I’ve known my husband, John, for just over fifteen years now, and we’ve been married for five of those wonderful years. We share everything from French fries to secrets. And yet, after all this time together, I’m still discovering mind-blowing new things about John.
Like the fact that he’s a baseball fan.
You’d think I would’ve seen more evidence of this particular interest at some point in our time together. But apart from the casual game that might be on at a restaurant or bar we were eating in, or the occasional Toronto Blue Jays game we’d attend with friends, I’d never seen John pay much attention to baseball.
He doesn’t play baseball. He doesn’t talk baseball. He doesn’t own or wear baseball caps or any kind of sports paraphernalia. I don’t think we’ve even watched any baseball-themed movies together. And yet, this year, he bought a membership to MLB.com and has watched nearly every single Jays game since early August—before the Jays started doing really well. (I will vouch for the fact that he was not a bandwagon jumper.)
When I discovered this, I was entirely befuddled. He explained that watching baseball games had been a part of his childhood—something I was not aware of. He’d always struck me as a quiet kid who preferred reading over playing or watching sports of any kind. His affinity for baseball was about as surprising as his love for old Godzilla movies.
I asked him what he’d learned about me that surprised him. He told me that he’d been surprised when I started writing fan fiction, and more recently, he was impressed by my painting skills.
It made me think about the things we don’t know about the people around us, no matter how long we’ve known them for or how close they might be. It’s been the theme of many a thriller or murder mystery, but it’s also the reality of life. With something bad, like a deep, dark secret, do we consciously turn away from all speculation or prying because we don’t want to know? I can list off dozens of things I don’t want to know about my family or friends, after all. Would you want to know about your loved one’s worst traumas or transgressions? I’m not sure I would, but every now and again, I do learn something new, and it sometimes gives me a newfound understanding or respect for the person they are.
If it’s something good—or at least innocuous—something we’d like to know about those who matter to us, something we want to share, how do we seek it out? I’d be hard pressed to answer the question “Tell me something about you no one knows,” and I’m sure others would be, too, especially with someone they’re more intimate with.
In writing, giving your characters secrets, special skills, talents or interests gives them depth, a sense of realism, and it surprises the reader into rethinking their feelings about a character, sometimes even redeeming or vilifying them. Sometimes those secret details translate into bigger pieces of information, too. For instance, in my book In Her Corner, the hero’s favorite board game is Settlers of Catan. Like the sport of mixed martial arts, the setup can be different every time, and the advantages and disadvantages each player has from the start often dictate how the game will go, though there’s no telling what will happen. And in my upcoming January 2016 release, Red Carpet Arrangement, the hero, an A-list Hollywood actor, has a secret passion for painting—something that intrigues and surprises the heroine.
What have you learned about people around you that has surprised you? How did those talents or pieces of information change your view of them? Has your opinion or view of a person ever changed because of what you discovered? Comment below!