A mysterious note from a stranger changes the plot in some way. Generally, it is shoved under or into something such as a locker, postbox, or a door. If the recipient sees the note drop on his mat and dives for the door, he will occasionally catch the messenger in the act of posting the note; however, the messenger usually leaves so fast it's as if he teleported.
Can be anything at all, for example:
- A clue from an anonymous source
- A note from a past or future self
- A revealing tape of some kind
- A threat of some kind
- Ransom demand
Not to be confused with Brown Note or any other sound related trope, although it can contain, or be a recording of any kind.
- In Ore-sama Teacher, both Mafuyu and Hayasaka receive notes in their lockers saying "360 degree warning". This presages the appearance of a new character, a wacky fake 'ninja' who is trying to destroy the Public Morals Club.
- In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, one of the results of Harry's experiments with a Time Turner is a note from his future self reading only "DO NOT MESS WITH TIME"
- The All Guardsmen Party's discount spaceship, the Occurrence Border, is covered with little yellow post-it notes bearing helpful messages such as "The gravity in this corridor is tilted 37 degrees to the left" or, all too often, "Do not ever touch this button." That's in realspace, though, once the ship lurches its way into the Warp, more notes start showing up in areas the party has already visited, with always helpful but disturbingly specific advice like "In case of bad dreams check Gellar Field integrity."
- The Incredibles. The "note" is in the form of a digital tablet with a video message inviting Mr. Incredible to do secret superhero work.
- Murder by Death. While Sam Diamond and Miss Skeffington are in their room, they hear a ticking sound. A note is slipped under their door that says, "That ticking sound is a bomb that will go off in 30 seconds. Signed, The Murderer."
- In Unsane, a horror/thriller author receives one about a series of murders related to his latest book.
- Memento: The hero receives a few of these. Some of them from himself, since he suffers from anterograde amnesia.
- In Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, Holmes receives an envelope that is supposed to contain a coded message from Dr. Tobel, containing vital information regarding the bomb sight. However, when he opens the envelope, he finds the coded message has been replaced by a taunting note from Professor Moriarty.
- Home: Frank Money receives a note that says, "Come fast. She be dead if you tarry." This causes Frank to start his journey home to save his sister.
- In The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Henry Baskerville receives a message consisting of words cut and pasted from the London Times warning him to stay away from the moor (where Baskerville Manor was).
- Mysterious poison-pen letters (together with pranks and outright vandalism) are part of a plot against Shrewsbury College, Oxford in Gaudy Night.
- A couple of these appear in Aunt Dimity Takes a Holiday. The notes' author employs the classic pasted-letters-cut-from-printed-material technique.
- In The Girl from the Miracles District, Ture leaves Nikita a note serving as a Sequel Hook, promising her that "the truth" is hidden in a remote Norwegian village.
- Parodied in Lords and Ladies, when Verence receives a technically-anonymous note which, in eccentric spelling, advises him to deal with Magrat's indecision over marriage by simply taking the decision out of her hands, gets sidetracked to point out that witches don't pay taxes and this should continue, and is signed "A Friend (Mss)". Whether this has anything to do with the witch who knows what's best for everyone, has eccentric spelling, and signs herself "Esmeralda Weatherwax (Mss)" is for the reader to determine...
- Dead End Job Mysteries: In book 8, Helen starts getting anonymous threatening letters in the mail, which she figures are related to her current murder investigation. It turns out to be her ultra-religious mother trying to stop her upcoming wedding, since she considers Helen to be still married to her first husband.
- In The X-Files, Agent Mulder repeatedly receives revealing documents on various conspiracies from his informants. They try to be sneaky about it.
- In an episode of Magic City, an envelope is shoved under the door. When opened, it contains a photo with "$20,000" written on the back. The photo shows one of the heroes in bed with a mobster's wife and is clearly an attempt at blackmail.
- Mysterious notes or objects are often the catalyst for Scott Wolter's investigations on America Unearthed.
- Silent Hill 4: Henry can receive messages from the dark world if he slides blank pieces of paper under his door. Better go check on your neighbor!
- The Dream Machine has it's main plot started by one Viktor finds in his new apartment.
- World of Warcraft: At the start of the Mists of Pandaria legendary questline, you receive this conveniently named item, indicating that the last of the Black Dragons wishes to recruit you to save the world.
- You can get these from couriers in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The most common and benign are letters from "a friend" who heard you Shouting somewhere and give you directions to another Word of power you can use as you develop your Dragonborn skills. More ominous is an annonymous note you receive if you start looking into the Dark Brotherhood, which consists of nothing but an image of a black hand and the words "WE KNOW." The next time you sleep after getting this note, you'll be kidnapped by one of the assassins, who makes a macabre recruitment offer.