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Mystery stories

 

Disciplines > Storytelling > Plots > Classic story types > Mystery stories

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Mystery stories are characterized by a central puzzle, where something is unknown and it is the role of the main character to discover the hidden secret. The main character is thus often endowed more with brain than brawn.

Mysteries may include:

  • Why an event happened.
  • How an event happened.
  • When an event happened.
  • Who did what.
  • What a strange object is.
  • Where something is hidden.
  • What is going to happen.
  • When something will happen.

Clues and hints as to the answer to the mystery may be given along the way, but a good mystery is not obvious until the end, where strange events all now make sense.

The mystery may be the who or how of a wrong-doing. It may also be explaining apparent supernatural events or other unknown. Thus crime, whodunnit and horror stories typically have a mystery theme.

Example

Sherlock Holmes stories
Rear Window
Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Discussion

When something is unknown, our sense of control is affected and we are driven to find the answer to the puzzle. Mystery stories thus draw us in and engage us in solving the mystery.

We may indulge in a race with the main character in following the clues. Sometimes we shout 'it's obvious' as they stumble in the dark and sometimes we are amazed at their perspicacity.

We all have mysteries in our life, at the very least what the future holds. Mystery stories reassure us that there are good answers to life's problems and that all will be revealed in due course.

See also

Completion principle

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