Thursday, June 30, 2011

Secrets Drive the Story

Recently, on my own blog, I did a short post on using secrets to keep your reader turning the pages. I think it's this element that draws me to books more than any other--the writing (although I do love a beautifully crafted book), the concept, the characters. I need SUSPENSE to keep me interested. So today I'm going to share three of my favorite books with you and examine how they use secrets to drive the story:

The first book is THE SECRET HISTORY by Donna Tartt. What I love about this book is that you know from the start that the protagonist was involved in a murder. So, in a way, you're given the secret right up front--you're LET IN ON the secret. But the information that keeps you going is the HOW and the WHY. Plus, the book is just gorgeous. 

The next book is HOUSE OF LEAVES by Mark Danielewski. I first read this book in college, and I vividly remember my reaction to the first page, which said: "This book is not for you." Of course this made me want to read it. We all crave what is forbidden. The book, to GREATLY simplify things, is about a family that's moved into a haunted house. The exploration of the house is the secret that fascinates me. What kind of a house measures bigger from the inside than it does the outside? That's what kept me reading. Soooo creepy.

The last book I want to talk about is THE GIRL IN A SWING by Richard Adams. I haven't read this book since high school, but it continues to haunt me. It's about a man who falls in love and marries a woman after knowing her only briefly. The creep factor comes in when he realizes he really knows nothing about her. Strange things keep happening, and only at the end do we come to find out her terrible secret.

I suppose these books say a lot about me as a reader and a writer. My favorite books burrow their way into my skull, not with their gory bits, but with their promise and deliverance of truly juicy secrets.


  1. Everyone loves a good secret! I'm so with you on this!

  2. I agree! I need to have no idea what's at the end to continue reading a book, otherwise I'll get bored of it quickly!

  3. Jill, I just read a synopsis for THE GIRL IN A SWING, and I've got to say, I'm intrigued. Something about "committing a sin against nature in order to be with the man she loved"? Gotta find out what that's all about. Secrets. Love 'em!

  4. Eve, I think you'll love it! The beginning is a little slow, but once you get past it...

    Athena, totally agree!

    Glad to her it, Jennifer!

  5. Oooh, I love THE SECRET HISTORY. Gotta check out the other two books!

  6. I want to read THE GIRL IN A SWING now, Jill! Thanks for some awesome books to go check out.