When I was a child there was a game we made up and played once in a while. We called it Treasure Hunt. I’m sure many others played this game, too. One of us would hide a “treasure” which usually consisted of a cookie wrapped in waxed paper or something like that. I think once we were brave enough to hide a quarter. The person hiding the treasure would write out clues and the other kids followed them to find their reward. (Maybe that’s one of the reasons I enjoy mysteries so much.)
Recently my husband commented that it seemed like most of my books contained hidden passages or compartments. Was he right? Had I gotten into a theme I didn’t particularly want? I sat down and thought about it. No, there was one book with hidden passages, and one with hidden compartments. However, that old Treasure Hunt came to mind. There are two books that include hidden treasures. Make that three books. Treasure can be something valuable that’s not made of gold or silver.
In the back of my mind I guess I figure if I like the idea of hidden places or things, other people might, too. Will I include more hidden things in future books? Probably. It’s fun to put together the puzzles.
I’ve read books by other authors that entranced me while I followed their clues to hidden anythings. It’s all a part of the mystery, and it’s generally a fun part.
I asked myself if I’ve ever found a hidden treasure – for real. Yes, but not in the same sense as in the books. I’ve discovered that when people pass away they often leave something tucked in a drawer or high on a shelf that was special to them, whether it was a treasure to anyone else or not.
My grandmother told me about a hidey hole where she’d put a few things away and when we lost her I found a vintage woman’s watch. She married in 1918, and when I looked at her wedding picture I realized she was wearing that very same watch the day she was wed. The watch might not be a treasure to anyone else, but it is to me. It was interesting, too, because as far as I know there was something new (from that time) about it. It had a little thingy on it where you could attach a chain to wear it around your neck. But it also had little thingies where you could attach the two ends of a band to wear it on your wrist. It was my grandmother’s, it was unique, and it’s a treasure to her granddaughter – me.
How do authors come up with things like hidden passages and compartments? It takes a little work. You have to decide how these passages would fit into a house and still remain secret. You have to decide where a hidden compartment would be located. I usually draw sketches to make it more clear to myself. And, of course, there’s research to see where others have placed these things.
Here’s the thing. When you write fiction, some part of it has to be realistic. You can’t just stick a hidden passage anywhere you want to and hope it makes sense. Also, there should be excuses why they’re not obvious to the characters.
When I was a child my grandparents (other side of the family) moved to a different house, and it was an old two-story home. As kids we wanted to explore the basement. Would you believe, one of us saw something that looked unusual and pushed on the wall. A secret compartment popped open. It was long and narrow, and the only thing inside was a very old cane. I kept that cane for years and then it just disappeared. I have no idea what happened to it.
Now that you’ve read this far, here’s one of the surprising points of this post. It’s really all about figuring out what readers enjoy reading about. Secret passages? Secret compartments? Spooky old houses? Dark and stormy nights? Basements and attics are usually great places to find unusual clues – like an old cane. Why would someone hide a cane?
Some readers prefer suspense and some prefer horror. Some enjoy an old-fashioned mystery.
What “makes” a book for you?
Until next time, I hope you find a fun hidden treasure where you least expect it.
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Hidden Passages: Mysteries of Holt House – A Sandi Webster Mystery
Hidden Compartments and Unexpected Treasure: They Call Me Ace – A Bogey Man MysteryAwkward Moments – A Bogey Man Mystery