Thursday, February 24, 2011

Secrets are Villains

When Katie mentioned the opportunity to blog about secrets, I jumped at the chance. How fun! Secrets, by nature, are intriguing, and thus, often mainstays in fiction. So surely secrets would present a thousand different topics to write about. No problem, I thought. Secrets are dynamic! I can be dynamic! But then I sat down at my computer, and as so often happens, I got distracted. I just couldn’t seem to write about the fun, interesting side of secrets. Several days, a blank page and a blinking cursor later, I was ready to throw in the towel. Secrets were evil! Out to ruin my life! And that got me thinking…

Secrets, in most of the ways that matter, are like villains. As I reader, I love a good secret (as I love a good villain). I love secrets that characters guard so closely they can’t even acknowledge them in the privacy of their own minds. Secrets connect me to a character. Sometimes I empathize with them. Sometimes I call them names or order them to stop being ridiculous. Either way, I take the journey with the characters because personal secrets draw me in. Secrets that characters keep from each other force me to turn the page, waiting for the inevitable confrontation. Secrets that drive plots, that keep characters turning down blind alleys and wondering who they can trust will keep me up well into the night - even when I have to work the next morning. (Like I said, secrets are villains.) And often when a book stays with me, and I find myself thinking about it later, it’s because of the characters, the secrets they carried and how they dealt with them.

But it wasn’t until I sat down to really think about secrets that I realized secrets are the ultimate villain. As a reader and especially as a writer, I’m all about characters. I want to connect to the heroine of a story. I want to feel like I’m walking in her shoes, persevering, and beating the odds. I want to feel as though I’m the one facing down the villain. And the best villains, at the end of the day, are great because they challenge the heroine. Villains present the opportunity to prove she is worth rooting for. Worth losing sleep over. Worth dashing through your morning routine because you can’t be late but you just couldn’t put that damn book down last night. A heroine is nothing without a challenge to conquer. But sometimes, particularly in a romance, villains come in unexpected ways. (They’re sneaky like that.)

A secret can be the most insidious of villains because they lie in wait. Quiet. Patient. Sneaky. Waiting for the right moment to jump out at a heroine like a chainsaw-wielding maniac and send her running. And secrets have one up on the chainsaw-wielding maniac. No matter how hard or how fast the heroine runs, she can’t outrun a secret. It’s always there, always waiting for the right moment to do what secrets do best. Devastate.

A secret can all but lay waste to a relationship, destroy trust, and jeopardize love. Even worse, secrets can act as the evil voice inside a character’s head whispering, “you can’t,” or “you’re not good enough,” or “you don’t deserve to be happy.” Sometimes facing down a corporeal villain is easier than facing down buried secrets. A chainsaw-wielding maniac? Fight! A spotlight on a heroine’s darkest, most personal secret? Flight! The heroine in my upcoming release, Hunting Human, certainly goes to great lengths to avoid the secrets of her past. And like any good villain, her secrets ultimately stand in the way of her happiness.

So how do we as readers, writers, and the heroes of our own stories fight secrets? Do we run? And if so for how long? Because like any good hero at some point we have to stop. Face our secrets, fears and villains and yell, ‘bring it!’ And for me, that’s where the story lies. That is why I curl up in bed and read (or write) until my eyes are blurry. Because, if the heroine can fight off the werewolf, get the hottie with the wash board abs, and deal with her secrets all in a day’s work, then maybe, just maybe, so can I.

Thank you Amanda for blogging with me today! I love this post! If you’d like to learn more about Amanda, please visit her website: www.amandaealvarez.com or find her on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/amandaealvarez1. 30 days of danger & secrets is almost over so for a chance to win the grand prize (for full details, click on the tab at the top left of the blog or just click here) don’t forget to leave a comment and spread the word!

12 comments:

KC Burn said...

Secrets as a villain... that's a very cool concept. Might make it easier to deal with them - as a writer, I mean - obviously the characters still won't have an easy go of it :)

Maureen said...

I never thought about it this way, but makes perfect sense. Though with secrets, simply revealing them often solves the problem...well, sometimes!

Some thought provoking stuff here! Thanks!

Jodie said...

Elaine Dyer here...I absolutely love the comparison, and Amanda, you're so right! This unique view will undoubtedly make my reading and my writing more interesting, more challenging, and more memorable. Thanks for such an intriguing blog.

Katie Reus said...

Thanks for joining me today, Amanda! This is an absolutely fantastic blog topic :)

Amanda said...

Thanks for having me Katie!

And Maureen, I totally agree with you, secrets could often be easily defeated by acknowledging and addressing them. But often it's not that simple... or at least it doesn't feel that way to the character. :)

Heather said...

What an intriguing take on secrets! I wonder if as authors we take this one step further and assign character traits, histories, and motivations to the secrets, if we can create a more richly layered story? For instance, when heroine is dealing with her secret she:

1) Always taps her foot, becomes compulsive paper straightener
2) The secret arose from a series of events in childhood, and they were...
3) The motivation for keeping the secret is...

Probably pretty obvious, but it seemed worth a try! Thank you for the food for thought!

Jillian said...

Great post- never thought of the secrets themselves as being villains- I love that idea.

Sarah said...

Great post! I never thought of secrets that way but it's so true :-)

smaccall @ comcast.net

Cathy M said...

Great post, Amanda, and a unique take on the villian of the piece.

Love the blurb for Hunting Human, and look forward to reading an excerpt.

BTW, your biography on your website is a hoot.

donnas said...

Great post. Looking forward to reading your book.

Amanda said...

Thanks everyone for stopping by and leaving comments.

And Cathy I'm glad you found my biography funny... I tried for serious, sensible and a host of other things before I gave up and just went with what's me. :)

Mark Thomas said...

So many TV shows live on secrets. Who burned Michael? What is the island? The unknown is definitely a nemesis, as we must know!