Trope Workshop:Plot-Driving Secret

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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MOD: This was moved back to the Trope Workshop in order to get a better description and more examples in November 2018, but was not tagged as a Trope Workshop page until June 2021.

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Trope Workshop Guidelines

When the entire Plot of a work depends on someone (or several someones) being left out of the loop, the work is based in a Plot-Driving Secret. It may be that the person or group keeping the secret is holding the Idiot Ball, or is Properly Paranoid, or maybe they simply Cannot Spit It Out. Whatever the reason, they have kept a key player from knowing something crucial, and it is that lack of knowledge that enables the plot to happen. Otherwise, they could simply Just Eat Gilligan.

May result in Poor Communication Kills.

Compare Idiot Plot, Comedy of Errors and Just Eat Gilligan. Also compare Driving Question.

See Also:

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Examples of Plot-Driving Secret include:
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  • Almost every Mystery depends on someone not knowing who the culprit is. Once that knowledge is revealed, the story ends, unless the plot is actually about gathering evidence.
  • Any character with a Secret Identity is likely to have a few stories of this nature.
  • Pretty much every undercover cop story runs on this. If the criminals knew from the outset that the new guy in their ranks was a cop out to bust them all, they would be dead in short order.


  • In the Fearless books, the plot was frequently driven by the fact that Gaia was either keeping a secret from someone or having one kept from her.
  • A minor plot point in Akata Witch was that Sunny was the only one in the group whose parents weren't magical and didn't know that she was taking lessons to improve her magic.

Live Action TV

  • The Secret World of Alex Mack would likely have been a much different show if Alex had told her parents about the accident.
  • The plot of famous hispanic Soap Opera El derecho de nacer (and its many remakes) involved that protagonist Alberto Limonta doesn't know for the longest time that he is actually part of the prestigious clan del Junco, and thus the cousin of his love interest Cristina. Two of the three people in the secret won't talk because they fear that revealing the truth may get either Alberto or his bio-mom dead; the third is his grandfather, who was the one who wanted Alberto dead in the first place, and whom won't talk anyway because he got an aneurysm that left him mute after being told that his grandson survived.