Why Do We Love to Read about Secrets?
by G.G. Andrew
Secrets: awkward in real life, but so delicious to read about.
It’s no, um, secret, that characters keeping information from other characters has made all sorts of stories, from primetime Tv to the romances we read, so much juicier. A secret is different than a plot twist–a surprise nobody saw coming, including the main characters and the reader. Secrets in books are often when you as the reader know something, or at least have hints at it, but one of the people in the tale you’re reading doesn’t.
Why is this so satisfying to read, even when it’s a dark secret? Four reasons:
Secrets rock worlds.
If someone keeps a secret from someone else–or the whole world–in the story you’re reading, it’s because that secret has the potential to change lives in dramatic ways, and maybe not for the better: break up relationships, cost people their jobs, shatter their security. Knowing a secret is out there is like watching a volcano that’s about to erupt.
Secrets create dramatic tension.
Watching and waiting for the reveal of a secret it so tantalizing. Even a fantastic plot twist doesn’t have the impact of knowing that secrets will be outed and wondering how characters will react. What happens when a woman is forced to admit to the world she’s in love with her neighbor–even though he’s her student? In a lot of ways, the buildup is often better than the release.
Secrets are about power.
Secrets can create power differentials, and often even upset the usual balance of power. One character who has information others don’t could have power in a sense, since he holds the cards; but if the secret could make him look bad, it’s a point of vulnerability, even if he’s a high-powered CEO who’s moved beyond a troubled past.
Secrets add layers.
Having secrets laying below the surface of a story means that every conversation, every interaction between characters, may be about something else. Maybe a girl is giving her friend a warm hug, but really she’s trying to assuage her guilt that the person who killed her friend’s father is her ex…whom she still has feelings for.
Do you love reading about secrets? Isabelle Drake’s new YA book, Best Friends Never, is about two friends who are now enemies because of a dark secret. Check it out if you love reading about secrets for these reasons, and more. I know I will be–not only do I love secrets, but complicated female relationships are totally catnip for me!
G.G. Andrew writes quirky romantic comedy–stories about people who fall in love with the most unlikely person, and stumble through some awkwardness and ill-advised kisses along the way. Her latest book is GRAFFITI IN LOVE, a romance between an infamous British graffiti artist and the American woman who hates him. There’s a secret or two in it–including the hero’s real name.