Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Secrets and the Nosiness of the Human Condition...

Secrets and things undisclosed is a quite fascinating subject. The very fact that some of us would go to great lengths to discover what someone else’s ‘secret’ is says it all - we hate to be kept in the dark about anything! For there is something about the human psyche that makes people want to make a secret un-secret! I guess it's about feeling that we are all operating on a level playing field (when actually, the reality is that we can never know everything!)

Whenever anyone says something is a secret there is a deep longing - on the part of most of us – to know what that something is. It is an almost irrepressible need to know – even when it is nothing to do with us. I suppose it must be something to do with the nosey nature of human beings… But the fact remains that calling something ‘secret’ gives it an allure all its own.
That is why many stories that centre around hitherto untold ‘secrets’ can be so successful. I once read an article in a writing magazine that stated that if you had the word secret in your title or back cover blurb you would be bound to get more sales! I don’t know if that’s true but I do know that many blurbs are written that hint at secrets waiting to be discovered in a book’s pages.  Readers love a good tale with a ‘secret’ expertly handled and told in a convincing way. And there is nothing more satisfying than finally discovering (often at the end of a good story) what that secret is.

A secret can also be a good tool to use to maintain suspense – especially if it’s hinted at the beginning but not stated – it leads to guessing games on the part of the reader. So if for no other reason the reader must read on to find out if they are right!  Or even when the reader knows the secret but the characters do not.

Secrets can be the main thread of a story or a titillating subplot but whichever way they intrigue and fascinate which is exactly what you need to keep readers turning pages!
Have you used a secret in your stories? Was it a big secret (as in a main plot) or a side issue?


  1. I have no secrets, and never use them. I guess secrets can be interesting in a plot, but when my children have secrets, I don't want to know.


  2. One of my favorite literary devices is the "unreliable narrator" who is keeping secrets from the reader while telling the story.

    I have one manuscript where I attempted this. It's the one that attracted my agent, and although it is still unsold, I have hopes that its perfect time/form/venue is yet to come.

  3. I've only ever written one story with the word secret in the title. I did sell it though so perhaps it's time for another one?