Thursday, August 8, 2013

Secrets: When You Should Keep Them in Writing

If you're a writer of mystery or suspense, you've probably heard that keeping secrets is the name of the game when it comes to writing in either of these genres. And that's simply because you don't want to spell everything out in the first chapter.

But consider a romance; one that keeps you jumping. Will they ever get back together? Will he ever tell her why he doesn't want to get married?

Sometimes the secret is for the character; the reader knows, at other times, neither the character nor the reader has an inkling of what's going to happen next.

Photo by: @Doug88888, courtesy of Flickr
Why does she come to the park alone?
And that's as it should be.

Consider a novel that spells it all out and never leaves anything to the imagination, or worse, tells you what everyone is thinking and the secrets they've been keeping. Consider knowing it all in the first chapter. Would you want to go on to chapter 2?

Of course not.

Secrets, well kept, still lend themselves to some hints, of course. You want to lead the reader along, probably not by a dog collar, but by a thin thread that keeps them wanting more. The secrets can be between the characters, or the secrets can be between the author and the page. In either case, keeping secrets adds great tension to your story and keeps the interest rising.

Why doesn't he tell her he's been previously married? Why does she act so strangely around cats? What makes him cower whenever he sees a mushroom?

Sometimes secrets are meant to be kept, and when it's time to release them, timing is everything. Like a perfect ending to a less than perfect life, you want your reader to feel rewarded for having spent the time trying to figure it all out.


  1. interesting info, wondering how to apply this to non-fiction?

  2. That's a good question, Lin. Non-fiction is really a different bird. I think you want to spell much of it out, in an organized format of course. I think the idea of non-fiction is to tell it all, or at least what you believe is a finished product. I have people questioning why I left this out or that out in my last marketing book, and I am continually getting new ideas and taking old ones out. In this case, I don't want to hide anything that will work for the writer.


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