Posts Tagged mystery

stay interested in the mystery


“People prize what they don’t understand at least as much as what they do” Randall Sullivan on the creators of the Georgia Guidestones, in a Wired article

Wyatt Martin “if you want to keep people interested, you can let them know only so much“ – the only remaining contact with R.C. Christian creator of the Guidestones.

JJ Abrams also in Wired
”We’re smack in the middle of the age of immediacy.”…
”Perhaps that’s why mystery now more than ever, has a special meaning. Because it’s the anomaly, the glaring affirmation that the age of immediacy has a meaningful downside. Mystery demands that you stop and consider – or at the very least, slow down and discover. It’s a challenge to get there yourself, on its terms, not yours.”

Movies/TV are a series of mystery boxes, revealing their meta stories over time, withholding information to maximize the mystery and stimulate the imagination – jaws/aliens etc


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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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mystery and mis-direction

Valerian to Boy in The Book of Dead Days, by Marcus Sedgwick (fiction) on the 5 principles of a magician or illusionist;

  • Mystery
  • Preparation
  • Mis-direction
  • Practice
  • (natural) Skill

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add some mystery to your rewards

It helps for player’s to understand why they get a reward or score, it links them to the simulation at the core of the game. Occasionally, and for certain types of rewards it might add to the enjoyment if there was more mystery about the reason.
“We try to reduce our uncertainty by explaining positive events and thereby reduce the amount of positive emotion we feel.”
“Research shows that when people are exposed to traumatic events, the sooner they ‘make sense’ of what has happened, the sooner the negative emotion is reduced and they recover.
Exactly the same process seems to operate for positive emotions. We try to reduce our uncertainty by explaining positive events and thereby reduce the amount of positive emotion we feel. It’s an unfortunate consequence of an adaptive process that normally helps us recover from traumatic and upsetting events.
So, the next time you give someone an unexpected gift and they ask why, just smile mysteriously and let them enjoy the moment for a little longer. Sometimes explanations really do kill the magic.”

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trigger imagination through story


Real Characters – you have to identify yourself in the characters
Mystery – it triggers the imagination
Rhythm – there are some timings which the experiencer expects a certain reveal or change
Questions – create more insight in to yourself or the world
Anticipation – triggers the imagination
Surprise – shake up the experience
Depth – creates the illusion in the imagination that the world exists
Contrast – makes the original richer and more valuable. Contrasts are the basis of good story
Climax – pays off the anticipation

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horror game or discovery plot structure


Building a scenario from Call of Cthulhu 6ed

  • a mystery or crisis is posed…
  • the investigators become linked to the problem…
  • the investigators attempt to define the mystery…
  • the investigators use the clues and evidence to confront the danger…
  • the mystery is solved.

Complex discovery plot;

  • onset
  • discovery
  • confirmation
  • confrontation

The Philosophy of Horror, Noel Carroll

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