Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Some say that in the world of romance and significant others, there shouldn’t be any secrets. That’s a debate for another time and another blog. I’m here to chat about the secrets that writers should keep.
Secrets and unanswered questions can turn up the volume on tension, which is almost always a good thing, right? Secrets, big and small, plant questions in readers’ minds and make those readers wonder and perhaps read on in search of answers. Why is that character limping? Where did that scar come from? Why does she have a crazy fear of trains? Who is that lurking, shadowy figure?
While I was revising Buck Fever, my amazing and gifted editor advised me to hold back on one particular “big reveal” for another chapter or two. I did and what a difference this made. Instead of giving away too much explanation too soon, I dropped hints like crumbs. I tried to let the audience enjoy the intrigue and the mystery while also giving them the chance to discover things for themselves.
I think about this editor’s advice when I am reading a novel with secrets or information that is held back. And I think about this advice every time I’m about to reveal information in a story that I am writing. I ask myself: Can this wait? Will the plot benefit from keeping this secret a little while longer? What other plot developments might sprout from not sharing everything with the reader until absolutely necessary?
What do you think about secrets? If you’re a writer, do you keep secrets as long as possible from your readers?
When you're reading, do you feel the tension of a lingering secret or unanswered question?