…wherein I discuss secrets characters keep, and also ask, if you’re going to give up a long-held secret, can you please let it be a good one?
There was a little bit of a brouhaha in the music world this week, when some news outlets reported the identity of a mystery man.
The mystery man’s claim to fame? He was vain.
So vain, in fact, that Carly Simon wrote a song about him.
If you don’t know the background on this musical mystery, it’s this: Carly had a falling out with some vain dude, and she got payback by writing a song about his vanity.This has always been confusing to me. If she wanted to bug Mr. Vanity, wouldn’t a more successful approach have been to ignore him, rather than write the song and refuse to ID His Royal Vainness for 38 years? Didn’t that just give him more attention, and fueled his already overflowing vanity?
Of course, if she did that we would not have the song, which is an excellent one. How many songs include “gavotte” in the lyrics? So I will back off on criticizing Carly’s expose’ on vanity, and just enjoy the music.
So, for all these years, speculation has been swirling around, and this week, some of that ended. Maybe. Supposedly, in a new version of the song on her new album, Carly finally reveals Vain Guy by…are you ready?..whispering his name in a song.
Wow. I wonder where she got that idea?
To the surprise of many (looking at you guys, Warren and Mick) the name she whispers is David. Speculation is that David is David Geffen, and she was peeved at him because he promoted Joni Mitchell’s music more than hers. David’s people are denying this. Why…I’m not sure.
Why am I not sure? Because, after 38 years and about half of the news article, I quit caring after I read the name.
That’s the problem with secrets. Once they’re told, they’re just not any fun anymore.
I’ve been thinking about this because I’m working on a short story that revolves around a secret, but one of those “Do I want to know or not?” type of secrets. My story is about a troubled couple. Halfway through the story, the wife starts doing a new sexual thingy in bed. She doesn’t tell her partner how (or why or when or where) she learned this new sexual thingy, and he doesn’t ask. Maybe he doesn’t want to know. Maybe he thinks she learned it off the Internet, a la Leonard in The Big Bang Theory. I don’t know what he thinks because he’s not my Point Of View Character, but it’s obvious that he doesn’t ask because he really enjoys the new sexual thingy, and he doesn’t want to screw it up. As it were.
I’m not sure if he ever finds out, because I’m still writing the story. The sudden appearance of a new sexual thingy in a relationship is the kind of secret someone might want to keep forever. Or it might be the kind that someone throws in the face of her lover, in a moment of anger. Or one that her lover, in a fit of jealousy, might demand an answer to, at long last. There may be other options. Whatever happens, my story is going to ultimately be about what this secret does to this couple.
Which brings me back to Carly and *whisper* Divad. After all these years, why’d she give up the secret? That, to me, is a lot more interesting than the identity of the vain man ever has been.
Which brings me to this. Was this what Carly planned all along? To wait until the opportune time to give up the guy, at a time that would make some buzz about her new album, in a Beatlesque manner that would draw attention to her?
So, really, it was all about her, the whole time?
Pretty sneaky, that Carly Simon.
While we’re on the topic, here are some secrets I think were well kept until, of course, they weren’t.
1. What really happened to Fox Mulder’s sister. It’s a good secret because I still don’t know, and I watched every episode of the show, including the one where the Lone Gunmen were blown up. (Oops. Hope I didn’t spoil that for anyone.)
2. Mrs. Rochester in the attic. Poor Mr. R. Saddled with a mad wife, and he had to dress up like a gypsy, in the same book.
3. The identity of the Headless Horseman in Sleepy Hollow. The ending of the story points to Brom Bones, but it’s really
4. How, exactly, does one gavotte? That one is still a mystery to me.
How about you? Do your characters hold any deep dark secrets? If so, is telling more compelling than keeping quiet?