Jeanne: The Fine Art of Concealment

Portrait of a young blonde woman in glasses with a phone at the big window

Megan, my heroine.

In the third book of my Touched by a Demon series, my protagonist is a very closed-off woman. She was raised in foster care after her mother died in a meth lab fire that took several neighbors’ lives, but she’s created a persona for herself with a completely different background. She claims to have been brought up by her maternal grandparents. She even carries a picture of an elderly couple in her wallet to support her claim.

The thing I’m running into that’s a little tricky is that, if she really is that closed off, she’s going to be very careful about what she reveals. That will affect not only what she tells other characters, but also what comes through to the reader. The character, as I envision her,  is on her guard all the time. She never lets her mind get away from her.

This presents a storytelling problem for me, the author. If Megan is so guarded, even in her thoughts, I’ve given up one of my chief means of sharing information with  my readers.

To further complicate my writing process, I am nothing like this protagonist. I pretty much spill everything about myself within a half-hour of meeting someone. So it requires a lot of careful calculation to figure out how such a close-to-the-vest person would say in any given circumstance.

Any thoughts, suggestions or great examples of books with similar characters anyone can share would be much appreciated!

9 thoughts on “Jeanne: The Fine Art of Concealment

  1. The one thing that springs to mind, being a person who does not “spill everything about myself within a half-hour of meeting someone”, would be that she is probably really good at the art of misdirection – deflecting questions and attention and possibly making it seem like she’s shared information when really she hasn’t.

  2. As someone who had to learn how to control her tongue, I can tell you very much that it was always in my head what I could and couldn’t say. So even though I was opening my mouth to say something, inside my head I was thinking, “OK, I can talk about this, but I can’t talk about that. Be very careful how you explain XYZ.” If she is that guarded and careful, she’s going to have internal thoughts about what she can and can’t say. Or how she can and can’t express things. Or what she does and does not reveal about herself or her past. I can’t imagine that her mind would be a blank slate because she’s buried her past. And quite honestly, I think you run the risk of creating a somewhat boring character to readers if you didn’t allow them to see the internal conflict that she has when deciding what she can and can’t say or reveal. That sort of crunchy stuff, wondering whether she’s going to slip up, is what I think gives readers excitement and invests them in a character. They want to see them being human. Otherwise, they’re reading about an android.

    • Good point. This story is old–she set it up and actually changed her name 10 years earlier, but I think you’re right–when it comes time to create specific misdirects and misinformation, it would create conscious, internal conflict for her.

      I’ll keep tinkering.

      • I agree with Justine. She’s probably constantly pushing down the “wrong” thoughts, and it’s got to be exhausting. I think it’s got to be very interesting to the reader to see the huge difference between her inner self, and the persona she’s crafted. Especially, as you both say, when that is conflict.

        • I’m currently taking Linnea Sinclair’s class on inner conflict and it’s helping immensely with thinking this through. I’ll keep your thoughts in mind as I work through the exercises!

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