But I always love getting reminders about stuff like this. Just because I know it, doesn't mean it's always at the front of my mind. Yanno?
So. For today, here is your reminder:
Give each of your characters a secret.
Each character. Not just your main character(s), but your secondaries, too. And your tertiaries. (I totally had to look up the spelling for tertiary. I could have sworn there was a "c" in there somewhere . . . )
I try to know as many of my characters' secrets as possible before I start writing a draft. They each have one very significant one. A secret that they'd do just about anything to keep from coming to light. (Sometimes characters have more than one. That's when things get super fun.) (I'm a poet and I know it.)
Some characters' secrets become large parts of what drive my plots. Their unveilings can lead to major twists. Or small ones. Or they're not twists at all, but something else entirely. Not every secret has to be CIA spy-worthy. Sometimes the secrets never even come out--but they still definitely motivate their character's actions.
A character's secret can be deep and dark. Scary. Or it can be light, like hidden love. Or somewhere in the middle. Really, anything works. As long as the secret exists and makes a difference to the character.
I mean, think about it. We can deepen a character's development in spades just by understanding their secrets--and how they react to them.
Take . . . Shelly, the main character in your new WIP. Or, yanno, insert the real name of a character here: ______________ :)
What's her secret? And whom would she share it with? Her best friend? (What's her best friend's secret?) Her parents? (What are their secrets?) Nobody? Someone only at the last minute and under duress?
How does her secret affect other characters in your WIP? How does it affect your plot? If it came to light, would it impact her life and the world around her? Or does she only think it would have an impact, but you the big bad author know otherwise? Will you let her secret slip out into her world? How? What about a secondary character whose secret affects your MC? What will you do with that? Or the tertiary character whose secret affects that secondary character? Or the second secondary character whose working against the first secondary character because his secret involves, or depends on, the first's secret?
I could keep asking questions like that for hours. Happily! Because each answer opens up something new. And all the sudden there's the start of this spiderwebbed plot.
Each answer makes it that much stronger.
Okay, and maybe you're a pantser and don't think about these things ahead of time. No big. This trick still works.
Have you ever stumbled into a corner that you haven't known how to write yourself out of? Of course you have! And not because you're a pantser. I mean, I do that all the dang time, and I plot forever before I start writing. It happens to all of us.
But dude. When you do write yourself into a corner?
Give a character a secret and let it explode. Either your main character, or someone near her. The result from it being leaked?
That corner's destroyed in the rubble and you'll find a million different places you could go. Or maybe just two or three--or maybe just a single strand to pull on, but it'll be enough to move your character forward.
Or, if you want to be evil, backward. :)
And one other little trick for this technique?
Reread this, but replace the word secret with a different noun.
Give each character a past. A dream. A fear. A weakness. A strength. An ability. A disadvantage. A weapon. A goal. A tendency . . .