Sexy Secrets: Why Romance Needs Deception (post by Anna)
Everyone keeps a secret at some point in their life, whether they want to admit it or not. I’d wager that the majority of fiction relies on this kind of deception, and romance in particular. Whether you don’t tell your spouse you screwed up and paid a bill late, or you hide an illicit affair, odds are you’ve kept a secret from a loved one at one time or another. We keep secrets for countless reasons — fear, shame, avoidance of conflict, to spare someone’s feelings. The list could go on for pages.
In romance, secrets often provide the internal (emotional) conflict keeping the couple apart. The secret may also play into the external conflict. Let’s consider some famous, classic love stories as examples. In Pride & Prejudice, the conflict between Elizabeth and Darcy centers on a misunderstanding about Darcy’s past behavior. He doesn’t straighten her out because a) he’s just not a tattle-tale, and b) he figures she ought to be able to see the kind of man he really is without being told. Manly pride spurs him to keep the truth to himself, until he finally writes her a letter explaining.
In Jane Eyre, our heroine knows her employer is keeping a secret about his supposedly deceased wife but she doesn’t find out what until long after they’ve fallen for each other. He’s ashamed of having a mentally ill wife and of the need to keep her locked up in a secret room for everyone’s safety, including her own. Finally, the classic suspense novel Rebecca revolves around our nameless heroine marrying a man she just met and then discovering his dark secret about his first wife’s death. Throughout most of the novel, she thinks Maxim still pines for his late wife, but in fact he despised her — with good reason.
Of course, you can write a lovely story without secrets. But secrets can make for wonderful drama and suspense, provided the motivations behind keeping them are believable and we can relate to the secret-keeper’s plight. I love to write stories about people with secrets for this very reason. You can love someone — even marry them — and not know everything about that person. Love live secrets!
Well, in fiction anyway. Real life is another thing altogether!