something on a mystery

Mystery (Noun)

  • an unexplained or inexplicable event or phenomenon
  • a person or thing that arouses curiosity or suspense because of an unknown, obscure, or enigmatic quality
  • a story or film which arouses suspense and curiosity because of facts concealed

The title is the first step the reader makes in the mystery of the story

Mystery stories have had a solid structure to them.

“The structure here is: Something mysterious happens, usually a murder. It’s unclear who, how, and/or why the crime was committed. The hero investigates, either as his job or because he’s nosy. He learns a few facts, develops some theories of the crime. Now facts become harder to find and he has to pry harder to learn things. New facts cause him to re-evaluate old facts, discard some theories and revise others. The big reveal comes when he explains the crime and how he figured it out.”
“The mystery is very important, emphasized whereas the writer must follow a set of guidelines that require fair play in the telling of the murder, presentation of the clues and the withholding of the identity of the murderer until the end.”

from The Technique of the Mystery Story (1913)
by CAROLYN WELLS (1870? – 1942)

Singleness of Plot in the Detective Story

“The single plot that makes a Detective Story may be likened to an accordeon; it may be pulled out to an extraordinary length, or compressed to a minimum. A detective novel may have minor complications, more characterization and more elaborate setting; but the plot must not vary from the plot of a detective short-story, being only the propounding of the riddle and the revealing of its answer. The longer the story the more numerous and bewildering the conditions of the riddle and the windings of the maze, but all tend definitely to the one end, — the answer.”

Maintaining Suspense

“Another and very necessary point to remember is that the mystery must be of sufficient interest to be worth unraveling.  To quote Anna Katharine Green on her methods of construction:

“I must have a central idea which appeals to my imagination; and an end of such point or interest that the reader will feel that it justifies the intricacies which are introduced to hold it back. In other words the heart of the labyrinth must be worth reaching.”

“Prof. Max Dessoir, in a very fine article on “The Psychology of Conjuring,” writes as follows: “By awakening interest in some unimportant detail, the conjurer concentrates that attention on some false point, or negatively, diverts it from the main object, and we all know the senses of an inattentive person are pretty dull …. ”

These most valuable directions may be helpfully adapted  to the writing of Detective Stories. Thc author is, in a way, a conjuror, with an avowed intent to hoodwink his audience.”

“The art of the “whodunnit” comes in the pursuit of the murderer through the skillful presentation of clues. The writer is expected to adhere to the standard of fair play. Which is, the writer must present to the reader all the clues necessary to reveal the significance of the clues. The writer can misdirect the reader by emphasizing the unimportant clues.”


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