Got two minutes? Then check out this week’s quick tip ~ Using secrets to keep readers turning pages
Hello and welcome…I am a freelance editor and an editor for The Wild Rose Press, as well as an author. I often struggle with my own writing, and I have found that sometimes, a little reminder of ways to improve the process can be helpful, so, I like to share these moments of brilliance with others :). But, in this busy world of ours, who has time for pages and pages of writing tips? That’s why I’ve condensed mine down to quick flashes you can read in (approximately) two minutes. Enjoy…
Disclaimer: All of my tips are suggestions, and are only my opinion. And, for the most part, there are exceptions when going against my advice will make your story read better. Take what works, leave the rest.
Ha, I bet, after reading the title, you’re dying to hear the secret, right? Come on, admit. It’s human nature. We all love to be in on secrets. We love hearing them, having them, telling them, so on and so forth. Secrets in your story can be a great tool to engage readers. There are a few different ways to use them. You can introduce a secret that is being withheld from readers, and they’ll keep reading to learn the secret. You can let the readers in on a secret that your character(s) don’t know, and they’ll keep reading to see how the characters will react once they learn the secret, which is lots of fun, because your audience loves being in on the surprise with you.
Something to keep in mind, though, it’s also crucial to have a big payoff when the secret is revealed. I’ve begun watching the tv show, “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce,” which is kind of an odd choice for me, because it lacks my two favorite things in shows and movies; humor and murder. (I know, a weird combo). The show is fairly amusing, but totally devoid of killings. However, it caught my attention so I’m watching anyway. There are lots of secrets on the show, but in one instance, the payoff was a letdown. Spoiler Alert: The main couple is divorcing when the show opens. As the episodes play out, they decide to try to reconcile. The man learns that he impregnated his much younger ex-girlfriend, whom he cheated with (or with whom he cheated, I suppose, is the proper wording) during the marriage. Other characters in the show knew about the pregnancy, but his soon-to-be ex wife did not, and these people kept telling him, “You better tell Abby before she finds out on her own” and “Wow, how is Abby going to react?” etc, etc. Since the couple were trying to make a precarious, contentious marriage work, I waited anxiously for her to find out. I just knew she was going to explode. Finally, the episode came where she learned the truth and, much to my disappointment, she took it like a champ. I’m thinking, why all the build-up, waiting episode after episode for her to find out, if she’s all “oh, yeah? no biggie, that’s kinda cool, actually, cuz there’ll be a new baby around” about it. (I paraphrase). But, the point is, she should have lost her freaking mind. SO, don’t make that mistake. If you tease readers with a secret, you need to have a big reveal, and a big explosion.
I’m currently working on two WIPs simultaneously. One is only 12,000 words or so, and there’s not much time for a lot to happen. I have a little suspense, a little romance, but I’ve just realized, I can probably make it more enticing by adding a secret. So, I’m brainstorming a way to include one. My other WIP is my Martini Club 4 story, set in the 1940s. My heroine finds out a horrible secret about her mother, around mid-story. It has just occurred to me that I should let the readers in on the secret early in the book. Then, hopefully, they’ll keep reading because they will be eager for her to find out and see how she will react, how this knowledge will impact her life.
As you’re plotting (or for you pantsers, as your characters are writing the story for you ;)), maybe look for ways to work in a tantalizing secret. Your characters might not thank you, but your readers will. Oh yeah, and about that secret I mentioned in the title? Well, I guess you’ll just have to keep reading my posts to find out what it is. Muwahahahahaha….
Until next time…Happy Writing!
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*** If you would like to send me a few sample pages (around 7500 words or so, even though I will not edit that many on the blog. It just gives me more to choose from) for me to edit and share on an upcoming blog post, please do so in the body of an email to AliciaMDean@aol.com. Please use the subject line: “Blog Submission” This is for published or unpublished authors. In the email, please include whether you would like me to use your name or keep it anonymous, and whether or not you would like me to include any contact info or buy info for your books. Also, you can let me know if you would like for me to run my edits by you before posting on the blog. Please keep in mind, this is for samples to use for blog posts. I will not edit or use samples from all the submissions I receive, but I will use as many as possible.
How to write a novel? That is the question. There are probably as many answers to that question as there are people who ask it.
Wanting to write and actually doing it are two very different things. I am well acquainted with the sometimes grueling process of churning out a story. Over the years, I have tried many methods for creating and completing manuscripts, and have tweaked and honed it down to a workable (for me) process.
Using specific examples from one of my own novels, Without Mercy, I share my method in this mini how to book. The first eight steps actually deal with plotting while the last two are designed to help expand your outline into a well-developed draft. There is no one, perfect way to create a story, but there will be a method, or methods that work for you. I’m not sure if this is the one, but it works for me. Only you can decide if it also works for you. Fingers crossed that it does!
*** Warning – Please do not purchase without reading a sample. (This is solid advice for any book, fiction or non. If you are not intrigued in the sample, you will likely not enjoy the book)
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4 responses to “Tuesday Two-Minute Writing Tip – Pssst…I have a Secret”
I can understand your disappointment in that TV series. As a reader (or TV watcher) if I’m in on a devastating secret, I want a big payoff. We pantsers have to do a lot of back & forthing as our characters reveal things. Too bad they don’t tell us at the beginning. LOL
Yep…secrets are the secret!
Great advice Alicia!
Good luck and God’s blessings
Definite lettdown the woman’s reaction. Her husband’s baby by the “other” woman, and she shrugs it off? Okay, taking the high road, blah blah, but c’mon! Yes, secrets should be revealed with a blast!