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October 01, 2013

Writing About: A Character’s Secret

Revealing a character’s secret(s) is always fun and exciting. You can’t wait to drop the massive bombshell and mind-screw (yes, screw) your readers.

There are a few ways I can think of how a writer can reveal a character’s secrets.
1.    Let your character blurt it out! This is by far the easiest method and the one that will ensure the biggest shock to both your readers and your characters. 
2.    Tell your readers, but keep the secret from the other characters and let them uncover it on their own. Don’t forget to build the tension as the suspicious character comes closer to the truth.
3.    Draw it out. This method utilizes suspense and mystery, but it also takes the most work because neither the characters nor your readers know the secret. You can hint at a secret, but don’t tell what it is until the perfect time comes for you to spill the beans, or for another character to uncover it. 
But every secret must follow these three rules:
1.    The secret needs to relate to the story you’re telling; it has to have a purpose. 
2.    The secret has to follow what the plot is already doing; it shouldn’t all of a sudden divert from the plot and create another story line.
3.    The secret should tell your readers more about the character so they can understand him/her more, and it has to make sense with what they already know about that character!
Whatever secret your character has, it has to influence the outcome of the story. Otherwise what’s the point? After all, if you spend the time creating and revealing it then you and your characters shouldn’t forget about it.
TIP: Show the impact of the secret once it’s out. What are the other characters’ reactions when they find out this secret? Are they angry the secret was kept from them? Do they become vengeful? Do they cry with pity or horror because the secret is devastating?

QUESTIONS: Did/does one of your characters have a secret? How did/will you reveal it?

**BONUS** And just for this post I will share one of my own secrets. No, it's not that I have my GED. I've mentioned that before. No, it's not my obsession with Jeff Hardy. I dedicated a whole nerdy post about that: It's Okay to be Nerdy! What I'm going to reveal is a new secret. ARE YOU READY? *Drum Roll* I have a tattoo. Yup, I'm inked. I have a pretty dragonfly on my arm. :)

REVEAL: A secret about you! Go ahead. We're all friends here. :)


Unknown said...

Nice ink!
I am a open book to most, so I don't know what secret I could reveal. After my kids go to bed, for a snack I like to mix Nutella and Peanut Butter in a bowl and eat it with a spoon.

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you!

And that is a secret. I used to eat peanut butter from the jar all the time, but adding Nutella? Well now that's sinister! :P lol

Kelly Hashway said...

Revealing secrets is so much fun. I love the tension leading up to it. I tend to have one character figure out another character's secret, and it usually doesn't end well for them.

Meradeth Houston said...

Great tips!! Definitely very helpful. A good secret is so much fun to reveal, too. Hmm, as for a secret, I absolutely hate veggies :) I'm not exactly a healthy food model haha!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Excellent tips. Often it can be something they want to keep secret but it comes to a point where it has to come out in order to help the character or situation. Those are fun. Makes the character squirm.

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you, Meradeth, and thanks for stopping by! Your secret is funny, and what's even funnier is I'm a vegetarian. HAHA! ;)

Chrys Fey said...

I also use that technique. It is SO much fun to let a character figure out a secret and give them the chance to confront the other character. That confrontation is always explosive. ;)

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you, Alex! :)

All secrets come out sooner or later. ;) To quote Avrianna, the protagonist from my (unpublished) series, "Lives aren't meant to be built upon secrets." ;)

Unknown said...

I love this, Chrys. These are some really great tips. So far, one character in my book has a very dark secret. As far as my memoir goes, there are so many secrets and scandals that it will be hard to believe them by the end of the book!

It is strange that your secret is you having a tattoo because I was going to share the same thing! I have a small tattoo that no one can see unless I'm wearing a bathing suit. It's right above my bikini line. It's a heart with the Chinese symbol for love in it. That is because my second secret which I am about to reveal to you right now (only because it has to do with the Chinese symbol) is that I've only dated Asian men. Yep! You heard it first right here on your blog. Since the age of 15, I've dated Asian guys and love the idea of being in love, hence, the love tattoo in Chinese=)

Great post!

Chrys Fey said...

LMAO!!!! THAT IS THE GREATEST SECRET EVER!!!! I LOVE IT! :P When I first posted this blog and was anticipating your comment I kept thinking, watch her say she has a dragonfly tattoo too. But this is sooo much better! I think you win. ;) Thanks for revealing your secret on my blog. :D

lisa thomson said...

Interesting and great tips, Chrys. My character right now doesn't have a secret but she has major problems and a dilemma we're not sure she's going to make it out of. Maybe my story is boring because there are no secrets? Hmmm, must create a dark secret for her. Myself, I hate chocolates with the creamy stuff inside. I will bite them and put them back...that was me as a kid. I never owned up to it though. Now they have the pictures in the box to tell you what each one is but I still like the game of trying to guess which ones are my favorite. Now I spit them out into a napkin and hope no one notices. My kids and Beau always buy me chocolates at Christmas and I don't have the heart to tell them I don't really like them.

OnlyWhenJen said...

Hahaha, I love how you gave us a secret! Your tattoo is pretty. I love revealing secrets about my characters to my readers. I feel like it's not only exciting, but makes the reader feel more attached to your characters.

My secret is that I'm a chipaholic. When I go to parties and see chips, I really have to restrain myself from finding a seat that makes the chips easily accessible for fear of eating the whole bowl in front of everyone. If I'm by myself I could eat almost a whole bag in one day! =O! I would chose a bag of chips over a plate of cookies every time... and that's my secret. :P

Chrys Fey said...

Not all character's need a secret. What all characters need is a struggle/dilemma/antagonist they have to overcome, or a goal they have to reach. Otherwise, there's not much of a story. But if you could create a secret that fits into her major problems you'll definitely heighten the suspense and mystery of your story.

Aw! That's a very sweet secret.

Chrys Fey said...

Since we're talking about character's secrets I thought it was only fair to reveal one of my own. And I am so thrilled to see a lot of commenters doing the same. :D And you're right! Revealing a character's secret can also make readers feel closer to the character.

While I was reading about your secret, I could just picture you sitting in the corner of a couch, hugging a bowl of chips, and eating them one-by-one as people danced and laughed all around you. Great visual. ;) And thank you for sharing. :)

Unknown said...

Interesting post, Chrys, am writing a 'mystery' children's story this time and the hero's friend has a secret, about to be revealed at the end, find making this work very challenging.

Irene said...

Loved this post, Chrys! I am learning a lot from you!

And as for my secret, I'll share one because I have a lot lol... I'm afraid of centipedes and snakes lol

Chrys Fey said...

I like to hear that, Irene! :D

Since you shared your fears as your secret, I'm afraid of lizards. Ssh . . .! lol

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you, Carole! A mystery children's story? That sounds interesting! Good luck revealing the hero's friend's secret!