Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Out of the Mist Again


Posted to Facebook by Lynn Miclea

Ganesh - First Birthday - posted to FB by "Mommy" Edith Maxwell

Sunset by Donnell Bell

Also found no Facebook, no attribution:

I before E

Except when your foreign neighbor Keith

receives eight counterfeit sleighs

from feisty caffeinated weightlifters.




As I work on Regency Gothic #10, The Secrets of Stonebridge Castle, I have frequently been reminded of the oddities of being an "out of the mist" author. (And no, I absolutely refuse to be called a "Pantser," even though the origin of the term - a pilot described as "flying by the seat of the pants" - makes perfect sense. As does the expression, "winging it." Nonetheless, "Pantser" makes me grimace, so "Out of the Mist" it is.)

I have blogged on this subject before - again, please see Archives, or for all the topics nicely organized, check out my one work of non-fiction, Making Magic With Words. Today, I'll be revisiting the topic, using some of my most recent experiences as examples.

Why repeat this topic? Because there is so much pressure from the adherents of  "Never begin a book without a 10- to 30-page synopsis," and I want newbie authors to know this is NOT a given. Not everyone writes this way. Really - it's okay to "wing it." Of course, "out of the mist" does not work for everyone anymore that a detailed synopsis works for me. Each author has to find the path that makes sense to them. I simply want to be sure that authors with a more free-flowing mindset (like me) are not discouraged by those who seem to think there is only ONE way - their "right way" to approach a book.


The Secrets of Stonebridge Manor


Gleam in the Eye. I wanted a place I had not previously used as a setting, a bigger challenge with each new book. So off to my stack of maps of England, most particularly one showing each county, which I printed off the Internet many years ago. After much hemming & hawing - and studying the landscape via Google Earth, I settled on Nottingham (not mentioned since Tarleton's Wife, written more than 20 years ago. Next:  what kind of house? Not a problem - I'd been thinking "castle" for some time. But it couldn't be just any kind of castle - how about a castle with a moat? But most moats had been filled in or gone to grass by the early 19th c. So I googled "English castles with a moat." And there it was - a castle on an island in a lake. Wow!

Characters. (The first thing I create after the Gleam in the Eye are my main characters as they are all-important. These are the people who take over my book and craft the story.)

So who would these characters be? Who would live in this castle? Who would arrive as visitors? Should the castle be remote and creepy, in the grand tradition of Gothics, or has that them become a bit overdone? Was our heroine there as a governess or new bride, also in classic Gothic tradition? Well, as most of our readers know, I'm always looking for a new twist, some way to avoid repeating myself. (Which, I admit, is almost impossible when dealing with sinister places like caves and tunnels and dungeons.) Hmm . . . I'd dabbled in a not-so-innocent heroine in The Abominable Major, a Regency Historical. Perhaps a heroine even more outré this time around, as in a former spy, now an unwed mother?

From there, I assembled bit by bit, not the customary lonely and beleaguered heroine, but a heroine surrounded by whole host of characters, both human and other worldly. A heroine who must cope not only with her concerns for her child but for a fallen hero and a steadily rising number of murders. 

When I began writing Secrets, I created only the names of the hero and heroine, her daughter, and a few not-so-nice people in her village. Which meant that, as she approaches the main setting, Castle Stonebridge, I had to sit down with a legal pad and create a list of people she would find there, from its owner, the Earl of Stonebridge, to the butler, housekeeper, cook, footmen, maids, etc. And then there were the supernatural beings she was about to encounter. This was a scribbled list, made up "out of whole cloth," as the saying goes—just tossed off as they popped into my head. (I would, however, refer to this list time and again as the book progressed.) A few chapters later, I had to sit down and create yet another list, this one for all the somewhat dubious guests the earl brings with him when he disrupts the solitude of the hero and heroine with the arrival of a houseparty. (But this is the joy of "winging it"—the fun & games that keep things lively. I would find it tedious to the extreme to figure all this out in advance.)

Plot.  When I began the story, I knew only what we know of all Gothics—someone was going to die, perhaps more than one. How and why remained a mystery. (Truthfully, this is my approach to all my books. After all, if I have no idea "whodunit" until near the end of my book, then it is unlikely any of my readers are going to guess!) Which means my Plot consists of ALL CAP notes I write to myself at the end of each day's work, reminding me where I THINK the story is going next. But truthfully, as my characters develop, they take over the story, deciding what happens. Occasionally, I will plan a scene ahead of time, thinking out possible dialogue, etc. Yet almost inevitably, when I sit down to write that scene—when I get inside my main character's heads—I discover I have been leaping ahead. That, logically, something else must happen first. And a totally unplanned scene rolls off my fingers. There are also times when I absolutely refuse to think about a dramatic scene ahead of time, determined to keep the sense of spontaneity and surprise that I want my readers to feel. 

This has happened over and over again while writing Secrets. For example, when I wrote a scene where the heroine is attempting to allay the fears of houseguests who heard jangling bells in the drawing room and saw a female wraith wafting along beneath the ceiling, I had no intention of adding a Medieval monk, drifting along a foot above the carpet. He simply appeared, as unexpectedly to me as he does to the castle guests. 

However, if I do get an idea whose moment has not yet come—for example, the arrival of a magnificent wardrobe of clothing for our heroine—this gets added to that ALL CAP list so I don't forget it. (The list is carried along from the bottom of one chapter to the next until its moment finally comes.) 

Other bits & pieces I did not plan.

1,  Giving the hero a Point of View (uncommon in Gothics).
2.  Shorter chapters than my usual
3.  More emphasis on Romance than I usually use
4.  More Whodunit and less Threat

As previously stated, I am always searching for something new. Hopefully, despite rather gleefully breaking the rules - again - I think Secrets does that. I can only hope readers will agree with me. At least I have the comfort of feeling fairly confident I won't be accused of writing the "same old, same old."


If you feel the need to write a 20-page synopsis before you begin, then by all means do so. This blog is intended to encourage those who, like me, want to soar unfettered by an outline. Who want to create marvelous characters, then sit back and let them show us our story. From inside their heads, not ours. "Out of the Mist" authors want to be open to unexpected ideas, be surprised by twists and turns we could not possibly imagine before our characters made them happen. 

I am going to end with a repetition of what I've said many times before:  I can hardly wait to get up each morning, go to my computer, and find out what is going to happen to my characters today. If I had to write a complete synopsis before I began, I would know the ending and how we got there, and lose all interest in writing the book.

Yes, Research is important. Plot is important, but creating great Characters tops them all. Authors, let your characters do their stuff. Never be afraid to "wing it."

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For a myriad articles on Creating Characters, Point of View, Research, and just about any other writing topic you can imagine, please see the Archives of Grace's Mosaic Moments, or for a complete compilation, organized by topics, see the WRITING section of 

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For Blair's Facebook Author Page, click here. 

  For Blair's website, click here.


Coming soon:  Regency Gothic 10 - The Secrets of Stonebridge Castle


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace/Blair Bancroft



  1. Dorothy Sayers would approve. She's one whose characters took the reins of her books.

    And what a perfect example of why no one should write a book without editing and proofreading, during which you will catch the fact that your title must decide between "The Secrets of Stonebridge Castle" and "The Secrets of Stonebridge Manor." :)

  2. Hey Grace,
    That's a great idea "Out of the Mist"
    I always seem to have characters, an idea for a story and I run with it from there. I just toddle along adding words and figure out chapters when I finish. Could be why I'm a yet to be published author. Unlike a lot of authors I didn't discover I wanted to write until about 2007 or so. It wasn't one of those things I wanted to be when I grew up-lol.
    Your book sounds interesting.

    1. Kathy, NEVER think your approach to writing is wrong! That's why I keep posting about "out of the mist." I started writing somewhere around 1991 (in my 50s) and wasn't published until 1999. Hang in there!