IN A WAY, A STORY IS LIKE A STRIPTEASE. IT’S IMPORTANT NOT TO REVEAL TOO MUCH TOO SOON
Currently I’m wrestling with how much to reveal as the story progresses. My guiding principles are:
- To keep on surprising the viewer (appreciate that I‘m currently working on a screenplay, not a book).
- Not to show the villain too early, but to rely on the viewer’s imagination.
- To avoid making the plot so complex that the viewer will never quite understand it.
- In the interests of keeping up the suspense, to divert the reader where possible—but not to cheat. A red herring should have a legitimate place in the story.
- To avoid lengthy explanations as far as possible. Explanations are best delivered as part of the progress of the story.
Mind you, I don’t sit there with a checklist of working principles beside the computer (not that such an arrangement would necessarily be a bad idea).
On the subject of stripteases, I have never been a great fan of them—precisely because of the word ‘tease.’ I have always much preferred the real thing.
I saw my first strip tease in the South of France. The club was near empty because Johnny Hallyday was performing next door. In fact, I interviewed him after his performance. Johnny’s popularity is akin to that of Elvis Preslie, but virtually no one has heard him outside France and French Canada. Nonetheless, that has scarcely cramped his achievements. Here is what Wiki says:
An icon in the French-speaking world since the beginning of his career, he was considered by some to have been the French Elvis Presley. He was married for 15 years to popular Bulgarian-French singer Sylvie Vartan and the two were considered a "golden couple" for 20 years. Hallyday has completed 181 tours, had 18 platinum albums, and has sold more than 110 million records.[4
Johnny also has an advantage over Elvis. He is still alive. He is actually one year older than me—which makes him 70. The above photo was taken in 2003.
But I digress. Back to stripteases. Despite the nearly empty bar, the stripper proceeded to do her thing—and since I was just about all her audience, she sited herself, on the raised dais, directly in front of me. I would like to be able to describe my growing teenage excitement as all was revealed—which it was—but my strongest memory is of her sweat being flicked, as she danced, into my beer.
Ah, the education of a writer. And that is all I’m telling you of that epic evening.