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Writing Tips


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This old One Room Schoolhouse in Roaring Falls serves as our only currently available Classroom.  Due to its small size, we frequently hold classes outdoors under the spreading Chestnut tree, or seated along the edge of the old Stone Bridge.

The classes held here are devoted solely to helpful Writing Tips, and other goodies not directly associated with the Roaring Falls Series.  On occasion I may expound on certain facets of Roaring Falls in examples, as part of a lesson or two.

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Using Secrets in Writing

Using secrets in your writing captures the readers attention.

The power of using secrets in your writing evokes suspense, adds drama and mystery, but more importantly, they capture the readers attention.

When someone begins to whisper; you redirect your attention, sharpen and narrow your focus, your ears perk up, all becomes quiet, the tension builds, and you become captivated.

Being driven by curiosity, you must find out what secret they hold.
At this point, nothing else matters, the world fades away as you continue to read, turning page after page; you cannot put that book down until you discover exactly what that secret was.

Never disappoint your reader with some lame secret that does not amount to a hill of beans.  Avoid things like a hidden pregnancy, someone having an affair, hiding a clue that could clear an innocent character, unless it becomes a major case in your story.  Make that secret a real shocker.

When introducing a secret, do not let the readers know what it is, just that it exists.  However, allow them to learn slowly what it is, reveal just a little here and there, so they know the secret right before the character learns of it.

A character's personality and behavior can be shaped based on what secret they know.  It can give them a huge guilt trip, affecting every area of their life, or turn them into a criminal who uses that secret in an attempt to blackmail, or as a power struggle to gain the leading edge.

Introducing a secret into a story is usually worked into the plot.  Overheard conversations are not usually the way to show how a character learned of a secret.  It should be much more intriguing, possibly even the assembly of several events that lead to the discovery of the secret.

I prefer a secret that when finally disclosed, completely stuns my reader.  Something that completely changes the readers perception of the event, cause or outcome of what they fully expected to take place.  Depending on your chosen venue, almost anything is possible, so make it not only believable but highly probable, now that they know the whole story.

Not all secrets are individually held secrets, sometimes things done behind closed doors, for whatever reason, can heighten the readers interest.  Many times I start a dialog between two characters where you learn only that they are expecting doing something and just as they get to the nitty-gritty of what they are planning, they slip into an office, closing the door, leaving you in suspense.  I love jumping scenes at this point; when you hear the phone being dialed, to the character they are calling, and let the readers overhear just enough, but on the wrong track, the reader only thinks they know what they could be up to, but is still unsure and needs to learn a little more.

Before I close, here are a few areas in which secrets may be used to pique your readers interest.

One of my favorites are when everyone knows a secret, except the person most affected by it.  Another is a private secret that if it ever leaked out, it would ruin his life, or sometimes this secret prevents him from pursuing his special interest or desire.

Of particular interest is the type of secret that is a double-edged sword, a Catch-22 situation.  Such a secret impacts the persons character in most outstanding ways.  If they disclose the secret, their best friend's life is destroyed, but if they do not an innocent person will die.

Something you can have a lot of fun with, is simply allowing a couple of your characters to hold a secret, but to those who think they know it, it turns out to be something else entirely.
Another twist is having someone think they know a secret, when in reality, everyone around them already knows about it and keeps it hid very well.

Secrets I try to avoid in my works, are those where only a small handful are privy, like a small underground movement, spy ring, government group, things where only one tiny group could affect the masses of people around them.  After 9/11 such secrets are about as stale as; will grandma take her secret beyond her death bed.  This also includes private meetings for any reason.

That does not mean I avoid those types of plots, I disclose to the reader what is going on, but often the characters in these stories are clueless about those meetings and what they entailed.

A story becomes alive and more exciting when you can bring an otherwise dull character back to life by giving them an important secret.  One that alters the direction the reader presumes a story is going and they can feel it, but cannot quite put their finger on it yet; so they keep turning those pages.

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Document Revision Date 12/11/2019 Applicable To This Page Only