I love secrets in books. They work really well for mysteries—in fact, it’s fun for all of the suspects to have a secret they’re trying to protect.
Then the reader and sleuth are aware the suspect is throwing up some roadblocks. They’re just not sure why it’s happening. Are they covering up the murder they committed? Or are they just trying to conceal a personal secret from the investigators?
Secrets are great for a variety of genres and, to me, are really fun to create and include.
Who has a secret?
Protagonist—Has a secret that affects him…usually negatively. Ordinarily, this is a secret that’s an integral part of his past that’s hampering his future. Positive secrets? I haven’t seen so many of those. Maybe a few storylines involving characters who are secretly wealthy (won the lottery, whatever) and keep it under cover so friends won’t treat them differently.
Someone close to the protagonist has a secret that affects their relationship with the main character. This can propel the protagonist through the plot.
The antagonist has a game-changing secret. Darth Vadarish.
There’s an external secret—a historical mystery, a secret from the past (like the book The Photograph, etc.) that the protagonist is trying to uncover.
What are secrets good for?
Internal conflict. The protagonist at war with himself over a secret in his past that’s holding him back.
Interesting subplot. This could be a minor secret that’s something fun, revealed at the end of the book.
Cool plot twist. You mean he’s not dead?
Roadblocks (conflict) for the main character. Other characters present obstacles for the protagonist as he’s trying to reach his goals.
Does your character have a secret? Does he know someone who does?