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Using Secrets in Writing

PostPosted: 11 Jul 2012, 16:45
by Kellemora
Topic: Using Secrets in Writing

The power of using secrets in your writing evoke suspense, add drama and mystery, but more importantly, they capture the readers attention.

When someone begins to whisper; you redirect your attention, sharpen and narrow your focus, your ears perk up, all becomes quiet, the tension builds, and you become captivated.

Being driven by curiosity, you must find out what secret they hold.
At this point, nothing else matters, the world fades away as you continue to read, turning page after page; you cannot put that book down until you discover exactly what that secret was.

Never disappoint your reader with some lame secret that doesn't amount to a hill of beans. Avoid things like a hidden pregnancy, someone having an affair, hiding a clue that could clear an innocent character, unless it becomes a major case in your story. Make that secret a real shocker.

When introducing a secret, do not let the readers know what it is, just that it exists. However, allow them to learn slowly what it is, reveal just a little here and there, so they know the secret right before the character learns of it.

A character's personality and behavior can be shaped based on what secret they know. It can give them a huge guilt trip, affecting every area of their life, or turn them into a criminal who uses that secret in an attempt to blackmail, or as a power struggle to gain the leading edge.

Introducing a secret into a story is usually worked into the plot. Overheard conversations are not usually the way to show how a character learned of a secret. It should be much more intriguing, possibly even the assembly of several events that lead to the discovery of the secret.

I prefer a secret that when finally disclosed, completely stuns my reader. Something that completely changes the readers perception of the event, cause or outcome of what they fully expected to take place. Depending on your chosen venue, almost anything is possible, so make it not only believable but highly probable, now that they know the whole story.

Not all secrets are individually held secrets, sometimes things done behind closed doors, for whatever reason, can heighten the readers interest. Many times I start a dialog between two characters where you learn only that they are expecting doing something and just as they get to the nitty-gritty of what they are planning, they slip into an office, closing the door, leaving you in suspense. I love jumping scenes at this point; when you hear the phone being dialed, to the character they are calling, and let the readers overhear just enough, but on the wrong track, the reader only thinks they know what they could be up to, but is still unsure and needs to learn a little more.

Before I close, here are a few areas in which secrets may be used to pique your readers interest.

One of my favorites are when everyone knows a secret, except the person most affected by it. Another is a private secret that if it ever leaked out, it would ruin his life, or sometimes this secret prevents him from pursuing his special interest or desire.

Of particular interest is the type of secret that is a double-edged sword, a Catch-22 situation. Such a secret impacts the persons character in most outstanding ways. If they disclose the secret, their best friend's life is destroyed, but if they do not an innocent person will die.

Something you can have a lot of fun with, is simply allowing a couple of your characters to hold a secret, but to those who think they know it, it turns out to be something else entirely.
Another twist is having someone think they know a secret, when in reality, everyone around them already knows about it and keeps it hid very well.

Secrets I try to avoid in my works are those where only a small handful are privy, like a small underground movement, spy ring, government group, things where only one tiny group could affect the masses of people around them. After 9/11 such secrets are about as stale as; will grandma take her secret beyond her death bed. This also includes private meetings for any reason.

That does not mean I avoid those types of plots, I disclose to the reader what is going on, but often the characters in these stories are clueless about those meetings and what they entailed.

A story becomes alive and more exciting when you can bring an otherwise dull character back to life by giving them an important secret, one that alters the direction the reader presumes a story is going and they can feel it, but cannot quite put their finger on it yet; so they keep turning those pages.

Respectfully Submitted
Gary V. Deutschmann, Sr.

Copyright © 2012 by CHL, LC

Re: Using Secrets in Writing

PostPosted: 11 Jul 2012, 17:56
by threenorns
and here i thought The Secret was all about how to get ahead in life! this is way more interesting.

Re: Using Secrets in Writing

PostPosted: 12 Jul 2012, 02:21
by pilvikki

yes, i do like the secrets, as long as they're properly handled. i just finished reading a book where it all got out of hand and i read and read and ended up thinking wtf...?

Re: Using Secrets in Writing

PostPosted: 12 Jul 2012, 02:26
by threenorns
oh, i hate that - as well as the ones where you read and read and by the time the secret is revealed you really don't care any more.

Re: Using Secrets in Writing

PostPosted: 12 Jul 2012, 02:39
by pilvikki

...or, even worse... you had it figured out by chapter 2. :roll:

Re: Using Secrets in Writing

PostPosted: 12 Jul 2012, 16:21
by Kellemora
Or they use this great big build up, spreading across several chapters, and then when the secret is disclosed, it doesn't amount anything even worth mentioning at all.
Very disappointing to the readers!

There have been times, after I've written a great storyline, but felt a couple of other angles were also good enough that they should stand on their own merit. I've worked with them in such a way that by using a Secret I could follow the good enough storyline as the most probable course of action, until the secret became known and this caused a shift to my great storyline which then carried the rest of the story in the direction I had originally followed.

I took a character that was upstanding and honest, everyone trusted him without question. Then let him see something that was only partially disclosed to the readers. The event he witnessed drove him to drinking, thus eventually losing his business, he would borrow for a drink and never pay it back, and eventually began stealing things from friends. Once he was in this condition, even though he came clean and reported what he had seen, the secret revealed, no one would believe him. He had to obtain all the tangible information necessary and submit it before they considered looking further into the matter.

I also love situational secrets, where a single character only thinks someone is doing something in secret, when they are actually quite in the open. It's the situation and timing that makes it appear otherwise. For example: A high-ranking, well-dressed female, corporate executive that is so punctual you could set your watch by her, was spotted by a young gentleman who knows she is the singer at an east side, downtown nightclub. And begins to study their movements in an attempt to catch her. She leaves work, hops in her car to go home, even drives the opposite direction to her home. But then appears only 5 minutes later on stage. Not enough time for her to have driven the distance. But he knows it's her, and is dead certain of it. Technically, there is no double playing her part, as when it's time for her to sing, she comes down the stairs of the stage prop scene. However, a person he thinks is her, because of the design of the shows choreography, the star is usually at the center of attention. Think Casino style Fan Dance for the imagery here. All of her suitors attempts to follow her are usually thwarted for one reason or another, and he thinks she never leaves the theater after the show is over, because he waits for her. What he never figures out is that she leaves immediately after her number, while the closing choreography is taking place. This was just two of a multi-character story involving many scenes. Used to fill a flat area for this male character until his position escalated to his becoming a main character.