Stop giving away the answers, dangit.

stop-chickenThis idea, when applied properly, can improve the impact of literally any project you cut. But first, an embarrassing story.

Years ago, a friend and I went to an improv comedy show in Hollywood. I had very little idea what improv was but still volunteered when asked for audience members to come up on stage for one of the skits. I and others were supposed to pretend we were at a party and engage in dialogue that would help the improv actors guess our situation.

My situation: I was eating hors d’oeuvres made out of remnants of animals that represent holidays. As in, Easter Bunny Paté, Reindeer Steak Kabobs, Groundhog Mousse, etc. I figured there was no way these poor actors would ever figure out something that random, so I tried really hard to help them out. Would you believe, they guessed right away at the very beginning of the skit?

I kept offering more hints, not realizing that they didn’t need any more. At that point I had already outlived my usefulness, and I was just displaying my comedic ineptitude. One cast member literally directed me to a corner of the stage and told me to keep “eating your snacks.” It took me a while to realize how truly clueless I had been about that whole thing. Returning to my seat, my friend mumbled something about how at least I was brave enough to go up there, and he’ll be right back after he gets another drink.

The lesson from my failed improv moment that applies to storytelling of all sorts: don’t give out the answers right away. Drop a hint here, show a clue there, and THEN eventually get around to saying what you want to say. It keeps your audience engaged all the way through the piece. Otherwise they get what they came for right away, and they’re done. And possibly annoyed.

I recently saw a seriously cool piece that demonstrates this in multiple stages: wildlife photographer Chris McLennan drove a Nikon camera mounted on a remote control car into a pride of wild lions, and here’s what happened.

Cool, huh? Multiple levels of setup and payoff. And things that make you wait until the very end, images you would never see otherwise unless you were about to be eaten.

It’s all about The Reveal. For a more direct discussion of it editorially, check out the below Power Edit Tip. And feel free to look us up on YouTube and hit the Subscribe button.

If you like these kind of ideas, there are lots more to be found here.

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