Another Way to Use PostSecretComplications Ensue
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Saturday, October 06, 2007

I bought myself one of the PostSecret books. They're books (and a website) of postcard art projects that anonymous people wrote in telling their secret, whatever it is. They're really quite moving at times; other times, sweetly ridiculous.

What if you gave each of your minor characters a secret from PostSecret? And what if everything they said or did in a scene were in some way colored by that secret? A cop who hates the way he looks. A shop clerk who wishes someone would kiss her. An elderly witness who doesn't want to talk about the killing, but badly needs to talk about the woman he never had the guts to ask out forty years ago. Etc. The secret can surface in the scene, or stay under the surface. But it's there.

Bear in mind it's not enough to decide that the character has the secret. (This is the big pitfall to writing out in-depth character descriptions: you think you've created a character, but you may have only done so in your head.) You have to painstakingly make sure that some of the lines of dialog specifically reflect the secret in some way, tacit or explicit.

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My favourite Post Secret ever was one that said:

"Everybody who knew me before 9/11 thinks I'm dead"

By Blogger Annie Rhiannon, at 3:36 PM  

That was my favorite, too...

I thhink you have to be careful about overcomplicating the script. Anything that doesn't directly add to the story is flowery or else makes the characters ring of "oh, the writer was trying to give this character an interesting quirk."

It's good if minor characters have motivations, but only as far as they relate to the main and supporting characters.

By Blogger JargonX, at 10:30 PM  

Not sure I agree entirely with you, jargonx. There's something to be said for the characters living in a real world where not everything relates to their story.

Anyway, anything that gets in the way of the main character becomes an obstacle, and obstacles are always good.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 10:45 PM  

Not sure I agree. The thing that drives me crazy about 20th century stage plays is that suddenly, for the slimmest of reasons, all the characters start telling each other all their pent-up secrets and frustrations.

By Blogger Lisa Hunter, at 7:33 AM  

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