Tropes are plot devices, the key points a writer hits if he/she wants to please the reader. Our brains have been trained to expect certain things to happen in certain types of stories.
The Aboveboard Mystery
- Utilizes rules of fair play:
- Coined in during the Golden Age of Detective Fiction (1930) & still used today
- Villain appears early in story
- No use of the Supernatural
- One passage/secret room per story
- No secret poisons.
- Nothing needing a long scientific explanation is allowed
- No coincidence or lucky accidents will help the sleuth
- Protagonist/sleuth does not commit the crime
- Every clue the sleuth finds, he discloses
- Sidekick (think Dr. Watson) is less intelligent than the reader
- Sidekick does not hide his thoughts from the reader
- Twins do not appear in the story as a general rule
Many authors start at the end when formulating this type of story. There will always be a ‘let me explain’ moment near the end by the sleuth where all clues are revealed, including the false/red herring ones.
In this type of mystery, the reader is given the chance to solve the mystery ahead of the sleuth.
The Bollixed Enigma
AKA: The Clueless Mystery
- The reader may or may not be given all the clues to solving the mystery
- Often narrated by a person who is not the sleuth or the villain
- The reader has no true chance to solve the mystery
Example: All the clues point to characters 1, 2, 3, or 4. But 5 is the villain, appearing at the end of the story with no previous introduction in the story.
I Know the Answers But How Will the Sleuth Solve This Apparent Perfect Crime?
AKA: The Reversed Whodunnit or Open Mystery
- Who, what, when, where, and why are given
- Ingredients: intelligent criminal, complex crime, and a very intelligent sleuth
mystery, tropes, whodunnits, mysteries