Monday 16 May 2011

MESSAGES - Passing information between two characters who cannot meet

Xerxes assembled an army.

Demaratus, a Greek who had been expelled from his homeland still felt some loyalty to Greece, so he decided to send a message to warn the Spartans.

As the danger of discovery was great, he scraped the wax off a pair of wooden, folding tablets. He wrote on the wood underneath then covered the message over with wax again.

The blank tablets reached the destination without an explanation.

No one could guess the secret of the blank tablets, until Cleomenes, the wife of Leonides, devined that if they scraped the wax off, they would find something written on the wood underneath.

The message was revealed and the information was passed to the Greeks.

As a result of this warning, the Greeks began to arm themselves.
I have been considering how messages could be passed between characters who could not meet. We don’t have that many wax tablets around. 
Concealing messages underneath something else is manageable and could build tension effectively.

With thanks to Random House's The Code Book


  1. There's a secret message in my story. I set it by letter. A hidden letter, of course. ;)

  2. Chat rooms? Cryptic texting? The back of a postcard?

    Today, with all the caaller/messenger ID, it seems almost impossible to send a msg.

    You have to know the sender/receiver pretty well to get away with anything subtle or secret. Takes some real creativity.


  3. Hi Karen
    I hope your secret message doesn't fall into the wrong hands ;)

    Hi Donna
    Yes, we take the ability to message one another for granted. I figured that if there was a significant level of surveillance any kind of electronic messaging would be easy to intercept. I've been looking for a low tech solution. :D

  4. Low tech all the way! The old fashioned way was something about passing messages via a book with certain words being underlined. It's fairly intricate and several books are used but it's effective and impossible to trace as I understand it. I also love cryptograms and I'm quite good at them so that would also be attractive.

  5. I have a similar plot twist in my story. The M.C. receives the message via a journal that is hidden in a family Bible she inherited following her father's murder. There are so many ways to unfold a mystery. I just sat down and asked myself how would I secretly pass on a hidden message. Ideas started flowing when I wore a pair of my M.C.'s shoes. Best of luck with your novel.