Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Shhhhh! It's a Secret!

Debby Giusti here, ready to talk about secrets. Intrigued? Want to learn more?

Secrets are an easy and effective tool to hook readers and keep them turning the page. I often use secrets in my suspense stories, yet they are equally effective in sweet romances or women’s fiction or historical romance or any of the other genres we love to read and write.

Michael Hauge, in WRITING SCREENPLAYS THAT SELL, says, “When a character, event, or situation is not explained fully at the outset or when the hero must find the answer to some questions or mystery in the course of the story, the reader will ‘stick around’ to learn the solution and satisfy his own curiosity.”

Debby, Missy and Janet with Michael Hauge at ACFW.
Like the proverbial carrot on a stick, secrets pull readers into the story and keep them guessing until the secret is revealed. Conversely, if the reader knows the secret while the hero or heroine is kept in the dark, that superior position builds reader anticipation and heightens their interest in the story.

Hauge cautions, “The longer you withhold a secret from the audience, the more important it becomes, and the more satisfying it must be when it’s revealed.”

Which one is Harlan Coben? Shhh! It's a secret.
Harlan Coben dangled a very large carrot in front of me in his breakout novel, TELL NO ONE. The hero had a secret he needed to share with his wife, but she was kidnapped at the beginning of the story and thought to have been murdered. Coben made me wait until the end of the book before he disclosed the important secret that was the missing piece in the story puzzle.

Remember playing Gossip when you were a kid? Someone would whisper a sentence or phrase in a friend’s ear. The “secret” would be passed from person to person until the last child revealed the relayed message that always varied from the initial “secret.” Using the universally accepted truths about rumors and the damaging effects of sharing someone else’s secret can up the conflict in any story.

In THE GENERAL’S SECRETARY, the fourth book in my Military Investigations series to be released in January 2013, the hero comes from a small town where local gossips reveal secrets about his mother’s past. Their snide remarks and pointing fingers steel his resolve to join the military and make something of himself. In that same story, a secret from the heroine’s childhood adversely impacts the way she approaches life as an adult. In both cases, the secrets from the past have bearing on the hero and heroine’s internal conflict and the external goals they are trying to achieve.

When revealed or shared, secrets can surprise the characters as well as the reader and serve as dramatic turning points in the story.

Evan Marshall, in THE MARSHALL PLAN FOR NOVEL WRITING, says, “A surprise is a major, shocking story development that throws a whole new light on the lead’s situation and makes matters worse in terms of her reaching her goal.” Marshall goes on to say the surprise can be, among other things, “a discovery your lead makes” or a “revelation of new information that is truly bad news for your lead,” or “an event that has a negative impact on your lead’s situation.” In each case, a secret can be the unexpected catalyst that brings change.

Maass writes, “Stories, like life, are about change. Delineating the changes scene by scene gives a novel a sense of unfolding drama, and gives its characters a feeling of progress over time.”

In COUNTDOWN TO DEATH, the first story in my Magnolia Medical series, each character--the hero and heroine, the hero’s aunt, the villain, and a number of the red herrings--has an important secret that must be revealed. For me, intertwining the web of secrets was a fun exercise and, I believe, upped the tension and suspense.

Revealed secrets can lead to acts of forgiveness, which Maass says are “powerfully redemptive” and “create high moments because they elevate the characters who forgive.”

In PROTECTING HER CHILD, wealthy heiress Eve Townsend must find the daughter she gave up for adoption long ago and reveal a secret about the life-threatening disease Meredith Lassiter may have inherited. Widowed, pregnant and on the run, Meredith initially rejects her birth mother and the hero, medical researcher Pete Worth. When he learns the truth about his father, Pete must reconcile his own past and encourage Meredith to do the same.

Michael Hauge talks about a character’s wound being “the unhealed source of constant pain.” The wound usually happens in adolescent but affects a character through adulthood, especially if the character creates a false identity to protect himself.

The heroine in THE OFFICER’S SECRET has been wounded in her youth, but the only way Maggie Bennett can prove her sister was murdered is to reveal the secret that kept the two women estranged for years. Some things are too painful to disclose, and Maggie will do almost anything rather than divulge the truth about what happened long ago.

I asked the Seekers to share how they have used secrets in their stories.

Janet Dean writes: I love adding secrets to my stories and often do. In Courting the Doctor’s Daughter I used a secret to provide external conflict between my hero and heroine. Luke Jacobs hides his true relationship with Mary’s adopted son. Mary suspects Luke’s hiding something from her, but over time, she begins to trust and care for him. Luke’s guilt and worry about Mary’s reaction if she learns the truth forces him to keep emotional distance from Mary and impacts everyone in the book. The reader is in on the secret and anticipates or worries what will happen when the truth comes out. Of course, it does, but love triumphs in the end.

Ruth Logan Herne says: In Winter's End, the nurse heroine realizes she knew the hero's bi-polar mother before she died. His mother actually gave the heroine a distinctive blue-stoned ring, a ring the heroine sees and recognizes in a two-decade old family picture. She's in a quandary. This woman's faith inspired Kayla's quest for faith, but now... Now she realizes that the woman's past affected three lives, three lives Kayla is coming to love. How does she keep this secret? Should she? Should she remove herself from the case, knowing that the hero and his dying father's lives were rent by the mother's desertion? Torn between ethics, morals and common sense, Kayla is forced to consult her boss and then confront her dying patient in a poignantly honest scene, a scene that keeps her in the gridlock of emotions and further invests her in this family.

Tina Radcliffe offers two examples: The secret that both the hero Will Sullivan and secondary character Rose O'Shea know throughout The Rancher's Reunion is that Will's father died from complications of Huntington's, a hereditary disease. This is the huge secret that the heroine Annie Harris doesn't learn until the very end of the book.

Oklahoma Reunion is a secret baby book. This baby is eight years old and the story deals with not only the hero Ryan Jones' reaction to discovering he has a child but how the hero and the heroine Kait Field work to regain trust in order to create a future as a family for their daughter Jenna.

Julie Lessman’s shares her inspired secret: Even though I write family-saga romance instead of suspense, I try really hard to incorporate a big surprise at the end of each of my books. BUT ... when I got to my latest release, A Heart Revealed, where the heroine is married to an abuser who is still alive back in Ireland and cannot get a divorce or an annulment, I knew I was dead in the water because the only resolution I could see was killing the husband off. Since I didn't want to resort to the obvious, I prayed one day while sitting on my lower deck during the fall season, telling God that since He is the God of creativity, could He please provide me with a surprise ending for this book? Not ten seconds passed before an idea slowly drifted into my brain like the autumn leaves drifting from the trees overhead. I remember being so shocked by it, that I sat straight up and started laughing out loud. To this day, no one has guessed the ending ahead of time, which is a total tribute to God, not to me, giving the story that extra mystery quality that I feel so enhances a book.

Pam Hillman writes: I can't think of a single story line of mine that doesn't have at least one secret. But the secret has to be something pivotal, and it's not something that the person is willing to divulge easily. Otherwise, having and keeping the secret wouldn't be that big of a deal, would it? But, on the other hand, when the secret is revealed, it does double duty if the results are just as bad as the person worried about, but another twist turns everything around.

For instance, in Stealing Jake, Livy is a former pickpocket, and she doesn't want Jake or the townspeople to know about her past. When she's recognized and her past is revealed, all her hopes and dreams for a fresh start seem lost. But the townspeople rally around her, and vouch for her integrity and what she's done for the town. In this case, the reader knows about the secret, but Jake and the townspeople don't, so the reader knows it's got to come out sometime.

In Vengeance Rider (aka Marrying Mariah), there's a secret that is not revealed until the end of the book, but I've planted hints about the major players involved in the secret so that (hopefully) the reader will say, "Aha, why didn't I see that coming."

Sandra Lee Smith says: In Price of Victory, Sterling kept the fact that he was one of the owners of the Company that sponsored his racing team from the team members. He did that so the team wouldn't feel like they had to give him preferential treatment. The fact he was an owner was an important factor in his ability to help the heroine.

Mary Connealy writes: In my Kincaid Bride's series, all three of the heroes are badly scarred, emotionally and sometimes physically from a terrible childhood accident in a cave. None of them talk about it with each other or the women who come into their lives. Keeping this inside prevents them from healing and moving past the guilt they all carry for the damage done that long ago fateful day. In each book, the moment comes when the man talks to the woman he loves about what exactly happened in that cave. This is the moment they allow themselves to fall in love.

In Calico Canyon, Grace didn't admit that she'd hidden in Daniel's wagon to keep him from possibly handing her over from her adoptive father. Her distrust of people ... and his awareness that she was hiding something ... deepened the conflict between them.

In Gingham Mountain, Hannah kept it secret that she knew Libby, the little girl Grant adopted off the orphan train. She did this because she wanted Libby to be taken in and cared for by the lady who was running the train because they didn't have enough money to buy a train ticket. Hannah's love for Libby, as her sister of the heart, drove Hannah's need to protect all of Grant's children.

Now it's your turn. Grab a cup of coffee, and let’s discuss secrets. How have you used secrets in your own stories? Share ways you plan to increase reader curiosity or anticipation by adding a secret to your current WIP. What secrets in books or movies have had a lasting impact on your life? Two drawings today.  Winners' choice for one of my books.

Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti 

THE COLONEL’S DAUGHTER, the third book in Debby’s Military Investigations Series, will be out in August 2012. 
Pre-Order here:  

A ruthless killer is targeting the families of soldiers in a U.S. Army colonel’s brigade. Special agent Jamison Steele, of the Criminal Investigation Division, vows to stop him—because this time, Jamison’s heart is involved. The colonel’s daughter, the woman who loved and left Jamison without a word, came face-to-face with the murderer. Protecting Michele Logan means constant surveillance. And solving the mystery of the serial killer’s motive requires asking Michele the questions she least wants to answer. Questions that may lead them both into a deadly trap.


  1. Hi Julie:

    Ten seconds to get a great ending from God. And they say the Lord doesn’t play favorites! I’d say that “A Heart Revealed” surprised me more than any romance I’ve ever read. It also served to make the heroine, who seemed a little too good to be true, totally believable.

    Of course, more fun than secrets is how your character, Charity, can get secrets out of someone who never tells her the secret. I hope she is up to her old tricks in the last book.

    I think the secret of great secrets is how and when the secret is revealed. That can be even more important than the secret itself.


  2. Hi Mary:

    I know it’s just a novella but the “Sweetest Gift” makes perhaps the best use of a double secret in all of literature! It’s the first book I thought of when I saw the title was ‘secrets’. Way to go!


  3. Hi Ruth:

    What about “Small-Town Hearts” where the hero, Danny, is in town to open a Mary’s Candy store and put the heroine’s little candy store out of business. That’s a pretty important secret.


  4. Hi Debby:

    I think everyone is still reading this post. So I brought a gallon of Starbucks decaf extra dark. I hope you don’t mind Styrofoam cups.


  5. Hi Cara:

    I think your “Love on a Dime” had a great secret in that the heroine was a best selling romance author and had to keep it secret. That one might just take the romance cake!


  6. Hi Vince,

    You've hit the nail on the head with every comment about the above Seeker books. Thanks for reading our work and always giving such positive feedback!

    The Starbucks is perfect, Vince. Strong and hot. Thanks!

    Bagels and cream cheese, sweet rolls and fresh fruit available at the breakfast bar.

  7. Vince,
    I chuckled at your comment for Julie. Yes, ten minutes of waiting on the Lord and Julie has her answer. Amazing! :)

    You also mentioned the importance of when a secret is revealed. So true. The telling can be more significant than the secret in some cases.

  8. Hi Debby. Secrets...I love secrets! In literature of course.

    In my WIP my heroin has a secret, her entire family has the secret. They are career criminals.

    When she meets the hero, she's trying to turn over a new leaf, but something goes wrong and she must return to a life of crime, while trying to keep up appearances for the hero.

  9. Oh, Jennifer, you've hooked my interest!

    Secrets and bad guys. So are they really, really bad or funny bad or trying to do the right thing but keep slipping bad?

  10. Debby,another one to print, save, and keep checking regularly. I am so excited. I have several secrets in the story I am working on.

    It is always a toss up for me as a reader to want to "know" the secret in advance or find out the secret at the end. "Passionate" Julie's (thanks, Janet for that distinction)comment about no one guessing until the end how to resolve a situation is key. I like books where I keep thinking of options but still can't figure out how it will resolve. Just had that happen with Deborah Hale's latest LIH.

    Thanks, Vince, for the comment about secrets being revealed. I am going to put that in bold.

    Peace, Julie

  11. Good morning, Debby! Wonderful post on using secrets in our stories. Fun to relive all these fabulous Seeker books!!

    Another huge secret that exploded in a story is Mr. Rochester's secret in Jane Eyre. Talk about revealing a secret at the most compelling moment with disasterous results.


  12. Debby said: What secrets in books or movies have had a lasting impact on your life?

    One of my favorite movies is You've Got Mail. The whole movie we know Tom Hanks is "Fox Books" but the heroine doesn't til the end. I get misty eyed every time I see the ending!

  13. Oh, Donna, that is a great secret. I always think of the power of secrets in Shawshank Redemption.

    Peace, Julie

  14. Debby, what a fun post. I have a secret in my novel. The reveal comes before the climax, but healing from the past comes after. Still playing with this in my current wip. :) I look forward to reading how others use secrets in their stories. I definitely need help with this aspect of writing! :)

    Off the top of my head, I thought about Pride and Prejudice and how Mr. Darcy secretly took measures to find Lydia (that's the youngest sister, right?) after she disappears with Wickham. I love how the secret is accidentally revealed and then used to draw Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy together at the end. :)

  15. Good morning Debby! My stories always have a secret planted in them. As someone that doesn't plot, the secret is the seed that the story grows around. In my current wip the secret explains why the hero seems so distant.

  16. Silly me! I just realized I hadn't mentioned the drawings...two today. The winners get to choose which of my books they want.

    I updated the blog...sorry! :)

  17. Hi Julie!

    Ending secrets are so fun, aren't they! And I love when the author keeps me hooked until the end. Especially when I don't know who the villain really is.

  18. Donna, You've Got Mail was a wonderful movie because the viewers knew and she didn't. :)

    I love Sixth Sense and the boy's secret: I see dead people.

  19. Hey all,

    Great post today Debby. Loved it, especially the examples. I need examples to get it many times, or at least to cement it in the brain.

    Oh my - no one has mentioned Star Wars yet? Sooo many secrets. Still remember Luke hanging on the antenna at the end of 2nd movie I think, (5th book was it?!) and Obi Wan saying, "No, there is another."

    WHAT? And we had to WAIT and WAIT for next film?! ACK!

    Last Thursday, May and I turned in the manuscript for sequel to May on the Way: How I Become a K9 Spy. WAHOOOO!

    Y'all saw the fireworks from middle Tennesee, right?


    I'll find out soon from the editor if there is a big enough surprise/secret. I think so. Several of my beta readers were very very upset at first. (But they kept turning pages!)
    Hopefully we've dropped enough hints along the way that it will make sense that it was there all along. If not the first time through, maybe the second.

    The ending to the bonus chapter came rather like Julie's did. When it arrived, it gave me chills... I still wonder how May and I will write ourselves out of it in book 3.

    Prayer is a powerful writing tool!!!

    Enjoying the comments today. Thanks again for everything, and Vince, good coffee.

    I've been AWOL awhile, Helen ok?

  20. Debby, They aren't really really bad guys, not in their minds anyhow...but don't ask the people they have crossed. :)

    I always write with humor, but what's happening is the uncle, a compulsive gambler, raised the heroin and her brother. He can never walk away from an opportunity to make or acquire money and is always finding ways to fund his "hobby."

    Unfortunately, some of the ways involve his niece, the heroin.

    It's the only life she knows but feels there is something more.

  21. Great post, Debby, and perfect timing. I've been trying to figure out just how to reveal my hero's secret past - the readers know, but when and how do I let the heroine know? Your post has helped as I work on the best solution!

    I like the quote from Michael Hauge you included: "When a character, event, or situation is not explained fully at the outset or when the hero must find the answer to some questions or mystery in the course of the story, the reader will ‘stick around’ to learn the solution and satisfy his own curiosity.”

    Finding all the pieces to a puzzle and seeing the complete picture at the end - I think it's a key element in the HEA ending. That's the satisfying part of reading a good story, isn't it?

    JULIE - I've got to put "A Heart Revealed" on the top of my TBR list - it's the next one in the series for me to read, and it's killing me to find out what Emma's secret is! (No spoilers!)

  22. Debby, what a great post!! I'm jumping back in my book after being away for the weekend. It may be time to look at adding a little secret (and weaving it back into what I've already written). :)

    Thanks for the great idea!

  23. Hey, Debby! Great points about secrets. One thing I have used in the past is secret identity. Where a person you think you know is really someone else. That's a lot of fun. In my new WIP, the hero claims to be someone, but since he can't prove who he is, and no one believes him, he has to find a way to defeat the villain and win the girl in spite of the fact that everyone thinks he's crazy! Sounds fun, right?

    Thanks for the great post!

  24. Debby - how fun! Love secrets in books and love it when I can figure it out [I so called Seth's secret in Mary's last book, btw :D. Of course, Seth didn't even know it at that point... ;)].

    Let's see... In one MS, the hero's secret has to do with his past relationship with a now-deceased fiance. He doesn't tell his new wife until after she's already guessed it - she's not /sure/ but has a pretty good idea. The reader is with her - they can /guess/ but they don't KNOW until he tells her - and he feels more and more guilty about not telling his wife until it eats away at him and he has to.

    In another one, it's a Clark Kent is Superman type secret [sorry if that spoiled the new Superman movie for anyone ;)]. The reader may suspect but not know and the heroine has NO CLUE until she accidentally runs across some paperwork. It destroys her trust in him - it's not so much that she has a hard time trusting in general, but she has a hard time believing any man would want to be with HER and if he lied about his Supermanness, then what else would he lie about?

    And speaking of secrets...

    How 'bout that NCIS finale last night? ;)

  25. I wonder if part of my problem in my current MS is that there's no secrets - that I know of. It's possible they have secrets and haven't mentioned them to me yet [that's happened before - like the one with the now deceased fiance mentioned above - didn't know that until I was 60K in].

    Hmmm... should ponder that... or duct tape my h/h to a chair until they tell me their secrets...

  26. Oh, DEB, what a fun, fun post, girlfriend!! LOVE all the examples and am heading off right now to incorporate another secret in my WIP!!


  27. Loved this post, Debbie. And I'm so jealous you got a picture with Harlan Coben, what a writer. I love secrets. My first novel to be published, Secrets of the Heart, has a few. The first one begins with the heroine hiding a fugitive from a lunatic asylum. And Chameleon, which just released yesterday has some interesting twists and turns regarding secrets. I just hope readers don't reveal the ending in reviews and such.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Janet's pick of Jane Eyre. My kind of book and movie.

  28. Hey, VINCE, thanks SO much about your sweet comment on AHR ... or thank God, I should say!! :)

    And, yes, Charity was up to "secrets" in the final installment of the O'Connors, but because my editor made me cut 50,000 words from the book, I had to cut Mitch and Charity's subplot AND the secret. :(

    Oh, well ... there's still enough secrets to go around, I hope ... :)


  29. KC SAID: "Prayer is a powerful writing tool!!!"



  30. Great topic, Debby! I love secrets in books! Do you ever find yourself yelling at the characters as you read: "Just tell her for heaven's sake!"

    One of my contemporary romances has a bunch of secrets. The heroine has come to town searching for a sister she just found out about, but doesn't want anyone to know yet. It gets complicated when she starts falling for a man who's very much involved in her sister's life. Also the heroine has a darker secret, that of course comes crashing in at the Black Moment! So much fun!

    But I agree, the hard part is how much to reveal (hints) and when to do the big reveal. Timing is important and sometimes it's hard to get it just right!

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  31. JAN ... I hope you like AHR when you read it, my friend. Secrets are just SO much fun ... especially when they come from God, which AHR's does ... :)


  32. Oh no, Julie. A whole subplot with Charity gone?

    Maybe you could put that little tidbit on your website! For us addicts! :)


  33. No, Sue. I think we should hold out until Julie gives us a whole book with Mitch and Charity's secret!

  34. Hi Julie:

    You had to cut 50,000 words? That’s like cutting a novel out of your novel. It’s like losing enough weight at Weight Watchers to create another person!

    It just occurred to me that Charity would make a great detective. She’d put Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher to shame.

    Can’t you add a mystery and turn those 50,000 words into a Love Inspired Historical Suspense? I think you have a gold mine in Charity.


  35. Hi Debby:

    In one romance I read the secret was so powerful that the secret is all that I can remember about the book. Both the hero and heroine had the same problem in the past and they were afraid to tell the other about it. The longer they waited to reveal their past, the more tense things became and the higher the stakes became. They were really falling in love. Each prayed that the other would forgive their past and love them in spite of it.

    When they revealed their secrets they were both so mad and unforgiving of the other that they had a black moment and broke up!

    I can’t remember anything more about the book but it sure had a great black moment.


    P.S. I rewrote the words to a Marty Robbins song, Devil Woman years ago that fits in here:

    I told Mary about it
    I told her about a great sin
    Mary laughed and forgave me
    said she’d done the same thing!

  36. Hi Janet,
    Thanks for sharing the secret in your story, Courting the Doctor's Daughter.

    Great mention of Jane Eyre!


  37. Julie,

    Shawshank Redemption was so moving. It's time for me to watch it again.

    Remember Corrie ten Bloom's book...what was the title? Must Google. Ah, got it. The Hiding Place. A powerful story that touched me deeply. Hiding Jews. I wonder if I would have had the courage to do so. It's standing up for what we believe, starting with the small things. We have to be true to ourselves, don't we?

  38. Thanks, Vince. I offered Debby umpteen more secrets from my books but she started hiding from me and ultimately, I believe she moved to an undisclosed location and stopped returning my emails.

    The Sweetest Gift, my Christmas ebook with Robin Lee Hatcher. That was such a sweet book!!!!!!!!!

  39. Oooooh, Love on a Dime. That was a great 'secret' book, Cara. The secret was absolutely fundamental to the plot and she kept the secret for really great reasons.

  40. Jeanne T,

    As Vince mentioned earlier, when to reveal the secret and where it occurs within the story is important.

    Just a FYI, in THE OFFICER'S SECRET, my editor wanted the secret of the heroine's childhood to be revealed a bit earlier than I had written it initially. She was right, of course. Plus, I had other things that needed to be resolved as the ending played out.

  41. Oh yes, I love secrets!!! Still learning how to use them effectively. I once had a contest judge tell me (via the entry) that secrets don't sell well in CBA. *grin*
    I knew that wasn't true, since many times they make a book unputdownable!

  42. Hi Jamie,
    Glad you're using secrets in your stories. They're fun to write, aren't they!

    Sounds like the secret in your current WIP impacts your hero's internal conflict. Hopefully, he can grow and change within the story and learn to form closer relationships and show his feelings, especially with those he loves.

  43. Oooh Vince, The Starbucks hit the spot this morning. Thanks for that.

    Great point about Julie's secret in Heart Revealed. She does get preferential treatment. We know it. smile

    Hi Debby. Super duper post. Love all the secrets this morning.

    And you're so right. Secrets do up the tension, esp in your suspense novels. Love them btw.

  44. KC and May!

    Whoo-hoo!!! Congrats on completing the next manuscript. Your editor will be thrilled with the story...and your secret.

    Another inspired ending. Love it! God is so happy to have his writers creating stories that uplift and heal as well as entertain.

    Star Wars--a classic! Great mention!

    PS: I saw the fireworks! :)

  45. Hi Jennifer!
    I thought you had to be using humor to turn the bad guys into good guys. Sounds like a story I would like.

    BTW, I'm reading the latest
    book in Camy Tang's Protection for Hire series, A Dangerous Stage. So fun...and she created an ex-con bodyguard who's the feisty heroine. The mix of good bad-guys works for me!

  46. Hi Jan,

    Glad the post helped! Michael Hauge is my go-to guy! Love his book and his workshops. In fact, I'm going to review everything I have by him on the craft of writing. He so understands story.

    I remember the first romance I wrote a long, long time ago. The heroine and hero sat down at her kitchen table with a cup of coffee, and she told him the secrets about her past.

    LOL! I had a LOT to learn. :)

    I'm excited about your sale!!!! Whoo-hoo!!!


  47. Hi Missy...

    Want to know a secret? We missed you while you were gone.


  48. I think we should put Vince on retainer as our legal poet and plot analyst.

  49. Hi Mel,

    Now, you've got me thinking. An identity secret. Love it! Especially since I'm working on a new proposal for LIS.

    Brings to mind the story on the news last night about the TSA agent who used a murdered man's identity for over ten years. Ya gotta wonder! :)

  50. Carol, you hooked me! I want to know about the dead fiance and the hero's secret! :)

    And a Super Hero story!!! How fun is that!!! The heroine doesn't feel worthy of his attention. I see the revealed secret leading to the Black Moment. Am I right?

    Can you believe I don't watch NCIS? What's wrong with me?

    Don't answer that! LOL!


  51. Carol, no secrets in your current WIP...yet?

    Get busy, girlfriend.

    Dig up some dirt on either the hero or heroine...something from the past...from their childhoods...a misunderstanding that still hurts...a mistake one of them made that caused someone else pain...a silly prank that turned deadly...a moment of weakness that ended overheard snippet of conversation pulled out of context that gives the wrong impression...a false sense of wellbeing that covers up low self-worth...

    Shall I continue?

    Let me know what you come up with, okay?

    Did I hear you say I'm turning into Ruthy?

    More LOL!!!

  52. Hi All:

    It just occurred to me that Missy did a great post on “Anticipatory Events” of which secrets are a subset.

    Reward Them with Anticipatory Events

    When I think about it, a great many romances have secrets when you really think about it.


  53. Hi Julie,

    Everyone loves your secret ending story. So do I!!! Love how God works, too. He's always so...well, godly!

    Can you repackage the 50,000 words you had to cut into a sequel? Two novellas? An e-book for readers who buy the print novel?

  54. Do tell, Susan! How does the heroine end up with the hero? I'm intrigued! :)

    Sounds like a great story.

    You mentioned: "Just tell her for heaven's sake!"

    I can so relate! If merely revealing the secret solves the conflict, then the conflict was weak IMHO. More is needed.

  55. I am just a reader, and I love the secrets you writers share in your books! Thanks for a chance to win a book by Debby!

  56. Hi Vince...

    You've dangled a huge carrot in front of us! Are you sure you can't remember the title of the story?

    Love your song! You're talking about our own Mary Connealy, right?

    Just kidding!

    Do you sing, Vince?

    Perhaps a Seeker song? You could entertain us at ACFW one of these years...after your wonderful workshop on RPP, of course!


  57. Mary's right, Vince. She sent me 3,000 examples. All great, of course, but I had to cut most of them.

  58. How funny, Jessica! No secrets in the CBA! Ah, how about those secret baby stories?

    Actually, the judge may have meant that Christian heroes and heroines aren't supposed to lie...but then, a lie is different from a secret.

    Hope you ignored the judge's questionable advice! :)

  59. Waving to Sandra!!!

    Adding a lunch buffet from Panera's. More Starbucks and colas.

    BTW, where's Helen?

  60. Great idea, Tina!!!

    Vince is our Honorary Seeker Poet Laureate!

  61. Vince, Janet wrote a great post about Secrets, as well. Check it out in the archives for 2009.

  62. Vince~ You're right on about The Sweetest Gift. I love that little story. The fact that it's inspired by Mary's grandparents' true lives makes it that much sweeter.

    My WIP doesn't have any real secrets...other than the depth of the hero's anger at God over the loss of his wife and children. Even he doesn't realize how bitter he is until a catalyst comes along and sets him off but good. Perhaps I need to work something in. Hmmm...

    There is an over arching secret that runs through the series. It belongs to a character who is secondary in the first two stories. She's an antagonist and an integral part of the conflict in those stories. Her secret will be revealed sometime in the third book and will explain a lot of her bitterness of books one and two.

  63. And Vince, I learned all about those anticipatory events from you! :)

  64. Debby, thank you! I'm glad to be back.

    I've been away at my son's college graduation. Very exciting! But a little sad, too. He's going to be staying in Durham to live and work. (sniff, sniff)

  65. Mary, I have Debby's new, secret address. How much is it worth to you???


  66. LOL! No superheroes. More of a secret identity. [Actually, Debbie, you read the beginning of this one. Pretty sure we discussed that aspect of it in our call too - we discussed the fiance one too though I don't recall if I told you what the secret is.]

    I did talk at some length with a very well respected, well known, award winning, best selling author [you'd all recognize her name] about the secret identity and she said she didn't know if it would sell because the secret identity would be seen as lying. The hero is very careful to never LIE.

    Actually, it's probably more accurate to say it's like someone who works with top secret information - they can't tell their spouse/girlfriend/priest what secrets they know. In fact, he flat out says "I can't talk about it".

    The heroine knows he's not being completely honest with him but accepts that he's contractually bound not to - until she finds out what it is ;).

    Anyway... I can't wait to read Camy's new book!!! I already know at least one person who's getting it for Christmas ;).

  67. Hi Andrea,
    Your antagonist sounds intriguing. Hard to carry her through two books, no doubt. Good for you. Sounds like a nicely layered series.

  68. Missy, so hard to cut those apron strings, isn't it? But he's ready to fly, and he will do so well in life. He'd have to with such a great mom and dad!

    Sending a box of tissues along with hugs.

  69. MISSY Thank you so much.
    I'll call off the SWAT Team I hired (on their off hours) to hunt her down.

  70. Got it, Carol!

    The "I can't talk about it," works, IMHO! :)

    You're right. Heroes shouldn't lie.

    But they can keep secrets.

  71. Ah, are you sure you called off the SWAT team, Mary?

    They're knocking down my door...

    If I don't comment, you'll know why.

  72. I love stories with secrets. But there has to be a good reason for the secret to remain secret. Even better if the secret coming to light makes everything worse.

  73. Hi Debby:

    I just went back and read Janet Dean’s post on Secrets. (Can you believe back then it was typical to get only 32 comments!)

    Janet’s post remained me that when I was in grade school I was in love with Betsy Palmer!


    Actually, in that post Janet wrote, “In The Substitute Bride, February 2010, the hero and heroine are both hiding something that carries a wallop". Maybe I’m referring to “The Substitute Bride” but it also seems like something Ruth would write and it could very well be a Liz Fielding book. Liz likes to write plots that seem normal to the reader but to other authors seem to tweak the genre.

    Liz had an unsecret secret plot in which both the bride and the groom were runaways from the wedding and neither knew what the other had done! They both thought they were the guilty party. They runaway from the wedding and hide in the same place. Of course, they don’t want to mention what happened. For some reason they have to work together on a project. Here the reader is privileged.

    The real fun is seeing how they react to each other with each thinking they are the guilty party. The other party never acts like they should. Great fun.You'd think the secret would come out right away but it goes on and on.


    P.S. I do work. I have a lot a tests to grade.

    P.P.S. Mary is very biblical. Does it not say in, Matthew 5:15, that one should hide their light under a bushel? Bye. :)

  74. Just realized I misspelled heroine....twice (smacking self on forehead)

    Time for a nap!

  75. I really enjoyed your post today about secrets Debbi, and of course being the type writer you are - you would know about secrets...
    Interesting to read of the authors and their books with secrets too. love to read these gals.
    I would imagine their are quite a few secrets floating around in Seekerville, lets not find them...
    Paula O(

  76. Hi Patricia,
    You're so right about the impact of revealing the secret and making the problem worse. Love it!

  77. Vince, I haven't read Liz Fielding. At first, I thought you were talking about Joy Fielding...See Jane Run. Loved her books years ago.

    Thanks for linking Janet's post, which I was unable to do. You are such the better man! :)

    Good luck grading papers. I have a job too. I need to write a book, but it's much more fun to visit friends in Seekerville.

  78. Jennifer, no smacking allowed in Seekerville. And no worries...ever!

  79. Cute, Paula, about the secrets in Seekerville. We could make some up...maybe about Ruthy. She hasn't stopped in today. I'm sure she's busy with babies and puppies and writing deadlines.

    But, hey, that's no excuse, right?

    Okay, anyone want to share a secret about Ruthy?

    And no opossum talk allowed, Mary.

  80. Shhhh!

    Seekers are planning some special secret surprises for our 5-year anniversary in OCT.

    But mum's the word right now.

  81. I just finished reading all the comments. Seekerville is a happening place, full of energy, wisdom and fun. That's no secret. LOL

    Vince, as a little boy you were in love with Betsy Palmer? I was in love with cowboys. All of them!

    Mercy, only 32 comments on my Secrets post? Times are changing.


  82. I loved Gunsmoke and asked for six-shooters for Christmas when I was in 3rd grade. (Toy guns, of course!)

  83. Great post, Debby (of course, you always write great posts and that's NO secret!). ~ In my current WIP a secondary character (young woman) is expecting a baby, which will play a very important role for my H & H in the end--but it's a secret for a good bit of the story. ~ You've given me a lot to think about today, and I also enjoyed reading the other Seeker's examples too. Hugs, Patti Jo
    p.s. Love the photo of you with your gorgeous Peace Lily plant!

  84. Hi Patti Jo,

    A secret-secondary-character baby story! :)

    Hope all is well with you! Did you bring peach cobbler?

    I've been thinking about your yummy cobbler all day.


  85. Is it better to keep secrets from the reader or allow the reader to know but keep it secret from the character? In one of my WIPs, the heroine is hiding a secret from her parents but the reader knows what it is. (The hero also knows and holds it against the heroine that she would dishnor her parents the way she has.)

    Also, is there a difference between a secret and a revelation? Things come out later in a book that one character already knew. These secrets end up being plot twists, but were never mentioned in the first place.

    I don't know if that makes any sense.

    Also, as I have all of Debbie's books, please don't enter me the drawing.

  86. Oh, Debby ... "If merely revealing the secret solves the conflict, then the conflict was weak IMHO. More is needed." I laughed in recognition when I read that. The first romance I wrote was never finished because the secret was outed in about the third chapter and the conflict evaporated. Lesson learned :-)

    Secrets. Okay, not to speak of any one book specifically but ... in "Out of Control" when I found out one of the secrets ... it didn't solve a thing. Not one thing. Not even one-half of one thing. It just raised the stakes and made me wonder how on earth the character would get past the obstacle. Talk about good writing!

    In my first western historical, the guy everyone in town thinks is a 'good' guy isn't quite what he leads others to believe. The hero is a guy everyone in town thinks is a tad hopeless, but he's the first one to catch on to the 'good' guy. He's most concerned about convincing the heroine (who is falling in love with the 'good' guy). She keeps defending the 'good' guy. Then she's a victim of one of the 'good' guy's crimes, and she can't convince anyone in town that the 'good' guy was behind the crime. She can't even convince the hero because he can't believe the 'good' guy would go that far. The reader knows the truth (if I wrote it well enough), but the town doesn't discover the truth until right at the end.

    I dunno. Maybe that's not a secret but just a convoluted story :-)

    Nancy C

  87. Walt said: Also, is there a difference between a secret and a revelation?

    Ditto on that question. I'm beginning to wonder about my third western historical ...

    Nancy C

  88. I just re-watched that classic movie, Charade, with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. A lot of secrets in that one! I love it. You don't find out until the very end the real identity of Cary Grant's character. He has three or four identities in that movie. I love that movie. Two of my favorite, favorite actors and a secret-filled plot. What move could you want?

  89. What a fun post, Debby! I'll have to go back and read over all the comments later when I've got some time, but I have to agree with Melanie, Charade is a great example of too many secrets!

    One of my favorite books (lately) has been Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden. It's a mystey within a mystery, with secrets that affect generations. It's a great read.

    I also really like the "twist" or secret in an L.M. Montgomery classic, Anne's House of Dreams, in which Anne's friend discovers she's been married to the wrong man for 13 years!

    Anyway, I'm off. But I can't tell you where I'm going, it's a secret...

  90. This comment has been removed by the author.

  91. Debby:

    Over the weekend we went to my high school 50 year reunion. I'm kind of lethargic this week.

    The heroine in my WIP has a secret, but I'm concerned that it's revealed too soon.

    Here's a late-in-the-day pot of coffee, in case anyone needs a pick-me-up.

    Now I'm off to church.


  92. The book I have now has a massive secret only the reader knows about it. (Its one of Ruthy's books) He has told half his secret now but the other shoe will fall soon.

    I like secrets I think when we are wondering is good too. I hate books that mention something but don't give an answer or a reason. Cant think of the exact example but like making a point to mention something or someone as if they are an important part of the story. I will then remember that and think Ok that has something to do with the secret and its then not mentioned again in the book. It really leaves me frustrated as to why it was mentioned or if the author forgot about it.
    One book I remember had a prologue which actually happens at the end of the book, there is someone running for there lives about to die and we start the book going back to the beginning. the book ends without saying who was in danger of being killed. I was so frustrated.

  93. SUE/JAN/VINCE/DEB: LOL ... my agent Natasha already talked to me about publishing novellas on Amazon with the 50,000 words cut!! Brady and Lizzie had a great story that hit the cutting room floor, so she did want me to parley that into a Mother's Day novella because it was mother-related, but I ran out of time.

    And, SUE, I was going to post the cut scenes in Journal Jots, and Natasha said "NO!" She thinks I should publish those babies as novellas. :)

    VINCE ... I totally agree -- Charity is a goldmine of a character, and I could write a whole series on her alone. :) Mmmm ... not a bad idea ...


  94. Debby, great topic! I love secrets and have a heck of a time keepin' 'em, LOL! Following a secret thread through a story does make a reader invest time and interest the book, and you're absolutely right, the reveal better be worth it!

    Great examples from Seeker books, too. Ahhh, what a talented bunch : )

    Thanks, Deb!

  95. Hi Everyone,
    Sorry I've been gone. We had a function at church tonight.

  96. Walt, whether the readers know or not depends upon the secret. Try it both ways and see which gives the biggest impact.

    Sometimes it's not even necessary to have the secret revealed to the other character, if the readers know. If the hero or heroine works through his or her own problem and grows from it, he/she can elude to it but not necessarily reveal long as the readers are clued in.

    Does that make sense?

    Thanks for reading my books. Sending hugs to you and Mo!!!

  97. Hi Nancy C...
    Actually, I think you've got a good story there with the readers being clued in and the heroine having to prove her case to the town and even the hero. We--the readers--will be cheering her on.

    Yay, Nancy! Good job!

  98. Hmmm, secret vs revelation?

    Well, a secret is something that's being kept private for a reason. A revelation is a fact or information that finally comes to light. It may not have been held in confidence.

    Does that shed some light on the question?

  99. Oh, Melanie, I can't remember the story line of Charade. Although I certainly remember the title. I think some of the old movie were easier to "read," don't you?

    Love Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant!

  100. Hi Stephanie,

    Thanks for mentioning your favorite "secret" movies!!! And cute that you're not telling us where you're going.

    Love the secret theme.

    Have fun wherever you are!!! :)

  101. Hi Helen,
    I wondered where you were. Hope you had a marvelous reunion. How fun to see everyone and catch up with old friends.

    We missed you plugging in the coffee. Vince brought Starbucks. He must have known you were going to be AWOL today!!!

    Work out the plot of your WIP in your head both ways--once with the early secret revelation and the second time with the secret withheld until closer to the end of the story. See which packs the biggest punch!


  102. Ausjenny, I agree with you. If the threads aren't pulled together by the end of the story, I'm not happy. Sometimes I think authors try to do something different and leave the reader hanging, which doesn't work in my book.

  103. Hey Julie,

    You have a year until next Mother's Day. I'd say go for it! Especially since Natasha encouraged you along those lines as well.

    We'll be waiting for it to go to print or to e-book or to whatever.


  104. Hi Audra...who's so busy with day job and kids and hubby's business and everything else that fills her day to overflowing.

    So glad you could stop by and add your input. We love you, honey!!!

  105. Ah, today's post is the best kept secret of the day! lol

    I've been AWOL all day, and just had a chance to read it. Makes me want to up the ante and add another secret or two to my wip.

  106. Secrets sure do make a book fun ... to read and to write. Struggling with a written piece I've done filled with secrets. I'm trying to lay out the best possible way for everyone to lay down their cards. Tricky!
    Thanks for the great advice and the great stories to read for inspiration!

  107. I hate knowing secrets in real life, but I love them in books. Great post, Debby!

  108. The best secrets in books are revealed slowly. The anticipation is excruciating at it's best.


  109. Wow. Talk about perfect timing. My hero has two secrets and I was struggling with what happened when one was revealed. Duh. It has to make things worse. hehe.

    Time to do some scheming. Thanks for the great post, Debby!

  110. Loved this post, Debby! I have big secrets for both my hero and heroine in each book I've written. The more secrets the better!

    I'd love to be in drawing for your new book. It's no secret you write great suspense. :)

  111. Thank you for reminding me to include secrets!!!

  112. I don't care for them in real life but in books its fine especially when its revealed a bit at a time.