It’s a Secret!

Can you keep a secret? Some people are lock boxes, secured repositories of their friends’ darkest secrets. Others can’t let a juicy piece of gossip pass them by. I’m pretty good at keeping secrets. People tell me things—although I’m careful to warn them that I’m a story vampire and will use what they tell me as fiction fodder—if it’s truly a secret, I zip my lips.

Secrets—family, business, and state—are compelling hooks for stories. When a protagonist goes on a quest to unearth a secret, he or she can open a Pandora’s Box and discover that deception runs deep in the people around them.

The calculated choice to reveal a secret creates another kind of story. The source of the leak in a government scandal, the insider going public with the reality of a Ponzi scheme, or the angry former lover, estranged relative, or frustrated competitor, may weigh the pros & cons of being a whistle blower and allowing the subsequent chips fall where they may.

Of course the unintentional revelation is also a great gambit in fiction. Secrets whispered by a character talking in his sleep or prodded from a weak character with aid of one too many tequila shots, can move a story along with a sense of surprise or inevitability. Some secrets are just dying to come to light. All it takes is one false move (or a martini) and it’s revealed. While others are a lightning bolt of news.

Ancient secrets, magical secrets, and secrets that imbue power on the secret-holder, are devices familiar to fantasy readers. And, more and more, these secrets turn up in suspense and mystery fiction, too.

I played with a secret and the terrible things that happen once its revealed, in the novel that I’ve written and rewritten and rewritten… Maybe I will try again. And maybe this time, I’ll figure out the secret of making the story work!

A mysterious place holds secrets  Seville, Spain.


  1. I’m reminded of an Agatha Christie story in which the victim inadvertently blurted out something she thought was good, but which pushed her killer over the edge. I can’t remember the name of the story, but what has stayed with me all these years was/is the very human motivation of the Killer.
    Without going through the whole plot, the story boiled down to a silly Victim, bad luck and a tragic result for the Killer. Years later when the Killer accidentally finds out that the Victim was actually to blame, the need for vengeance is obvious, and there is little sympathy for the Victim.
    As a casual mystery reader, I’m often more interested in the motivation of the characters than the mechanics of the plot. If I can empathise, I will enjoy the story. 🙂

    • Candy Korman

      I think you’re recalling ‘The Mirror Cracked.’ A woman breathlessly recalls that she was sick with the mumps (or maybe it was the measles or the chicken pox) when she was a young girl and she tells the older actress that she was such a fan even then that she had to come to see her and hugged her. The actress realizes that this is the person that infected her and killed her baby without knowing it and seeks just revenge.

      Or maybe it’s another Christie? She used and re-used certain solid gambits to great advantage in different stories.