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Mystery and . . .

Of the three elements that make a story or presentation interesting, the one I find most compelling right now is intrigue. Intrigue has a strange way of allowing your mind to build pictures, pictures in your mind, pictures that allow you to begin to understand the things that you don’t know exist. It is said that we don’t know what it is we don’t know, in many senses this is true. However intrigue is the secret foundation that inspires the mind to explore stuff, it all starts with looking for clues and cues, it’s a search for the bits that are missing in the unfinished picture, making the absolute unknown make sense. It’s quite possibly the incredible rich mixture of ideas that go into intrigue – things like legends, myths, mysteries, icons and symbols, great stories, imaginary scenes and vistas, inspiration, insights, history, present, future, dreams. Even that simple list cracks open the door to seek the first AHA! moment. Intrigue is the keyhole view to something new and exciting, the glimpse of things ahead, the things that bring insights, ideas, and revelations.

Intrigue is the apprehension that creates the stress, the driver between wanting to know and knowing that finding out,  will spoil things forever is one of the great drivers of intrigue. As I have often said, if you know everything, we would cease to have fun, imagine a boring world where there is nothing left to know, nothing left to enjoy.
A while ago I was with some friends at a toddlers birthday party, I watched a father harass a magician into revealing how he did one of the tricks, his need to know was relentless, almost obsessive as he bullied the young magician to “teach him”. He never noticed the deflating disappointment wash over his young child’s face after the magician relented and revealed all. For his 5-year-old son life went from magical to humdrum in a nanosecond. The lesson here is as follows; the key to creating the tension that defines great intrigue is revealing just the right amount of information. Too little and the imagination has nothing to work with; too much and there nothing more to discover and the journey of excitement ends.

Today information is cheap and finding out how things are done is a breeze – you simply ask Google, Jeeves or Wolfram. Did you see the show where David Copperfield suspends a woman in mid air and floats her over the audience? The patent drawings are available on the Internet. Do you really want to know. Sometimes there are things in life that you know that you don’t want to know – it’s more fun that way.

A great presenter lives and breathes the complexities of the worlds he creates and the minds of his or her audience follows every twist and turn with massive intensity. There is a great protocol on the internet where any decent reviewer or commentator is expected to make it very clear if they are about to expose the plot or reveal anything from any movie, book sitcom and TV series by declaring a “spoiler alert”. Some find it tough to stop reading, but many appreciate the courtesy.

A good presenter knows that some spoilers let the secret out so much as that they evaporate the intrigue before it has been played out.
This tension that arises between an audience who want to know everything immediately and a storyteller who tailors a great narrative to maintain a loop for as long as possible has been with us since time began. Intrigue is the foundation of a great story, a great presentation and great entertainment. And it’s all because you don’t know what you don’t know, even if the information is “out there”.

Many people have asked  – “Will our information-packed, digital world eventually kill off intrigue?


Because all it takes is a glimpse of something you never knew was there and suddenly you ask yourse

  1. garygary05-31-2009

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