on Fiction University:
If your characters aren’t hiding shameful secrets, you’re missing an opportunity for a stronger story.
Close your eyes and think about your most shameful secret. Feel that twist in your gut? That flush creeping across your skin? Have you pulled in on yourself, maybe crossed your arms and hunched your shoulders?
Remember those feelings, because you can make serious use of them in your writing.
Few things motivate a character like the fear of shameful secrets coming to light. It doesn’t even have to be a really bad secret, just one that makes a character cringe and wish it never happened. Maybe they bullied someone. Maybe they stole something. Maybe they dropped the vial of zombie virus and started the apocalypse.
Whatever it is, it hurts them to think about it and horrifies them that someone else might find out—or worse—call them on it. It saps their confidence, pops into their mind at the worst times, and can ruin an otherwise excellent day.
And that’s a good thing.