I love reading Agatha Christie novels. She is so sneaky, and her bad guys never seem crazy until the last few pages. I am not remembering the title of the novel at the moment, but she wrote a book about a sculptor, and the character who was the murderer was a tremendous surprise (I used to have a trade paperback of this book, but I misplaced it in a move).
There Was A Pool Behind A Country House
That book was more artistic than her others. It was more nuanced. But back to the point of today.
I went to a high school production of Beauty and the Beast a long time ago. The costumes were pretty good, and the cast and director had worked out a neat switch with a double for the man playing the Beast, so that when the fog cleared away, the mask seemed to have been removed by magic, and the prince was revealed in all his handsome glory.
I Love Good Theatre Tricks
I remember sitting in the auditorium during that show, and thinking about secrets. The director and the cast, I heard afterwards, had gone to great lengths to keep the existence of the double Beast a secret from the families and friends of the performers. The mystery was preserved, and the audience was delighted. (As for how I learned about the switch, well, when you’re an actor, other actors tell you things. Because you’re part of the family, as it were.)
Keeping Secrets Pays Off
And now on to today’s example. It is very important to remember, when you are writing your novel, that your subconscious is capable of unveiling wonderful secrets, if you allow your conscious, driving mind to get out of the way.
Bad Writing (Thinking Brain):
Briel tapped the wire frame of her glasses against her chin as she gazed down into the observatory. Her uncle, Theodore, would come in a moment, and he would not know that she was hidden in the top shelf of the cabinets. Briel had a secret from her uncle; she was going to steal his recipe today, and sell it to the evil moneylender across the street, who wanted to start a rival business peddling marvelous inventions.
Good Writing (Intuitive Secrets):
Briel chewed on the hem of her sleeve; she was tucked into the height of the belfry, and the doves pecked around her with placid trills. She held a white string in her hand, which trailed down the column and into the stove where her uncle’s latest invention simmered. She was waiting, waiting, for the creak of the door. Her heart seemed to thud in the roof of her mouth; the fabric between her teeth was rough against her tongue.
Hoard Your Secrets With Miserly Intuition
Keeping secrets requires writerly discipline, but the reader is rewarded by a thrill of emotion and excitement when the moment of revelatory locking-into-place finally unfolds. It is far better to follow the unraveling of plot folds that resonate with your gut than to make a scheduled, brainy dispensation of each secret.