I was recently reading Elizabeth Spann Craig’s post on Secrets and it really got me thinking because I’m currently weaving a few of these through my most recent story (which was going well and then I rewrote the beginning and then I got busy with work and so is now in the plan and replan phase but I think will work out once I have the time to put some serious work into it – wow, that was a long explainer).
Anyway, I really enjoyed reading Elizabeth’s post and found it really useful because she includes a list of what secret’s are good for in a story and that helped me focus on why I was trying to put the secret into the story in the first place. Once I figured out the purpose of having characters keep secrets from one another and why they were necessary to the story it all suddenly fell into place and now I’m wishing I had the time to really write.
Secrets are one of my favourite plot devices. I love it when we, as the reader, know more about what is going on than any one particular character and I also love it when we’re kept in the dark but once the secret is revealed all the little hints and clues fall into place. What I don’t like is when the story tangles itself into an unmanageable mess and one of the characters suddenly says “oh, don’t worry. I haven’t told you…” That is very much like throwing a ghost in at the last minute just to solve all the problems and wrap it up nicely when there is nothing earlier in the story to support this sudden revelation.
Following on from Elizabeth’s post I started thinking about what sort of characters keep secrets. We all know that in real life some people just couldn’t keep a secret if their life depended on it and others like to throw smug looks around like the cat that got the cream while they wait for someone to ask them what they know. They have to share but they have to be prompted to do so. Then there are those who file the secret away and simply get on about their business. Even when asked to share they simply dismiss it as unimportant and move on. Then there are those who share it but only with their best of friends, because they have to tell someone but they don’t really want to reveal the secret. Of course, as trustworthy as their friends are if they are the type that can’t keep a secret that secret is going to get out.
Can your characters keep a secret and what would they keep hidden?
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