I just finished a revision of my middle grade novel ABSOLUTE YES. At the center of the novel is a secret. When I started the revision, I thought that I needed to make the secret press harder on the characters in the novel. I thought I needed to make its presence loom larger so that it twisted and tempered the actions of the characters.
I discovered something different. Yes, the secret presses on the world of the story but as it becomes revealed, the revelation liberates and strengthens the characters. The secret is not the main character. The secret is the antagonist. And the protagonist has to face the antagonist in order to grow.
But how to make them grow? How to get the child protagonist to face the antagonist?
Well, first I figured out my main character’s belief at the start of the book had nothing to do with the secret. She isn’t aware of it at all. What she believes is: she isn’t smart. When she overhears a tidbit of information about the secret, it sets her on a path of discovery. With each step she takes, she becomes bolder and less crippled by her belief. As she becomes bolder and smarter, she faces the well meaning but misguided (‘I did what I thought was best’) parent figure who has to face her actions of hiding the secret.
What I found in this revision is the character’s strength and the desire to face what seemed like a monster secret in their family. I didn’t need to make the secret press harder on the world of the story, I needed to strengthen the spine of my main character to uncover the secret and shift her belief that she isn’t smart.