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One character finds the secret diary of another character (almost always female), that contains all their darkest secrets
This is a form of Chekhov's Gun
because introducing a secret diary into the show means the audience expects that there will be a plot dedicated to another character finding it and deciding and/or proceeding to read it and/or pass it around their friends, etc. Naturally, the character who owns the diary is furious when they discover this invasion of their privacy.
See also Diary
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- A commercial for AT&T U-Verse has the family seated around the dinner table. The son is reading the daughter's diary, which the parents have also read. The daughter is quite pleased. (The theme of the commercial is that having U-Verse makes everybody happy.)
Anime & Manga
- Slightly different set-up in Patlabor: Lt. Clancy is preparing a report on the rest of the team before leaving the force, and the others sneak into her apartment to read it.
- Shiki Tohno finds Makihisa Tohno's hidden diary, in which it is revealed that the Tohno blood line contains demonic blood, that Akiha is one of those who has demonic traits, that Makihisa himself had a split personality, that Kohaku and Hisui are adopted synchronizers who can calm the demon blood by exchanging bodily fluids and that there was indeed a third child with the same name as Shiki that was adopted after Makihisa wiped his clan out.
- The manga Wandering Son has a shared secret diary between the eleven-year-old main characters Shuuichi and Yoshino, in which they write to another about their various Crossdresser experiences. When a boy gets ahold of the diary and passes it around, both kids in general and Shuuichi in particular are ostracized. They start a new one not too long after.
- In the ending to the anime version of Tona Gura, a pivotal diary that Hatsune gives Kazuki is Kazuki's own forgotten childhood diary which reveals that Yuuji's always been playful; teen hormones now make that playfulness obnoxious and immature, rather than cute. She also sees in it that she herself used to be a great deal more playful, but that she has also not outgrown her childish tendency to want complete control over how things are, especially with Yuuji. This marks a huge turning point.
- One wonders why Paige Fox of FoxTrot even bothers trying to keep a diary when Peter and Jason constantly read it openly. Jason has go so far as to post excerpts from her diary online and has even written in it (apparently on multiple occasions) a confession to really being an ugly alien being.
- One Archie Comics story had Betty losing one of her diaries (to be more exact, the one she wrote about her moments with Archie in) and was worried that Veronica would get her hands on it. To make matters worse, Veronica overheard her and offered $100 to anyone who turned it in to her. Fortunately for Betty, Mr. Svenson returned it to her before anyone else could find it.
- In an issue of Generation X, the school is robbed, and Husk's diary is one of the items stolen. Since she often wrote about their adventures, everyone's secret identities were at risk. The thieves were eventually found and convinced to return the stolen items, and thankfully Husk's diary was written off as a bored schoolgirl's overactive imagination. The thieves did enjoy the Purple Prose dedicated to Chamber, however, and one proceeded to read it, embarrassing poor Paige as the Gen X kids died laughing (thankfully Chamber wasn't with them).
- In Cerebus the Aardvark, at the end of the Jaka's Story arc, the Cirinists who are trying to get Jaka to sign an admission of immoral behavior attack her resolve by reading her excerpts from her employer's diary. The little bit revealed shows that he was thinking some very naughty thoughts about her, in stark contrast to his meek and unassuming behavior while they were together, which deeply hurts her.
- A male example: in The Golden Age, Tex Thompson has one, which reveals the truth behind himself and Dynaman, which Joan Dale takes to her friends Lance Gallant and Paula Brooks to open up and discover.
- In 3 Women, Millie has a diary protected with lock and key. Nonetheless, her roommate Pinky later manages to get a good look inside.
- The disruption in Harriet the Spy.
- William Sleator's Others See Us uses two stolen diaries as the MacGuffin, with the the inversion that the thief didn't steal them to read them, because she's telepathic and knows the contents already.
- In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Draco Malfoy plans to do this when he finds Tom Riddle's diary among Harry's possessions and mistakenly thinks it's Harry's diary.
- According to Word of God, the way Riddle's diary uses Ginny is a serious Deconstruction of this trope, foregoing others reading the diary and instead making the diary itself a malevolent entity. J. K. Rowling finds diaries to be "really, really frightening" due to her sister confiding her innermost thoughts to a diary only to worry about people reading.
- The book Click Here To Find Out How I Survived Seventh Grade is somewhat centered around this trope.
- Subverted in the Liavek story "Paint the Meadows With Delight", where the main character steals her sister's diary in hopes of figuring out why she's been acting so strangely, and, since she can't read the language it's in, tries to get an older relative to translate it for her. It says much about the family involved that Jehane did't realise what she had done was objectionable until she got called out on it.
- Happens in Charlotte MacLeod's novel The Family Vault. Caroline Kelling, blind and deaf, embroiders her diary on drapes with the equivalent of Braille.
- Also happens in Charlotte MacLeod's novel Vane Pursuit, in which Elisa Alicia Quatrefages keeps one.
- Zan's entire experience in Norma Fox Mazer's Saturday, the Twelfth of October is set off by her wise-ass brother reading her intimate diary to his friends. At the end Zan is still writing diary notes, but wisely stores them in a bank deposit vault.
- In J.R. Lowell's Daughter of Darkness, Willie Connolly's journal is mentioned very early on. A practitioner of Ritual Magic since the age of eight, she keeps her book with her paraphernalia locked in a desk drawer. Her anthropologist Uncle Jonathan knows about the Black Magic spell she cast on her father's fiancée. Sure enough, he discovers the drawer, breaks into it and reads the journal, taking it with all the evidence to show her father. Unfortunately for him, Willie is invisibly sitting nearby.
- Lawrence Block's Ariel (Block) has a rare Secret Diary that remains safe all the way through the story:
I couldn't see myself buying one of those books that say things like My Secret Thoughts in gold on the fake leather cover. They have locks a baby could open with a toothpick, if a baby happened to have a toothpick, and all Roberta [her adoptive mother] has to do is find a locked book called My Secret Thoughts. It would be like writing Be Calm and Relaxed on a red flag and showing it to a bull... I'll keep it in my schoolbag with all my other notebooks. Yes, like The Purloined Letter... Roberta could never resist a diary, but who on earth would want to read a kid's dumb notebook?
Live Action TV
- The Dukes of Hazzard:
- "Dear Diary" – From Season 4, Rosco uses his diary to document (surprisingly, very well and down to the last detail) Boss Hogg's criminal activities, and plans to keep it secret between him and Boss. However, two crooks that Boss had double-crossed years earlier learn about the diary, come to Hazzard and steal it, planning to turn Boss in once and for all, forcing Bo and Luke (who have also learned about the diary) to make a tough decision.
- "Go West, Young Dukes" – From the final season, although the only secrets exposed in this diary are those that clear up what really happened during a land transaction 100 years earlier by the ancestors of the Duke and Hogg families. Only Uncle Jesse knew about the diary beforehand, making the trope a literal interpretation.
- It is almost guaranteed that a Teen Drama series will have an episode centered around this at some point.
- In the Disney Channel sitcom Austin & Ally, the title character Ally has a diary that also functions as her songbook. The 3rd episode has Ally lose the diary and Austin finds it. He reads the diary and mistakes Ally writing about the crush she has on the Cell Phone Accessory Cart guy to actually be about himself. Hilarity Ensues. It also results in an Anchored Ship moment for the Austin/Ally pairing.
- In House, House steals his ex-common law wife's psychiatrist's notes (mostly about how her relationship with her husband sucks and she has the hots for House again) and recites them to Wilson a few days later.
- Torchwood has a particularly amusing example in the episode "Adam." Ianto keeps a diary, which is not surprising considering how precise and orderly he is. But that diary apparently also contains, ah, details of his relationship with Jack, which, when Jack finds and reads the diary, leads to the immortal line, "Measuring tapes never lie."
- Red Dwarf: Rimmer walks in and finds Dave "waits for the film to come out" Lister reading. When he asks what the book is, Lister flat-out states that it's Rimmer's diary, then repeats some choice excerpts. Then:
Rimmer: I don't believe it! You've been reading it out to the Cat?!
Cat: Only the best bits!
- Mild subversion here is that Rimmer isn't really surprised Lister's reading his diary: he's upset he's doing it publicly.
Lister: So you've read my diary.
Rimmer: Yes, but at least I have the common decency to do it sneakily behind your back.
- Titus: Teenage Christopher comes home to find his father reading his diary to his poker buddies.
- One scene in Spaced shows Tim reading Daisy's diary: "Ha, ha, ha, thrush!"
- Done in The Partridge Family with Keith finding Laurie's diary. Embarrassing for her, since she tended to embellish the truth... quite a bit. She ends up finding a love letter from his girlfriend, and they arrange a swap.
- Neil Sedaka (writer of "Stupid Cupid") has a song called "The Diary", which is about the singer wanting to look into a girl's diary to see if she writes about him in it. The song was written after he asked Connie Francis, who he wrote songs for, for permission to see her diary for inspiration and she refused.
- Funky Winkerbean: Lisa kept one of these when she was a teen-ager, as revealed during the storyline involving ex-boyfriend Frankie Pierce and his efforts to produce a reality show about a reunion with their biological son, Darrin Fairgood (with the real aim souring the memory of Lisa).