Posts belonging to Category Mystery Month

The Unreliable Witness

Most writers are familiar with the concept of an unreliable narrator, a character who for whatever reason isn’t telling it like it is. But for mystery writers, the unreliable narrator is even more useful. Take him, mix him with your standard witness, and you get an unreliable witness, a way to get across information without [...]

Impractical Applications (Laying the Trail)

Last week, I began the tale of my last attempt at running a mystery. Today, I’m going into process; clues, how I used them, and how they related to the plot. For context, the mystery at hand was simple: a small group of people had been sworn to a magically binding oath about which they [...]

Mystery: Red Herrings

Mysteries aren’t much fun if you just have an unbroken trail of a → b → c and so on to get to the answer. Sometimes you want something to draw the audience and the investigators away from the actual solution. Dramatic reasons, trying to prove how clever the culprit is, even just trying to [...]

Feeding People Conclusions

I’ve talked about clues in general, both their classifications and how to apply said classifications, but no amount of technical clue knowledge will do much good if you don’t know what you want them to imply. So if you want people to get to a certain answer, you’re going to want to know ways to [...]

Mystery: How to Scatter Clues

Now that we’ve classified our clues, we can move on to figuring out how to use them to bring a mystery to its proper conclusion.
I don’t usually start with the clues themselves; rather, I start with the mental paths I expect my players to take. This begins with the hook, and the kinds of conclusions [...]

Mystery: Classifying Clues

Mystery Month continues with the complicated part: setting out the clues. After all, one of the object of mystery-writing is to make people think. But in itself, that’s one of the trickiest parts, as you need to make sure that any given set of clues will eventually get your players to where they need to [...]

Impractical Applications (Hosting a Mystery)

Before I start, the official announcement: What began as a short series on mysteries has exploded. As a result, August is now Mystery Month. So for the rest of the month, I’m going to be discussing aspects of mysteries on weekdays, running Impracs on a mystery I myself ran, and… well, whether the Generic Villain [...]


A mystery doesn’t always end with the solution. Oftentimes, it raises other questions. Questions like those are what I like to call metamysteries; little loose ends created by the story that may but will not necessarily be resolved by the eventual conclusion. Sometimes, they’re something far more important to the audience than to the creator. [...]

Mystery: Choosing Your Hook

As I noted in my first article on mysteries, setting a strong hook to bring the investigators in is one of the most crucial elements to mystery-building. Without a hook, after all, there is no story; unless solving mysteries is their hobby, who’s going to want to get embroiled in one without a reason? (And [...]

Mystery: Calling in the Cast

So you’re looking into planning a mystery, and you’ve already figured out what happened. Now it’s time to figure out who the people involved are. In general, the characters connected to a standard mystery come in three varieties: suspects, witnesses and experts. That doesn’t mean there isn’t overlap between the groups—I’ve seen characters who ranged [...]