Secrets Your Characters Shouldn’t Tell

There are just some people who can’t keep a secret. How about kids right before Christmas who saw their brother’s or sister’s present? They are splitting to tell them.

One such Christmas, my sister and I bought presents for each other. We just couldn’t wait to find out what the other one got us. So, what did we do? We agreed to share intelligence on the strict contingency of total parent oblivion.  I found out

I got the stuffed monkey I’d been wanting, and she got Mr. Dentist Cavity Guy (Can’t remember his name). I have to admit, after I found out there was a bit of a let down. All the mystery and excitement was gone. Still we managed to keep our secret til this day.

Mom, if you are reading this, sorry.

As writers sometimes we tell too many of our character’s secrets too soon and it deflates all of the mystery. Reader’s like to be surprised when they read, to be drawn in to unravel the truth.

The right way to reveal secrets is to throw breadcrumbs. Imagine yourself trying to draw a dog to follow you. You sprinkle dogie treats every so often in the direction you want them to head. Eventually they will reach the bowl of food.

The same way we sprinkle our character’s secret leading up to the great revelation. Some secrets can be told earlier and some later in the story, but by sprinkling them in and drawing your reader to follow, you add tension and anticipation for your readers.

For Example:

Your character is secretly gathering information on the heroine. We don’t know why. Hint Progression:

*She feels her skin tingle in tension, but doesn’t see anyone.

*She sees someone following her in their car.

*She catches them and finds out they are with the FBI.

*The FBI agent is investigating a serial killer and has reason to believe she is a target.

Just like the reader, the character is unaware of what is happening and why. We build up the mystery by dropping hints in along the way. You’re reader shouldn’t know by the end of scene one that the FBI agent is investigating a serial killer. You can create all kinds of tension and confusion when the real serial killer is on the scene leaving her messages. She may think the same person is following her. It ramps up the tension.

What are some secrets you think characters should not tell too soon?

 

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About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

One thought on “Secrets Your Characters Shouldn’t Tell

  1. dtopliff says:

    Great example to bring your point home–thanks.

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