Monday, March 8, 2010

I Stink At Secrets

Not at the real secrets... the secrets I have to keep myself. I'm pretty good at those. In fact, I'm sitting on one right now. A fairly big one - or one that could be fairly big. Lips zipped. In fact, until this moment, I haven't even admitted I have a secret. That's being a pretty good secret-keeper, right?

No, the kind of secret I stink at is the creating secret. Secrets my characters keep. Secrets I keep from my readers.

In my first novel attempt – the novel I keep under the bed – I tried to center the entire book around a secret the main character was keeping. I struggled to make that secret believable, and the way in which it's discovered believable. Which is primarily the reason that novel is still under the bed.

My first agent feedback was that it felt like I was trying to hard to keep the secret a secret. See what I mean?

Now, I'm working another WIP with another secret, and that secret is killing me. Or killing the WIP.

I know the secret. The character knows the secret. Trying to let the reader know there's a secret without telling them what the secret is is quite possibly more complicated than I'm capable of being. It's not a mystery thing. I can write a mystery, with clues sprinkled through out. Well, I think I can. I started one once and didn't finish it only because I moved and the moving company stole the computer it was on and I didn't have the heart to finish; I didn't, however, feel like strangling that book within an inch of it's life.

The secret is different. It's the thing that motivates a character to act a certain way, sometimes when it doesn't make sense for the character to act that way. And along the way you have to have other characters buy into that doesn't-make-sense action, and then have a character discover that secret in a way that's both dramatic and still believable, as a course of the plot.

(and if that last paragraph doesn't make you want to scream, maybe I could actually pull it off!)

I'm thinking about dumping it (the secret as a plot device) altogether, despite the fact that the entire book now revolves around it. If I could pull it off, it would be a total WOW moment in the book - the kind of scene that might suck the breath right out of you; but if I can't pull it off (which is looking quite likely), well... it wouldn't be pretty.

Sigh. And I like pretty.


  1. I love secrets. I love when people trust me enough to tell me really big stuff. It means a lot to me.

    I love writing them because they add so much to the plot. But they are really hard to do. Good luck to you as you write about secrets!

  2. I love books with secrets. Mine has a few.

    I say keep trying, you never know what your capable of pulling off.

  3. I'm struggling with the same thing in my book. I have lots of secrets, but maybe they are too obvious before the reveal. Or not obvious enough when I do reveal. Yes, the WOW. I'd love to pull that one off, too.