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Basic Mystery Classes

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So you want to have a mystery show? Well, there are only a few kinds of mystery, truth be told:

  • A pure procedural, usually police based: We know what the viewpoint characters know. Favorite lurking grounds of Your Princess Is in Another Castle!.
  • The Fair-Play Whodunnit: You know what the Master Detective knows, and if you're smart enough, at a certain point, you can solve it ahead of him without being Genre Savvy.
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  • The Clueless Mystery: Not really a mystery, but shows up in mystery shows anyway. Sometimes a sign of poor writing, although sometimes it's the point of the story in question.
  • The Reverse Whodunnit: Not a mystery per se, but shows up fairly frequently; also known as "Columbo-style" and a Howcatchem. When done poorly, it becomes a Conviction by Contradiction.

Consult Father Knox's Ten Commandments for some additional insight into how classic mysteries are to be written.