Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Secrets

For as long as you can remember, individuals in your life have approached you with the question, "Can you keep a secret?"

In the early years, you took the mater with serious intent.  After all, it was your word, and you understood on some abstract, nonverbal level how important a matter it was for you to keep your word.

As time passed, you began to see the difficulty in keeping secrets.  Your reasoning that you were not so trustworthy as you'd first thought, explained your distrust of telling secrets to others or listening to theirs.

With additional passage of time, you began to suspect that knowing the secrets about your characters gave you a greater sense of power over them than the simple fact of you having been their creator.  You invented secrets about many of them, wondering how long you could go without revealing the made-up secret about the made-up character.

Secrets are in effect withheld information, facts, opinions, details not meant for public consumption.  Secrets are in greater effect hidden bits of information.  Every secret has a gatekeeper.  The modern secret has the equivalent of the bouncer, the guard behind the braided rope at a cafe or restaurant, meant to keep some out while allowing others inside.

You like the notion of keeping information secret from readers as long as possible, allowing them to discover--along with you--things the characters discover as the story progresses or perhaps have known all along, but see no reason to air them.

The notion of secrets buried within a story intrigues you; although much of your life is an open book, you do have some secrets.  Here is the most intriguing part, the question of whether you are in some manner keeping secrets from yourself.

Because you theorize a self composed of a multitude of separate personality centers, you find it convenient to refer to yourself at appropriate moments as a congress or parliament, on occasion even borrowing the Southerner's "y'all" or the more formal you all.  You try to run a transparent self.

You can bury some of the attitudes and events for which your memories are not fond or wishing to become more prevalent, but because you did these things in the past or did not do them, you try to invite them all to the negotiating table.  There, you offer them a vote or a few moments at the podium to address the rest and perhaps convince us to return to the old ways.  Thus you are not with any conscious deliberation hiding skeletons in the closet.  But nevertheless, the question emerges from time to time:  What secrets are you keeping from yourself?  And if there are any, are you merely withholding them as you do in story, waiting for the most expeditious moment to bring them forth.

Your late pal, Barnaby Conrad, confided many secrets with you, treating you each time as though you were some kind of emotional hidden security box at a bank.  Almost without exception, having sworn yourself to secrecy, you'd discover individuals about whom the secret was composed, speaking openly about it.  After a few of these situations, you invented the secret that you knew each time he swore you to secrecy, you'd find others aware of it within a matter of days.

Sometimes when in conversation with a friend, he or she will catch you smiling, then ask, "What's funny?"

You confess.  "I'm trying to imagine what secrets you might have."

Once, when you did that, the individual said, "I know what you're going to get for a birthday present."

Another time, a friend said, "I'm thinking of dedicating my next book to a cat"

And yet again, a friend said it was her secret that she hated spinach.

Your most significant secret might be the fact of you having friends with strange secrets.



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