The secret’s out

There is always someone who sees through lies and secrets. Someone that pays enough attention to those around them that they can pick apart a mystery, get to the center of it like a school of piranhas on a dead cow.  Right along with those that can see secrets, are those that can and can’t keep them. Those that can keep secrets are able to say no and mean it. Their word is their bond and their honor keeps them tight-lipped. They are not to be confused with liars who will look you in the face and tell you they are not eating sugar as they chew on a candy cane. Of those that can’t keep a secret, they are the blabbermouths the ones that you know will spill the proverbial beans the second someone asks a remotely related question. People that can’t keep a secret to save their lives can also be used, drop a good rumor their way and they do all the work.

A good secret in a story is foreshadowed, set up or at least alluded to at some point before the reveal. Otherwise, the secret is actually just a surprise. It can be fun to have secrets. Sometimes the secret is deep and kept by one. These are usually darker secrets or ones that would bring shame. Secrets between friends can be fun to play with.

They can also be dangerous, feelings can be hurt, people can feel left out or ostracized. They can damage reputations and even bring someone to self-loathing or possibly self-harm.

It’s simple the bigger the secret the bigger the reaction. Small secrets can evolve and grow if they are nurtured properly.  I love secrets; they lend an air of mystery and mischief that can bring out the best and worst in people.

“I swear time is going backwards.” Anne muttered under her breath and narrowed her eyes at her screen. She and Dale had a lot to talk about later and her nerves were shot.
“Bar tonight?” Scott leaned over her shoulder. “I could use a wingman.”
“I’m not a man Scott.” Amber pushed him away.
“Wingwoman, whatever. Forget it. Let’s get drunk and fool around.”
Amber stopped typing and stared at him. “What did Dale tell you earlier?” She glanced at his empty cubicle. He was avoiding her completely since the gift giving earlier.
“That he has no taste in women.”
Amber huffed through her nose. “You are a jerk Scott. I don’t know why I held a torch for so long.”
“Ah you still want me, I’m yours and tonight’s your chance.”
“No I don’t. You’re not mine and no it’s not my chance.” She stood and glared up at him. “You’re playing a game, I’m not an idiot.” She pushed past him and headed for the ladies’ room. He stopped her outside the door, grabbed her arm and pushed her against the wall.

“Now Amber, what secret are you keeping from me? What am I missing?” His nose nearly touched hers. “Where were you for our morning air today?”
“I’m not smoking anymore, I quit.”
His nose touched hers and she pressed against the wall. “No smoking, no bar, and no sex with the man you’ve wanted for years.” He backed up suddenly and she let out her pent-up breath. “Holy shit Dale knocked you up.”  
Amber’s eyes widened. “Shut up Scott, that’s how rumors start you moron. I quit because my favorite aunt was just diagnosed with lung cancer. I have plans tonight and I’m sorry if your ego is bruised, but lately you’ve shown me your true colours. I’m not interested anymore.” She shrugged. Perhaps you’re losing your mojo Scott. Two women turning you down in as many weeks. Maybe hell can freeze over.” She laughed and ducked into the ladies’ room. She didn’t see Rachael and Francine as she sped past them into a stall to get rid of her lunch. The women looked at one another then the closed stall. Both heard Amber and Scott’s conversation just outside the door.

Oops. Well that might not go so well for Amber. Amber is a bully and she shows off for Scott and Dale. Lately she has been stunned by a personal issue that two people she picked on have just found out. Rachael put Dale in his place not so long ago; will she take the chance on some revenge?

My advice about Secrets.
Secrets can be bad in real life, but fantabulous in the world of writing. Secrets have infinite possibilities, play with them, and let them wreak havoc or cause drama.

-Sheryl
It’s a love hate sort of thing

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Missing

A bit of the opposite

Sometimes I find myself wanting to soften up harsh characters by making them somewhat likable… somewhat. That doesn’t mean they have to stay that way, or turn good, but a fun side story needs ups and downs too.  Like Yin and Yang everyone has a bit of the opposite in them. This should be true of those who are inherently bad. Perhaps they have a reason that will tug the heartstrings, or a soft spot, maybe they volunteer at homeless shelters or cuddle abandoned puppies at the pound. Whatever the deed may be they can’t be pure evil. Or at least I don’t like everyone being purely rotten to the core.

This can be tricky, if constructed callously they might come across as smug or the action is unbelievable. If I want to make an antagonist have a slight soft side or a reason for the reader to either identify or sympathize with them, I need to assure I write their situation  realistically so it can fall within the story.

I started off using Cal and Sasha primarily as my blog examples, but Amber, Dale and Scott stepped in to be mighty fine side-story antagonists. Just how bad are they?

Lunch couldn’t come fast enough and it came too fast at the same time. Amber solemnly walked to the restaurant with Dale. He prattled on the entire way even as they were seated in a booth. Like a robot, she ordered what she always did. Penne Primavera with chicken.

“Earth to Amber. What’s gotten into you today?”
“Nothing.” She stuffed her mouth with the savory pasta.
“BS. Either you’re in love or you’ve gotten some seriously rotten news.”
She sneered at him. “Really?”
“Ooh did Scott finally give in to your shameless advances and take a dip in the muddied waters?”
She kicked him hard under the table.
“Ow.” He lowered his voice and leaned closer. “What the hell is your problem?”
“You Dale. God I hate you, what the hell was I thinking.”
Dale scowled. “Shut up you love me and it’s just lunch.”
“I’m not talking about lunch Dale.” She stared hard at him.
“What that drunk one-night stand a month or so ago?” He laughed. “Oh I see you’re hung up on me. Got a little taste and you want more?” He grimaced at the second, much harder kick. “Knock it off Amber or you’re stuck with my bill.”
“I’m stuck with more than just your bill Dale.”
He shook his head. “You’re crazy, what the hell are you on about?”
“I’m pregnant.”
“So who’s the chump?” His laugh died as her eyes widened and lips pursed. “No. No way. You hop from bed to bed like a rabbit in heat.”
“I act like a slut Dale, I’m not actually one. You’re the only possibility.”

He threw his napkin down. “Like hell I am. You’ll have to prove it. Wait.” He frowned. “What are you going to do?”

She looked at her plate. “I don’t know.”

He stared in silence a moment then inhaled loudly. “Do I get a say?”
She looked up with her chin lowered. “Do you want a say?”
“You’re sure it’s mine?”
She nodded maintaining eye contact.
“Shit.” He rubbed his chin. “I don’t…” He sighed and tears filled her eyes. “I don’t want you to get rid of it.”
“What?” She wiped her eyes.
“We get along mostly. I’m sure we can figure this out. Why tell me now? Why here?”
“I didn’t plan to. I just.” Amber sniffled. “I have no one else to talk to.”

Dale sat back and looked at her. She looked tired and terrified. She set herself up for the lack of real friends. The ones she has are just as shallow and mean as she is. Or is she? Her raw honesty and willingness to play spiteful games was why he liked her. Did she play along because she was deep down rotten or because she just wanted to play with the cool kids?
“How far?”
She rolled her eyes. “A month and a half duh.”
“You found out today?” Dale picked up his fork and continued eating.
“Yes.”
“Um.” He swallowed his bite. “How does that work exactly? Why not sooner?”
She sighed and closed her eyes. “I missed my last. I didn’t think anything about it sometimes I skip, but.”
“But?” He filled his mouth again.
“I forgot to count and I-” She shrugged.
“You’ve been drinking a lot lately.”
“Not as much as I let on. Just the night I fell and hit my head and the two with Scott after that.” She looked down at her full plate.“I haven’t been feeling well.”
He huffed. “Great. Our kid will be mathematically challenged as well as a compulsive liar.” He reached over and touched her cold hand. “Let’s go for a walk before we head back and after work we can sit and figure this out.”
“I thought you’d be a total jerk about this.”
“Me too.” He dropped enough cash to cover both tabs and tip and led her from the restaurant.

Hmm. Well I guess people aren’t always as we expect. Since none of these people are main characters I don’t need them to shine too brightly one way or another. They have parts in the story, they are the garnish or side dish that makes the rest even better. I wanted Dale who is a nasty, rude all around jerk to have a surprising reaction. Originally I thought to keep him on path and be a jerk to Amber, but this I think was better.

On a smaller scale perhaps I would have them do something kind and random.

My advice about putting a little good in the bad.
I personally think it needs to be there. All good bad guys have a reason, something that drives them to be bad. A good bad guy has a small tender spot for something. If you humanize them, it makes it all that much more conflicting for the readers emotions. They love to hate what they hate to love.

-Sheryl

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Eyes that carry worlds

Hahaha oops.

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