While I can't exactly spill any of my secrets (because then they wouldn't be secrets, would they?) I want to talk about keeping secrets in writing. I don't remember where I heard it, but there's an adage in writing that goes something like this:
Secrets from the character are good, secrets from the reader aren't.Basically it means that if the character doesn't know something that the reader knows, that's fine. It's even okay if the character doesn't know something and neither does the reader. But if your character knows something (like that she's secretly a mermaid or a princess or in love with a particular boy) then the reader should know, too.
Let's take a classic example: Romeo and Juliet. Think about the end, when Juliet has taken the special "poison" that will make her appear to be dead, so she can go be with Romeo forever. Enter Romeo, who has no idea that she isn't really dead. The reader knows. We're practically screaming at Romeo to just wait a few minutes before stabbing himself in the gut. As sad as it is, we love that, because we know something Romeo doesn't.
Imagine if it were reversed. Imagine if we thought Juliet were really dead. Imagine Romeo knew the truth, so he just walks into her crypt, whistling a happy tune, and has a seat next to her seemingly-dead body. We'd hate him in the moment because it looks like he doesn't care at all for this girl who risked everything to be with him. When she woke up a moments later and we discovered the truth, we would be so annoyed that we (or at least I) would throw the book across the room.
It's all about balance, about making sure the reader never knows less than the characters. As readers, we either want to share the big reveal with the character or we want to know what's coming and anticipate their reaction when they find out, too.
Okay, enough of my little rant about secrets in books and onto the fun stuff. The giveaway! Marley is giving away signed copies of her new book all week here at the Buzz blog. To enter today's contest, leave a comment the following:
Share an example (good or bad) of a book in which the writer keeps a secret from the character.Besides Romeo and Juliet, I would have to say Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I won't share what, because it would be spoilers, but she's brilliant at hinting to the reader about a really huge secret that Katniss really has no clue about. Brilliant, really.
Your turn to share. Check back every day to comment on the other Buzz girl posts for more chances to win and then tune in this weekend to find out who won.
OH. MY. GODS. and GODDESS BOOT CAMP (out now)
FORGIVE MY FINS (coming June 1, 2010)