June 13, 2013 by Kira Lyn Blue
I stumbled across this image on Taking Back Earth yesterday and it struck me as an interesting statement in regards to character development in writing.
What are our characters hiding?
Everyone has secrets or aspects of themselves that they try to hide from those around them. The bigger the secret, the more pains a character will take to keep it secret. This can have a big impact on how your character behaves in any given situation and how they relate to people.
I have been reading Stacia Kane‘s Chess Putnam series, an Urban Fantasy series which features a protagonist who is a drug addict. Actually that might be understating things, she’s a straight up junkie. I think Chess is a prime example of someone with something to hide and how it affects all her behavior, interactions, and decisions. She’s constantly worried about her employers discovering her addiction and firing her, she lives alone so she can get high without being seen, she gets blackmailed into doing things she doesn’t want to do, her day is scheduled around her next fix, she takes drugs to keep going when the brown stuff hits the spinny thing, etc., etc., and so on. It’s actually a really fascinating series and I couldn’t help but root for Chess in spite of her humongous flaws. But my larger point here is that her dirty little secret quite literally shapes her entire existence.
While Chess is an extreme example of a character with a secret, every character we create has secrets that impact how they behave. Secrets don’t have to be big, it could be something as simple as hiding a vulnerability or insecurity.
Think about how people behave when their secrets are threatened.
We might hide an insecurity of our looks by wearing designer clothes, gallons of makeup, plastic surgery, or expensive haircuts. We might hide our true feelings about someone for fear they won’t reciprocate. We might be embarrassed of a job that lacks prestige and inflate our own importance in the company of others. These things are seemingly small, but have real impact on how characters (and real people) interact with the world.
In fiction, these dirty little secrets can be great sources of conflict and tension while adding depth and dimension to our characters.