Writing fiction is huge fun. It’s entertaining. You entertain yourself, and then you entertain readers. One of the easiest ways to entertain — and to write fiction like a pro — is to use the power of secrets and revelations.
When you’re creating your main characters, gift each one with a secret. The secret can be huge, or tiny, it doesn’t matter. Simply by knowing the secrets of all the characters in any scene, you’ll write more exciting fiction.
Secrets: conflict, excitement and suspense keep readers reading
Here’s why. It’s hard to keep a secret. In the movie What We Did on Our Holiday, the funniest scenes are the ones in which the adults try to convince their children to keep a secret — that they’re living apart.
Secrets equal conflict. Internal conflict, because secrets are hard to keep to yourself, and external conflict, as you tell lies in order to keep the secret.
Most commercial fiction trades in secrets. Mystery and thriller fiction is all about secrets. Who’s the murderer? Where’s the body? You can use secrets in any genre to spice up your fiction.
A few days ago I started a new historical romance. The main character is tricked by several of the other characters. These characters are manipulating this young woman for their own reasons. Slowly, she realizes that there’s a secret. Over the course of the novel the power of this secret will transform this character, from someone who’s naive, to someone who takes charge.
Although I use secrets and revelations in most of my fiction, in this novel, its structure depends on who knows what, why they keep the secret, and when and how the secret is slowly revealed. I’m finding it a joy to both plot and write. Secrets make plotting easier. 🙂
Tip: if you’re writing a serial, include secrets. Secrets and revelations keep readers reading. They buy the next episode, and the next.
“It’s a secret”: tips for using secrets and revelations
1. Use big secrets and little secrets to spice up your fiction
When you’re crafting a character, ask yourself: “what’s his secret? What does he most want to keep hidden?”
I never create character bios, where you fill in sheets and sheets of information about each character. That’s busywork. Once I know a character’s name, age, occupation, physical appearance, and at least one of his secrets, I’m good to go.
Tip: try the “secret” trick yourself. Create secrets for several characters in the novel or short story on which you’re currently working.
When you start thinking about secrets, you’ll be amazed at how much easier writing becomes. I like to have one big secret, and several little secrets in each novel.
Then you can set off your revelations like little explosions, throughout the story.
2. Make your fiction’s secrets kickable
Your fiction’s big secret needs to have a physical component: a diary, a letter, an email message… Not literally something that can be kicked, but something real which can be discovered. A secret can be embodied in something as small as a photograph, or as large as a house.
When your main character discovers the physical object, it’s a revelation. Now he knows the secret. You can create more suspense if the character doesn’t share what he knows, until later. This offers lots more suspense for readers.
Have fun creating secrets for your characters. Secrets and revelations help you to write fiction like a pro.
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