Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Importance of Secrets

Every one of us has a secret, something which we haven't told anyone--not our spouse, not a parent, not a best friend.

Something bad, maybe even horrible, happened to us; we did something which we deeply regret; we intentionally hurt someone; we did something heroic which no one witnessed.

Secrets buried deep within our souls sometimes have a big affect on how we behave, how we see the world, or whether or not we trust other people.

While these furtive facts about ourselves can wreak havoc in our lives, secrets make good fodder for fictional stories.

Soap operas just wouldn't be as intriguing without a baby who could be the result of a clandestine affair.

The Oedipus Rex would be just another story without the protagonist's mother issues.

A murder mystery is much more compelling when the killer eventually confesses he hated the boss he poisoned because he looked just like the stepfather who used to lock him in the mouse-infested feed bin of a lonely country barn.

When developing characters writers delve into the pasts of these fictional people. They ask all kinds of intimate questions of their characters, so to speak.

When they learn Sarah was bullied as a teenager, or Mike saved the life of a little girl and no one knew what he did, or Cecily gave away a daughter to adoptive parents and then learned she could no longer have children, writers understand something very important about their characters. They understand that past secrets influence present behaviors. Once writers are aware of what makes their characters tick, writing plausible stories about the characters' reactions to certain situations becomes a little less challenging.

Whenever we read a book or watch a movie, the story always becomes more interesting when we take time to discover just why a character acts the way she does. We should always spend time getting to know the secrets of the Sarah, Mike or Cecily in the fictional story we're reading or viewing. I guarantee the character creator did.


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author
Fran's Web Page

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