Setup and Payoff

Setup = A piece of information the reader will need to know in advance to full understand and believe the pay-off. Everything in stories is either setup, pay-off or the path between.

Why the Setup -> Pay-Off is so important

Setups allow readers to participate by anticipating. They stimulate imagination and make the reader feel intelligent by allowing them to make the connections themselves. It makes them feel like an insider.

Setup needs

  • problem needs to be known before it’s time to solve it.
  • setup mustn’t be hidden but in clear view of the audience

Every payoff consists of 3 parts

1 The Intro, the thing is introduced (mentioned)

‘Did you hear about John’s lighter?’ asked Sarah.

2 The Demo, character experiences the thing so audience sees how it works

‘Sarah told me you got a new lighter.’ said Edward.
John whipped out his lighter. As soon as he clicked it, a wicked tall flame shot out. Edward jumped back in surprise.
‘Can I borrow it?’ asked Edward.

3 Application, character uses the thing

‘Shit.’ said Sarah. ‘The power went out and I have no idea where the fuck I put that torch.’
‘Not a problem.’ said Edward, as he whipped out John’s lighter and set the whole damn barn ablaze.