Monday, August 8, 2011

The Terrible Secret (and the hidden candy)

The other night at my writers group, it was my turn to give the lesson. We have a short 5-7 minute writing lesson at the beginning of our meetings, before we share for critique. I pulled out a book I bought a while back, Conflict, Action and Suspense by William Noble. It's part of a really great series called "Elements of Writing," published by the good folks over at Writers Digest. I've read several of the other entries in this series, by such authors as Orson Scott Card and Jack Bickham.

The great tip from Mr. Noble was on adding suspense to the novel by giving a character what he called "The Terrible Secret." He asked a class full of writing students whether they had a secret they'd never, ever divulged to anyone. Almost everyone raised a hand. He asked who wanted to write about it. All the hands went down. "Good," he said. "Then you have a secret you want to protect." That helps you know how a character would feel (and how far a character might go) to prevent the secret from becoming known.

Two things happen with a secret (and it must be TERRIBLE. It can't be a quest-related secret. It has to be something AWFUL.) If it is divulged at the beginning of a story, it will set things in motion, and the whole story can evolve due to the letting out of the secret. If the secret is kept, the suspense is higher and the threat of what will happen if the secret is made known will keep things taut. Your story can be about the great lengths a character will go to in order to keep the secret under wraps.

I'd read this before, but not at the beginning of a "plotting time" like I am now with my new story. I have a woman in my story I haven't gotten a great bead on yet, but I LOVE the idea of giving her a terrible secret she will almost do anything to keep. It adds dimension to her character, and it will give the story a lot better conflict.

And we LOVE conflict! Conflict makes the story happen!

So, I'm in conflict with myself, as well. I still LOVE sugar, but I have to think of ways that seem less like baked goods and candy to get it. And the cold cereal thing is making me feel guilty, too. latest way of getting a sugar fix cereal!

I love hot cereal. So much. Beyond expression. I eat cracked wheat to make a 1950s housewife proud. But for a candy fix, I'm talking about the candy version of hot cereal: the kind in the packets, already sweetened with fruit and spices. That stuff is fantastic! There's maple, brown sugar, a version called cinnamon roll (!), another with peaches, one with strawberries. All just candy disguised as oaty goodness!

Apple cinnamon is my favorite. I just buy the WalMart brand, and it's fantastic, probably filled with LOADS of sugar, but I've decided to be in denial about it, and I'm refusing to read the label. I'll let pre-packaged oatmeal keep it's own Terrible Sugar Secret.


  1. This post made me laugh because Kat!e was just telling me about some of her characters that have a combined secret - the problem is that they're hiding it from her...

    Also, I have been recently eating the brown sugar cinnamon oatmeal (also Walmart brand). It is 3 WW points per packet and I figure that's all I need to know about it. :D


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