"Every one should have a diery. Becos life is too hard with the things one must say to be perlite and the things one must not say to lie."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.
— Iris Vaughn, age eleven
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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.
- Touch: In an early chapter, Tatsuya found Minami's diary. Later Minami accused him of reading her diary. Tatsuya swore that he did not, and it is left ambiguous whether he did or did not. The next day Minami confessed to Tatsuya what it was true what was written on her diary and she is in love with him... Tatsuya got so flustered that she realized that he had NOT read it, so she backpedaled and claimed that she had only written bad things about him.
- 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.
- 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.
- In When Marnie Was There, Sayaka finds Marnie's diary and shows it to Anna upon which the latter realize that she just imagined her encounters with Marnie.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- Evangelion 303: Jessika wrote down in her diary all her private fantasies about Asuka. Her girlfriend read it, mistakenly thought that Jessika had been unfaithful and mailed the pages to Asuka in chapter 11. Shinji, knowing that Jessika would not want to share that with anybody, burnt them.
Shinji: In one breath… I was exposed to someone’s darkest, most hidden, strangest appetites.
- A male example: Boris Sparkle in Rise Of Empress Midnight has a secret diary in the back on one of his research paper, where Twilight finds out that he invented the Alicorn Amulet, she had a sister, and he was the reason her grandfather is dead.
- The recommended Ranma ½ fanfic Genma's Journal has Nabiki finding Genma's secret diary and discovering that Ranma's father is actually a Magnificent Bastard and hiding behind Obfuscating Stupidity rather than the doofus he appears to be.
- A Peccatis starts with Neville and Harry receiving, and having to figure out the meaning of, isolated pages from Dumbledore's diary.
Films — Live-Action
- 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 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 didn'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... So instead of a diary I have this notebook, and instead of hiding it where I'd never find it but Roberta would, 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?
- In Wintersmith, the Nac Mac Feegle have a great problem with the idea of a secret diary. Why would Tiffany write her thoughts down in a book with a lock on it which she keeps hidden at the back of a drawer if she didn't want anyone to read it?
- In the mystery novel The Short Drop, a man finds a copy of The Lord of the Rings that belonged to his close family friend, who has been missing ten years. The margins are completely full of multicolored notes. These turn out to be years' worth of coded messages to the people around her, using their favorite colors to clue them in. The main character and the missing woman's mother eventually decrypt the truth: she disappeared because she was pregnant with her father's baby.
- Spoofed in one of the Kangaroo stories by Marc-Uwe Kling where the Kangaroo writes a diary to no other purpose then to "confess" doing something the narrator already suspects him of in order to invoke a violation of privacy when he is unavoidably found out.
- 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!
Lister: So you've read my diary.Rimmer: Yes, but at least I have the common decency to do it sneakily behind your back.
- Mild subversion here is that Rimmer isn't really surprised Lister's reading his diary: he's upset he's doing it publicly.
- 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.
- The 2point4 Children episode "We'd Like to Know a Little More About You For Our Files" has Bill reading her son David's diary, and becoming convinced he's in a relationship with an older woman.
- 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.
- Bread has the song "Diary". The singer sneaks a look at his beloved's diary, believing when she writes about her "true love" it's himself. When he discovers it's about someone else, he vows to support their relationship.
- "Kara's diary is secret. Read it?"
- One mission in Bully has you recovering a nerdette's diary before a teacher publicizes it.
- In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door's sixth chapter, a ghostly Toad asks you to get his diary from the baggage area and threatens you against reading it. The game gives you the option to read the diary anyway, and after asking things like "wait, seriously really?" and "OK, let's think this through for a little bit" you actually can read the first page before the ghost appears and kills you.
- In the first game, Peach actually can read the secret diary, and indeed she has to in order to advance the plot. It belongs to Bowser.
- Luigi also has a secret diary in the first game, but it's optional and Luigi never finds out you've been reading it.
- It's never seen, but in the first villain interlude in Super Paper Mario, Dimentio muses that he thought Mimi's ideal world was "a gem-filled pool with hunky lifeguards". In response, she turns into Bowser and asks if he's been reading her diary.
- In the Trauma Team game for the Wii, there's a Forensics chapter. The third case gets incredibly disturbing when the diary of Alma is found, and it depicts her descent into insanity, due to her prefrontal lobe tumor, from a loving mother and wife to a psychotic 'Beast of the Lord' who wants to kill her daughter and paraplegic husband in order to let them all go to Heaven together.
- In Animal Crossing: Wild World for DS, a snooty female character sometimes finds(buried underground) diary owned by someone else(most likely a normal female). She asks you if it is ok to read that. If you say so, you are asked where to start.
- Averted in Beyond the Alley of the Dolls, where you can have a conversation with a former villain and ask to read his personal diary, since it may contain important information.
Max: Can we read it?! We promise to laugh at your bad poetry and schoolboy crushes!
- Not so surprisingly, he refuses. Sam comments that it probably wouldn't be useful anyway, because " like any supervillain, his handwriting is as indecipherable as it is crazy".
- In the Harvest Moon games A Wonderful and Another Wonderful Life, you can read your child's diary where they write about their relationship with you, their career aspirations, etc. In all the Harvest Moon games "writing" in your diary is how you save the game.
- Hey Arnold!!, "The Little Pink Book": Said book is Helga's diary. Helga removed and ate the page revealing her name, just before Arnold would have gotten to it.
- Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy, "For Your Ed Only": Eddy finds Sarah's diary, and Ed and Edd try to return it before Sarah finds out they peeked and beats the living daylights out of them.
- Code Lyoko:
- "Logbook": It's all made worse by the fact that Ulrich, the diary's writer, mentions XANA and Lyoko.
- Later repeated with Yumi's diary in "Lost at Sea".
- And then again with Jérémie's logs in "Echoes". Really, one has to wonder why they keep writing these things down.
- In Jem, the Misfits get Kimber Benton's diary and use it against her. Luckily, she kept her Cool Big Sis secret.
- In an episode of Doug, the main character's journal gets taken and he spends the entire episode trying to get it back, only to find that school bully Roger Klotz had found it. Fortunately for Doug, Roger was unable to read his handwriting and get at his secrets.
- In Total Drama Island, Heather does this to Gwen.
- Arthur, "Sue Ellen's Lost Diary": Sue Ellen loses her diary at the library. Arthur and the others find it and are tempted to read it, but decide to just give it back to her instead.
- In The Weekenders, Carter peeks at Tish's diary and finds out that she's moving away. It turns out, though, that it wasn't her diary he found—it was her novel, "Diary."
- In 6teen there is an episode where Jonesy finds Jen's diary at the lost and found. Kaitlin starts reading it out loud at the fountain.
- Done in The Fairly OddParents with Timmy reading Vicky's secrets and Wanda helping Timmy just because in the diary Vicky says that "the pink squirrel looked fat!". And Cosmo is not happy with them doing it.
Cosmo: A diary is where a girl...And me...Can express their feeling without being judged.
- An episode of Family Guy had the family, except Meg, gather in the teen girl's room while Lois regaled them with pages from her diary, to everyone's laughter. Enter Meg, who proclaims she hates them and runs out of her own room crying. In response, Peter cracks open a beer and encourages Lois to continue reading.
- In Bob's Burgers, Linda reveals that she reads Tina's diary. She says she mostly skims it to make sure she's not on drugs. Helpfully, Tina writers "I'm not on drugs" in the book.
- The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Little Yellow Book" has Squidward finding SpongeBob's diary and spilling out his secrets to everyone.
- Trina Riffin has one in Grojband and it's where the band gets their song ideas from.
- In the CatDog episode "Curiosity Almost Killed the Cat", Dog starts keeping a diary after Cat (who has one of his own) introduces him to the concept, along with the rule that it's wrong to look in someone else's diary. However, Cat finds himself unable to resist taking a peek, and Dog is understandably upset when he finds out (especially since one of his diary entries called Cat the most honest person he knows).
- An episode of Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi has Harmony trying to steal the girls' diary to find out all their secrets. When she finally reads it, she is distraught because she already knows all the stuff in it.
- A Rocko's Modern Life episode has Heffer and Rocko finding Filburt's personal journal and cannot resist temptation to read it. As they read, they find out that Filburt is part of an alien race that is planning to take over the earth. Filburt later explains that the journal is actually a science-fiction novel he was working on and none of it is real. Or IS IT?
- The infamous diaries of British Conservative politician, compulsive womaniser and professional Magnificent Bastard Alan Clark were a straight example while he was writing them. Once he was safely retired he sold them to a publisher and sat back to enjoy the show as various colleagues in government, journalists and other public figures were allowed to learn what he really thought of them.