5 Reasons for Characters to Hide and Then Confront Their Past

Everyone is hiding something. A friend of mine recently told me about this incredibly scandalous thing that had happened in her childhood. We’ve been friends for a year. Before she revealed this information, I didn’t fully understand why she’d made the choices she’d made in her life, but afterwards, I did. Many of these choices were a reaction to the scandalous thing that had happened in her past.

(Swan Huntley: On the Chaos in Decluttering)

The heroine of my new novel, Getting Clean with Stevie Green, is a reflection of this real-life example of a person hiding and then revealing their past. When we meet Stevie, we learn that she’s a decluttering guru who can’t seem to declutter the mini wine bottles from her car. Later, we learn about her history as a drunk. And later still, near the very end of the book, we learn about the inciting incident that caused her life to take a nosedive. On page one, I refer to this very literally as “the inciting incident.” By withholding a full explanation, I created an engine for the book. “What is this inciting incident?” That’s what I want readers to be wondering until the big reveal. Which brings us to our first reason for characters to hide and then confront their past…

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