Lea Wait, blogging today.
Secrets are the basis of any good story, and, especially, of any good mystery. Secrets from the past, family secrets, passionate secrets, violent secrets, embarrassing secrets, or just … those little things everyone does that they don’t want anyone else to know about.
In my latest mystery, Shadows of a Down East Summer, a family secret from 1890 changed the way a family saw itself, and its place in the community … until a newly discovered diary threatened to reveal what had really happened back in the nineteenth century. Revealing that secret became a motive for a murder today.
Secrets are powerful.
Psychologists believe that telling our deepest, darkest, most horrible, secrets is good for the soul. Priests and therapists, and, isometimes, doctors and lawyers, make a business of listening to them. So does a man from Maryland named Frank Warren.
And you, too, can hear the secrets thousands of people have shared with him. If you’re a writer, maybe they’ll give you an idea for a story. Or a detail for a character. If you’re just a curious person (aren’t we all?) maybe they’ll give you something to think about.
In January of 2004 Frank Warren had an idea. He printed 3,000 self-addressed postcards and handed them out on the streets of Washington, D.C., with a note inviting people to write down their secrets anonymously and send the postcard back to him. The secret could be anything – as long as they’d never told it to anyone before.
And people did.
Word got around. He now has over 500,00 postcards. People decorate cards with pictures, and send him their deepest secrets. The secrets range from serious (“My friend’s fiance has already cheated with three people. I know because two of them are my husband and me.”) to the most frequent confession (“I pee in the shower.”) Many are about loneliness. Some are silly. (“Sometimes I don’t wear underwear at work.”) Some are scary. (“I’m afraid if Obama is re-elected my mother will kill herself.”) Some are sad. (“My sister hates me because Uncle Joe paid for my college and not hers. She doesn’t know he made me sleep with him.”)
If you’d like to see some of the secrets, Warren has a blog … http://www.postsecret.com He posts new secrets every Sunday.
He’s also had 5 books of the postcards published. And now he tours, most often to college campuses, where he shares his thoughts on secrets, and then invites members of his audience to share their secrets. And, amazingly, they do.
Mystery writers make a living out of revealing secrets. And so, now, does Frank Warren. Because not only does everyone have secrets … everyone would love to know everyone elses.