Pip Decks

Secrets and Puzzles

From Episode 12 of the weekly Storyteller Tactics episodes

Each week we release a new story and two Storyteller Tactics cards from the deck, launching on Kickstarter later this year.

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What is the Secrets and Puzzles story tactic?

Nothing gets our attention like 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 out the way they do. Put these elements together and you have powerful attention hooks that can keep your reader with you until the end of your story.

How to use the Secrets and Puzzles tactic

Start with a simple story. Use What's It About? or Big/Small - Inside/Out tactics to help you.

Now go back over your story looking for a secret or a puzzle inside the story that you can bring to the surface.

1. Secrets are a particularly powerful form of information gap.

There are millions (probably trillions) of things I don't know. I have to ignore my own ignorance, or else I'd never get anything done.

If you point out something I don't know, you are highlighting an information gap, and I naturally want to close it. If you "own" the missing information, ie; it is your "secret", then I must pay attention to you if I want to close my information gap.

Exploiting a secret in your story:

  • What is the information gap? What new information did YOU discover as part of this story? What new information will YOUR AUDIENCE discover if they listen to your story?
  • Who owns the missing information? Whose secret is it?
  • What will YOUR AUDIENCE gain by acquiring this new information?

Keywords to use in the opening lines of your story: 

  • secret, insider, exclusive, hidden, restricted, confidential, untold

2. Puzzles get our attention because we like to think the world makes sense.

So any kind of anomaly, irony or inconsistency becomes a glaring "information gap" that we want to close.

Exploiting 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"

Then ask yourself:

  • How did you discover your puzzle?
  • How did you resolve it?
  • What benefit will YOUR AUDIENCE gain by acquiring this new information?

Keywords to use in the opening lines of your story:

  • odd, bizarre, unexpected, ironic, paradox, peculiar, mystery

Don't forget: if you promise a secret or a puzzle, you must deliver new information by the end of the story. Otherwise you are just writing clickbait!


🤔 Confused? Enlightened?

Let us know! We are still developing Storyteller Tactics. Drop us an email with your feedback. We reply to every single one.

- Charles & Steve.

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