Every book must have at least one because secrets are the jet-powered engine that propels fiction forward. Ever notice how many blurbs in the daily BookBub email include the word secret?
Secrets provide motivation, plot, character, even a setting (a haunted house, anyone?) From Madame Bovary to Carrie, from Rebecca to Big Little Lies, from thrillers to romance, from mystery to women’s fiction to sci-fi, every story revolves around a secret.
Secrets ripple outward and can produce unexpected consequences a writer can take advantage of. Secrets need to be protected, denied, defended, and excused. This means they will have predictable (and unforeseen) consequences. These consequences will affect the people who guard them, excuse them, or wilfully blind themselves to their existence.
People with secrets are good at keeping them—until they’re not—or else until some external event spills the beans.
For example: a nuclear leak from a secret underground testing site that becomes a global headline. The slip up—the “tell”—will then become a major turning point in a novel.
In fiction, secrets must be revealed, and the tension secrets create must be resolved. As you plot, plan or pants your book, you will find that a well-chosen secret will provide you with a focus.
That focus will energize your writing—and your book.