The Effect of a Secret

Why use secrets in your plot? The most prominent reason: development of character and plot. Secrets are a technique you can use to see inside a character’s mind and to give the plot a little push.

Secrets have power. They can:

  • Destroy relationships

  • Create relationships

  • Cause an event

  • Stop an event happening

  • Create suspense.

Using a secret to develop character

Secrets can be a way of providing information on a character’s past and/or current situation. A character may have made a mistake in the past that they don’t want people to find out about. Just the mere suggestion of a secret will have your readers asking questions and needing answers.

  • Why don’t they want people finding out?

  • How did it affect them personally?

  • How has it shaped them as a person?

A character may be protecting something (or someone).

  • Why are they protecting it (or them)?

  • What does it mean to the character?

  • Who are they willing to share the secret with and why?

The important thing to consider is:


What is the character willing to risk to protect their secret?


This question causes the secret to develop plot. People are willing to jump through all sorts of hoots to hide the skeletons in their closet.


There are many ways of moving a plot forward; one of which is using the decisions of the character. Force your character into a certain amount of choices: do x, y, or z, or reveal your secret.


Let’s set a scene:

Character A once accidentally killed their partner during an argument.

Character B is uncovering the case of that girl who went missing.

Character A must stop the secret getting out.


In this scene we have a development of Character A: murderer, guilt, impulsive, violent, etc. The character now has limited choices:

  • Frame someone else

  • Destroy evidence

  • Get rid of Character B

Having your character act upon one of these choices will further the plot.

Secrets don’t always have to be violent; people keep all kinds of things secret for a hundred different reasons. Secrets are part of life.