Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pssst...


Karen keeps a secret. Not a dirty little secret. Not one of those garden-variety-I-fooled-around-on-my-husband secrets. Not an I-had-an-abortion-and-never-told-anybody-and-live-with-the-guilt secret. No, her secret is vile and deep-rooted. The dank subterranean pull of the lie bleeds heavier with each passing year. Karen lives on borrowed time because it’s impossible to keep something buried forever. There’s no way around it, someday the past will show up unannounced. Morning after morning comes the light and she wonders if the truth will visit that day. Her ugly deeds exposed—on display—out in the open. Karen plays the good wife and mother beneath the shade provided by a seed planted long ago, she feigns bliss in a make believe world under a tree rooted in hell.


You just read the first paragraph from a WIP about a woman with a terrible secret. I thought I was writing a short story, but it may be better suited to a novel format. I’m fascinated by secrets. When we’re younger we tend to keep more secrets. But, as we get older we tend to think—oh who cares anymore! Who gives a rat's ass about what people think? The truth will set you free. At least that’s how I feel about it. When someone says to me, “I have something to tell you, but you can’t tell anyone I told you.” I respond with, “Stop. No way. Don’t tell me. I don’t want the responsibility. If you don’t want anyone to know, keep it to yourself.” I truly feel, that if a person doesn’t want something out in the world, then they shouldn’t put it out there.

Here’s another wrinkle. Do sociopaths keep secrets? Or do they possess the ability to just eliminate past horrible deeds from their memory banks? Their minds become a chalkboard wiped clean. After such maniacs are captured, they’re questioned extensively, and still they won’t come clean with the truth. I’ve heard them described as being totally void of guilt. They claim that sociopaths don’t possess a conscience.

I suppose anyone that keeps the truth hidden from view could be considered a con artist of sorts. Why don’t liars come clean? Teenagers are really bad for this; they just won’t confess all that easily. They can really get themselves into a jam by sneaking around and lying. I read that teen-agers brains aren’t fully developed, so they quite often lack proper judgment. Grown-ups often fall into that category as well. We know better but act atrociously anyway.

Families often have secrets, like the Kennedy’s with poor unfortunate Rosemary. Do you keep secrets? What’s your favorite story featuring a secret, or secrets? Remember Chinatown? What Happened to Baby Jane? How about Jane Eyre? That Mr. Rochester, did he have a secret!


All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

31 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I love secrets, too. Having them in books makes them so much fun to read!

Traditional mysteries are all about secrets--who is hiding the fact they're a killer, who is hiding a secret that gave them a motive, etc. Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express" comes to mind.

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

Just finished last revisions of my story, "Tell Me Your Secrets, Mom". I can't tell you what it's about because it's a secret!!!! LOL!!!

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

Fantastic opening for a novel! Very funny but from so far away we are thinking along quite similar lines. I'm working out the plot for a novel that is based on secrets- family secrets.

I'm not a fan of secrets but sometimes, I've grown to believe, if too much harm is done by revealing a secret why do it? Sometimes revealing a secret is only helping the one with the secret but creating so much hurt and chaos for everyone else. In that case I don't think the secret should be told. It is an act of selfishness.

Alix said...

About sociopaths.... it's true they rarely have or exhibit a conscience, but their ability to absorb atrocities and abide with them intimately is more about controlling their environment than it is keeping secret. Don't get me started with teenagers. That's a whole different ball of wax, but equally maddening.

I, myself, am not a good secret keeper. I have a secret right now (a very good one) that I must remind myself daily not to blab about. So hard! I'm pretty much an open book and have to coach myself not to let every random thought slip off my tongue. But keeping "this" secret has been fun. And will be even more fun when the time is right to reveal it.

Elizabeth - thank you so much for this delightful taste of your WIP. I wonder if you'll give us more later? Or perhaps we should just wait to buy the book. That anticipation will only make it more delicious. I do so love your style!

Jemi Fraser said...

Great opener - I'm dying to know her secret!

Like Elizabeth SC, I thought immediately of "Murder on the Oriend Express", "Roger Ackroyd" and so many other Agatha Christie books. Fun stuff!

reanaclaire said...

hello Elizabeth, first time coming by from www.reanaclaire.com

Yes, i do have secrets too, better left in the closet for good.. :)

Joanne said...

Great opening, drew me right in. I want to know not only her secret, but when it will surface and then the consequences! Ah, Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester ... the perfect secret tale.

ellen abbott said...

Great story opening. I'm ready for the rest.

Me, I don't keep secrets. I'll blab my whole life. I may not volunteer everything but if you ask, you'll get the truth. I just don't have it in me to lie convincingly. It's all over my face.

lakeviewer said...

We all do. It would be horrible to be so transparent all the time. We have deep parts that are forever buried. So, go for it, expose yours.

kerrycharacters said...

Synchronicity! I just wrote a blog about exposing a secret! They are malignant things, secrets, and are all about power. Get them into the fresh air and they lose their grip

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Secrets are fun to play with in stories. I love seeing what parts of life they impact and how the plot changes because of them.

Marguerite said...

Great opener that makes the reader very curious. Most people have secrets and some will go to any lengths to protect them. They are usually mistakes that people have made and are better off kept secret. But the truth has a way of seeping out, when you least expect it, unless of course, you're a very good liar!

Tom Bailey said...

I loved this question "Do sociopaths keep secrets?".... Do I keep secrets? --- I think I am so busy sharing positive things and things that are possible.... I think I gloss over things that are "secrets".

Sniffles and Smiles said...

What a terrific excerpt!!! You've got me hooked!!! PLEASE write the novel...I want to read MORE!! And yes, I LOVED Jane Eyre...and how about The Secret Garden? Really wonderful post!!! Love you! Janine XO

Elspeth Antonelli said...

The question is 'why is it a secret'? What one person would find earth-shattering another would shrug off without a second thought. I always have found the need for telling secrets interesting. Why are you telling me? Is it to share a burden or because you have guilt?

Keep writing, Elizabeth. It's a fascinating beginning.

Elspeth

The Victorian Parlor said...

I love Jane Eyre! It is one of the most beautiful love stories I have ever read and yes it was one heck of a secret that he kept! That's what made the storyline so exciting.

Blessings,

Kim

Stacy Post said...

Intriguing! There's a novel called, "The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield...with an old gothic novel/ghost story feel to it. I was blown away by her technique of revealing a secret only to discover a deeper layer of deception. Best of luck with your piece! I'm going to have to develop some secrets for my characters...that would help build suspense, no? Great topic!

Michele Emrath said...

Elspeth's comment is interesting: why is it a secret? It may be something horrible, but others may have long forgotten it (if they ever knew it). Why did it stick with this character? What does it mean to her? Interesting...

Sociopaths know enough to keep a certain face to the public, so they have a certain secret face (at least if they're bookworthy).

Mystery authors HAVE to be good at keeping secrets, or no readre would make it past page 1!.

Great post, and great WIP...Looking forward to more. Don't keep it a secret!

Michele
SouthernCityMysteries

Tabitha Bird said...

Great beginning to your WIP Elizabeth. I was intrigued from the first two lines and immediately clicked over to your blog. Well done :)

Fireblossom said...

Love the opening. In literature, I think of Jean Valjean's secret about his past in "Les Miserables" and how the policeman, Javert, was set on exposing him. And yes, I read the book. It took me weeks, but I read it.

In movies, what about Dil in "The Crying Game"?

Galen Kindley--Author said...

I think secrets are like white lies. You shouldn’t tell the plain unvarnished truth because it’s usually not necessary and why hurt someone when you don’t have to. Secrets are kinda the same. There are parts of our lives that are for us. I think that’s where they should stay.

On a different note, the hyperlink to your name when you leave a comment, doesn’t take me to your blog. Yikes! I think if you edit out the www part, it would work. That’s probably found in your blogger profile. To check on what I mean, go over to my blog and click on your name above your comment.

Best Regards, Galen

Imagineering Fiction Blog

staceyjwarner said...

I don't have secrets and nothing is more annoying to me than people who try to keep secrets, I'm intuitive...I know.

Lying is even worse. Lies are horrible and I can catch a liar so easily.

much love

staceyjwarner said...

p.s. great opening!

lime said...

thought provoking post here. so much to think about! i've dealt with a few sociopaths. they are scary folks, really are remorseless. i don't think the ones i knew had secrets. they were proud to detail the horrors they'd committed.

anyway, have you ever checked out postsecret.blogspot.com?

i am quite sure you'd find it fascinating to read all the secrets people share so artistically and poignantly there.

thanks for stopping by my place and leaving a comment so your presence wasn't a secret.

God of Another World said...

"The Talented Mr. Ripley" is a good secret book - the movie is at a disadvantage because we can't see thoughts, but the book is excellent.

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Try living without white lies.

Journaling Woman said...

Secrets are the life of every gossip hound and fodder for the writer's imagination.

We all have secrets. They may seem unmentionable, but when they are revealed may have been more terrible in our mind than should have been.

Jan Morrison said...

Secrets are so powerful but only if they remain secrets. I'm excited about your book! I want to know more. Do you know your character's secret yet?
I think we want to tell others secrets because then we have power - we're in the know - we're special. Some secrets can be delicious - I have a friend who won a big poetry prize and knew about it ages before it was announced - she told me and a few close friends. It was torture because I so wanted to brag on her but it was nice to be trusted with it.

Helen Ginger said...

Everyone has secrets, some big, some teeny, some pale, some deep and dark. Luckily, I've forgotten most of mine.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Pixygirl said...

I love this paragraph. Even more than your usual writing. It is poetic and intriguing. I think you are right about turning it into a novel.
About secrets...I have a few. Maybe even some you don't know about!

Jenn said...

The Tell-tale Heart is hands down my favorite story about a secret that goes terribly wrong. Well if you take the side of the MC/narrator that is. He goes mad and admits it but in such grand fashion I do take his side. I love Poe. Seriously love him lol.

This intro paragraph makes me want to read your story...please share more when you can!