, Elizabeth's sisters, and all the other characters drawn with a pen that bites. Pride and Prejudice overflows with marvelous Secondary Characters. No wonder it's survived the test of time.

Action/Suspense author Jack Higgins writes villains I find fascinating. They are always in-depth, even the most evil displaying love of family or other redeeming qualities. In fact, he made a Nazi submarine captain so appealing that after killing him off, he was forced to "resurrect" him for another book! And not too long after that, he took an Irish assassin and turned him into the long-running hero of an almost infinite series of books. Lindsay Buroker does something similar in her Emperor's Edge series, taking a young assassin with a very short role in Book 1 and turning him into the hero—well, anti-hero—of nearly all the remaining books in what turned out to be a very long series.

So yes, Secondary Characters can graduate to having their own books. WARNING: But do not let them shine so brightly when they're secondary that they overwhelm the Solo Protagonist or Hero and Heroine.

I've never had any interest in vampires and werewolves. Until, that is, I picked up the first book in Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series. A gay vampire? Multiple gay vampires? On top of what has to be the most macho werewolf in the kingdom? And a Heroine without a Soul? I was hooked. And as if that weren't enough, as the series progresses, a highly effeminate vampire ends up as—oh horrors—a werewolf, eventually Alpha of the pack, and gets a touching love story of his own. Another Secondary Character making his mark. And I admit to succumbing to the temptation to make one of the characters in my Sci Fi Saga, Blue Moon Rising, a werewolf.

In Anne McCaffrey's lengthy Dragonriders of Pern series, the list of Secondary Characters is almost infinite, traveling back through the centuries as the series expands. I have always felt that the first books were the strongest, however, the ones where telepathic dragons are among the many striking secondary characters.

To wind up this week's post—primarily an introduction to how varied Secondary Characters can be—I offer Temeraire, from Naomi Novik's Alternative Napoleonic history, which includes a fighting (and talking) dragon. Although Temeraire would tell you he's not "secondary" to anyone!

~ * ~

Next week: A few more examples, plus some generalities about what you have to keep in mind when "casting" your array of supporting players.

For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.
For a link to Blair's Facebook Author page, click here.
For a recently updated brochure for Grace's Editing Service, Best Foot Forward,

Thanks for stopping by,

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Approaches to POV

In early July I took on a new challenge, restoring a hand-crocheted bedspread I estimate to be at least a hundred years old. Exquisitely detailed work - and likely done by kerosene lamp! - but it looked as if someone at some time had put it in a washing machine. (Unbelievable, I know.) The fringe had been torn off in several places, as if caught in the rotor, and there were a LOT of holes in the design itself, as well as a multitude of places where the original yarn and previous mends had broken and had to be tied off before they became new holes!

But when a man brought the bedspread into our Crochet Club and asked if anyone could fix it, I was the only volunteer. Probably because I was taught to "mend," and most of the work involved was plain, old-fashioned mending with needle and thread. Of course, if I did my work correctly, you won't notice anything except possibly the lighter color new fringe. (The owners are hoping to use the natural remedies of lemon juice and sunshine to lighten the yellow of aging, and someone on Facebook also suggested Oxyclean.) Below are views taken the day before I returned the bedspread to the owners.) And yes, I should have turned my cutting board upside down before laying out the bedspread, but I didn't, so please ignore the blue graph lines!



My apologies for postponing this week's announced topic, but I realized I had more to say about Point of View—that I had not pointed out what a variety of writing styles can be accommodated by what we call "First Person" and "Third Person." Your choices are likely far greater than many of you realized.

Definitions:  "First Person" in its most basic form is a story told from only ONE person's Point of View: 
     I fell in love on a Friday. 
     They tell me my mother was a queen . . .

"Third Person" is the most common form of writing a novel, using a person's name or the pronouns "he" and "she" in the narration:
     Emily hit the brakes hard, but it was too late.
     She was gone. He'd lost her, now and for all time.

Variations on a Theme:

1.  One First Person POV. Over the years I've heard a number of Romance authors declare they "hate" First Person books. Allegedly, this is because they demand to know the Hero's Point of View, as well as the Heroine's. And yet my Regency Gothics, told entirely from one woman's POV, are my best-selling books. Frankly, Gothic novels only work in strict First Person because the Heroine must feel alone, cut off from what others are thinking and doing. (If she knew the Hero really cared for her and meant her no harm, much of the suspense would be lost.)

First Person, with a sole narrator, also works well for Mysteries. I'm sure you can think of a good many famous mystery stories told in First Person.

2.  First Person - Multiple POVs.  Some books are written from different Points of View, all of them in First Person. WARNING:  If you do this, give each section a label. "David," "Sam," "Virginia," "Blue Robot," etc., so readers will instantly know which "I" is talking. Otherwise . . . major confusion.

3.  Mix of First Person & Third Person. This has become a fairly common device, particularly in Mysteries. (See the works of James Lee Burke or Linda Castillo.) These "mix" books are frequently part of a series narrated by a continuing Main Character in First Person. The view points of others in the story - sometimes a villain, sometimes a sidekick, sometimes a victim - are told in classic Third Person. The switches in POV are easy to spot because our Hero/Heroine always narrates in First Person, while Third is reserved for Secondary Characters, almost inevitably interspersed by the Main Character's POV to avoid confusion. 

Note: If you switch from one Third Person POV to the next without First Person in between, you must establish who is narrating in the first few words of the new section.

2.  Third Person - ONE POV.  Not common, but these books do exist. They are books told from a single Point of View but are written using "he" and "she" instead of "I."  I usually find myself going, "Huh? Why didn't the author just use First Person?" But to each his own. Just keep in mind that it is possible to write a Third Person book from the POV of only one person.

3.  Third Person - 2 - 4 POVs.  This is the most common form of novel writing - what most of us expect when we pick up a book to read. In Romance, for example, readers expect to become acquainted with the viewpoint of both Hero and Heroine, with perhaps the viewpoint of a Villain thrown in. Or a sidekick , a precocious child, or Great-gramma Tillie who wonders which descendant is most worthy of her fortune.

Note:  There are some books of this type that go along as expected, and then—oops!—you realize the author just threw in a one-sentence remark or a short paragraph from a minor character's Point of View. I personally like these little inserts. They provide a fresh viewpoint and keep readers on their toes. (The famed Regency author, Georgette Heyer, did this all the time.)

Grace Note:  Third Person POV is such a habit that I was on Chapter 2 of my third Regency Gothic, The Demons of Fenley Marsh, before I realized I had written Chapter 1 in Third Person instead of First!

4.  Third Person - Multiple POVs. As noted in previous posts, Multiple POVs can keep things lively or they can seriously detract from the point of your story. For example, over the course of four books in my Blue Moon Rising series, I portray seven or eight serious romances, including one that ends in tragedy and one that ends unconventionally. But I tried to never lose sight of the fact that the four royal children and their significant others were the primary focal points of the series. And I made an effort to present the secondary romances with considerably less time than those of my main characters. (I can only hope it worked.) To repeat what I said last week: KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE GOAL. Don't distract readers by going in too many directions at once. 

Action/Suspense authors like Tom Clancy and Jack Higgins handle Multiple POVs exceedingly well.

5.  Author POV.  This is "storyteller" mode, an approach that works better in stories with less emotion. Author POV means YOU, as author, are standing back, DESCRIBING what is going on, as opposed to getting inside your main characters' heads and letting them reveal their own stories—allowing readers to see what they see, hear what they hear, feel what they feel. Author POV is deadly in Romance, something to be avoided as much as possible. 

That doesn't mean you can't describe your Main Characters, but almost all books are better for being told from the Main Characters' own Points of View and NOT the Author's. To repeat:  DO NOT "tell" us what is happening or what people are thinking. Let your characters "show" us.

~ * ~

For a link to Royal Rebellion, click here.

 For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author page, click here.

A new brochure for Grace's Editing Service, Best Foot Forward,
 is now available. Email: 

Thanks for stopping by,