Secrets & Puzzles

Secrets and Puzzles

What is the Secrets and Puzzles story tactic?

Make your story stick in our minds: promise a secret waiting to be revealed or a puzzle waiting to be solved.

We are social creatures, always wondering what other people are thinking and doing. And we are curious creatures, always wondering why things work. Put these elements together and you have powerful attention hooks that can keep your audience with you until the end of your story.

Tip: try this tactic to write an intro for your Simple Sales Stories or What's It About? story.

How to use the Secrets and Puzzles story tactic


  1. Secrets are a powerful form of information gap. If you point out something I don't know, you are highlighting an information gap, which I naturally want to close. If you "own" the missing information-if it's your secret-then I must pay attention to you.

    Exploit a secret in your story:

    • what new information did you discover?

    • how was it kept secret?

    • what price did you pay to find this new information?

    • what will your audience gain by acquiring this new information?

    Keywords: secret, confidential insider, exclusive, hidden, restricted, banned, untold, forgotten.

  2. Puzzles work because we like to think the world makes sense. When you point out any kind of anomaly, irony or inconsistency, it becomes a glaring information gap that we want to close.

    Exploit a puzzle in your story. Can you find a moment in your story where you discovered an...

    • anomaly; "this is not normal".

    • irony; "this is not what you'd expect".

    • inconsistency; "this doesn't fit with what went before".

    How did you discover your puzzle? How did you make sense of it?
    What will your audience gain by acquiring this new information?

    Keywords: puzzle, riddle, odd, bizarre, unexpected, ironic, paradox, peculiar, mystery.

Try these keywords in the subject line if an email the headline if a biog post or the intro to a presentation. But if you promise a secret or a puzzle, you must deliver new information. Otherwise you are just writing clickbait.

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Secrets & Puzzles is one of 54 storytelling recipe cards inside the Storyteller Tactics card deck.

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