Secrets and Revelations

Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

The allure of secrets.

Keep something secret, and suddenly everyone wants to know what it is. I’m thinking now of John Wayne, an actor who became famous for his portrayal of the strong, silent type of cowboy.

Watching his movies, I always assumed that beneath his reticent surface there were secrets we would never know. And that seemed like a good thing. The cowboy had hidden depths.

Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

This August, we visited Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada, and if ever a beautiful spot benefited from the allure of its hidden depths, it was Lake Louise. Canoeing on it, my daughter and I couldn’t see a thing below the surface. The very phenomenon that makes it beautiful keeps its secrets hidden.

The lake’s water is one giant suspension of rock flour. The glacier melt that feeds it is filled with silt-sized bits of rock made so small by the grinding of glaciers on bedrock that they form a suspension in the cold lake water. That suspension of glacial flour absorbs all the colors of the spectrum except blue and green. Hence the lake’s beautiful color.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise


Though some of us were content to paddle on the surface of the lake, my friend, Perry, told me he caught a big trout deeper down.

When the water pulls back.

Following my theme of “Secrets and Revelations,” I’ll jump ahead from our trip to Banff and Lake Louise to the photos I took a couple days later near my home. We’d walked on the ferry to Kingston with the intention of skipping one ferry so my grandson could play on the beach before we sailed back for a big breakfast at Claires.

Kingston, sand castle

So while my grandson and son-in-law built an elaborate sand castle, my daughter and I walked down the beach to see what we could see.

low tide, Kingston

The little beach by the ferry isn’t a clam digging beach or a white sand beach. But at low tide, every beach has something to reveal.

low tide in Kingston

A stranded jellyfish …

low tide, Kingstonlow tide in Kingston

bits of seaweed …

low tide, Kingston

shells picked clean. Nothing special. But they looked pretty to me. Maybe it was the light … or maybe the fact that they’d been hidden until the tide went out.

I’m writing a novel now, so questions of secrets and revelation come up all the time. A character with secrets is more interesting. But what kinds of secrets? How much should I reveal and when?

My writer friends may be interested in this article by Heather Jackson: The Key to Writing 3-Dimensional Characters. The key to 3-dimensional characters, she says, is secrets.

Low tide probably isn’t the best metaphor for revealing secrets in novels. The tide goes out, and everything is revealed all at once. Heather Jackson uses the metaphor of an onion instead. You peel back the layers one at a time.

It’s like life. We say we want people to be open and transparent. And yes, in some circumstances we do. Most of the time, though, we enjoy getting to know people bit by bit. Layer by layer. We drop in a line and hope to catch a fish. We wait for the tide to go out and see what there is to see.

The interplay of secrets and revelations.

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About Nicki Chen

About Nicki Chen
Nicki Chen is a writer living in Edmonds, WA. Her first novel, Tiger Tail Soup, is set in China during the Japanese invasion and occupation, 1937-1945. She’s working on a second novel set in Vanuatu, a South Pacific nation where she and her late husband lived in the early ’90s.

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  1. Traveller at heart

    ‘It’s like life. We say we want people to be open and transparent. And yes, in some circumstances we do. Most of the time, though, we enjoy getting to know people bit by bit. Layer by layer. We drop in a line and hope to catch a fish. We wait for the tide to go out and see what there is to see’.

    So true, Nicki. However, there are times where what we see is enough to last our life time.

    A friend once said to me ‘we get judged. People judge us all the time.’

    • Ah! Those pesky first impressions. I try to keep an open mind, but a second impression is always influenced to some extent by the first. Your friend is right, though, people judge us all the time. We can only hope that those judgements are not carved in stone. Human beings are too complex to be sized up in a single meeting.

  2. Great photos, Nicki! How sad about that stranded jellyfish. I hope the tide washed it back to the sea. But how exciting that you’re writing another novel. What an intriguing theme. 🙂

    • You have a sympathetic heart, Linda. My guess is, the jellyfish will be able to hold out until the tide comes in.

      I don’t think you could call the theme for my next novel secrets and revelation, but I will try to include some secrets and then reveal what was kept hidden.

  3. Teresa

    Did you like the revelation at the end of the pilot episode of This Is Us? That was good story telling.

  4. I think social media rewards honesty, but too much honesty is overwhelming.

    Books are more like Lake Louise. At least the best ones are.

    • Social media rewards honesty, but it prefers even more that that. It wants revelation. It’s always fun to read about the details and secrets of your favorite actor’s life. And though bloggers aren’t celebrities, the same thing applies. You start out blogging thinking you’ll be semi-anonymous, and then you find out your readers want more.

  5. Love the look of that lake!
    Have fun with the secrets and revelations of your WIP.

  6. Very lovely lake, and it is magnificent to hear what gives it its colour. Simply stunning and almost like a magic trick. You said it so well. “Most of the time, though, we enjoy getting to know people bit by bit. Layer by layer.” You know what, I do. There is always an adrenalin rush when mystery presents itself. It’s sort of like unwrapping a present, and it is an even more special feeling when you feel a sense of connection to that person. The more we spend time with someone, the more comfortable we tend to feel around each other and let our wall down.

    • The color of Lake Louise is similar to that of the ocean over a coral reef, except the ocean is clear and the lake is opaque.

      Thinking of people and their layers, an old friend comes to mind, someone I knew when we lived in the Philippines. The first time I met her, she surprised me by how open she was, telling me things about her life that other people would consider secrets. And yet, after that day, she still had other layers to reveal. I very much enjoyed getting to know her.

  7. I like the way you describe getting to know people-layer by layer. Great analogy.

  8. The best people and the best stories are revealed layer by layer. Love your themes.
    And these pictures are beautiful. Cheers, Mindy

  9. Love the pictures. The real outdoors. I miss that kind of nature all the time. As to your points about both building characters and/or meeting new people, couldn’t agree more. Peel that onion! I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    I’ve always found that people who try to show you “everything” right away are usually putting up a facade anyway – a kind of personal branding – and whatever they are showing you is just their own attempt to cover their insecurities or fit in with the crowd. The real person remains hidden. We human beings are complex creatures and I’ve yet to meet a simple one yet.


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