In one of the manuscripts I’m working on the protagonist has a huge secret that he is desperate to keep.
Do you think anyone can truly keep a secret? As writers, we are observers of human nature and relationships. After all how else can we develop believable characters? At the moment I’m seated at my desk in my home office (read corner of my bedroom), working on this manuscript, but also using one part of my brain to watch Power, Privilege and Justice on YouTube on my iPad. I admit I’m a sucker for crime stories, from American Greed to Snapped: Women who kill, to Disappeared, etc.
I’m constantly amazed at how many people are caught for their crimes because of avoidable mistakes, such as for talking about their crimes or leaving incriminating evidence behind. In the episode I’m watching, a young man (let’s call him Joe), whose intelligence from childhood is lauded, and who attended some of top schools and universities in America, gets caught for murdering one of his investors. This was an investor, who had ties to the Ayatollah Khomeini, went missing and the police seemed satisfied to believe that some Iranian connections could have killed him. Eventually Joe, the real culprit, was caught because, despite his ‘intelligence’, had left a To Do list, in his own handwriting, at the home of his victim, which included some of the following items:
• Take masking tape
• Close blinds
• Tape mouth
• Kill dog
In another murder case (same suspect), Joe recruited a friend to help him kidnap someone in order to torture them to get them to give him information on some of their assets. Joe and his friend pretended to be deliverymen to gain entry into their victim’s home, subdued him and used chloroform to knock him out. They put him into a trunk box and loaded it onto a U-Haul truck. Their intention was to drive him from San Francisco to their torture venue somewhere in Southern California. Of course, their victim died of asphyxiation before they reached their destination. As someone said in the programme, “…everybody knows that when you catch butterflies to put them in a jar, you have to poke holes in the lid of the jar so they can get air.” Duh!
I think it may be almost impossible to keep a secret, even if you want to. I like to believe that as God is a just God, He has made the human heart (or mind) to eventually give away some clue to a wrong done, intentionally or unintentionally. Even (or especially) body language is a strong tell when someone is guilty.
What about other types of secrets? Family secrets, secrets kept by victims or secrets about something nice to be done for another?
I bing-ed the word ‘secrets’, and I found this interesting website postsecrets.com, which is a community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard. Some of the postcards I read so far are pretty sweet and innocent, like, "I didn't enlist to escape you. I enlisted to pay for our wedding. Will you marry me?" Others are somewhat heartbreaking like, "the night I chattered like a bird I wore bruises under my shirt". I guess sharing this way reduces the pressure one feels when holding on to a secret. Hmm.
Well I really should get back to work. I need to decide how some secrets will be exposed.
Ufuoma Daniella Ojo is a Senior Technical Author and Software Trainer. She lives in Potters Bar just outside London. She is working on some new stories about relationships and is trusting God for connections leading to publication.