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Murder mysteries are not posted often, as it appears. I'm interested in writing one (more like five in a series), and I'd like to know what is acceptable and what is not.

Continuous story?

Inspired by ace attorney, I'm considering making some puzzles connected, such that in order to deduce information, you may have to review evidence from a previous case. I'm thinking it's ok, but it also prevents people from not starting at the beginning, and it may be frustrating to find out that it may have been an unsolvable case without previous information.

Writing: Gender?

Reading through Mysterious Murder Mystery, I noticed that absolutely nothing indicated the gender of the main character, referred to as "you". Is it ok to assert a gender while maintaining a story written in second person? What about giving a name? I imagine it could break immersion.

* Logical deduction vs. Lateral thinking*

(FYI: I'm writing the series backwards) In one murder, a woman is the only detected thermal signature to enter a completely sealed, empty, and locked room. She carries a box with her. Eventually, the assassin walks out and the woman is dead from a stab wound. Of course, more information is given than this. One could say, "The woman was suicidal and hired an assassin to kill her, who was hidden in the box filled with ice." It's VALID, and might be as plausible as the intended solution, which I won't mention. I could add even more evidence to refute such possibilities, but as a result, it makes the solution much more obvious. Essentially, how much of the mystery should be deduction, and how much should be lateral thinking? To what extent should the murderer be purely deducible?

Red Herrings

IMO, red herrings are a "fast food" method for increasing difficulty. For instance, the main character might get yelled at by some driver, even though it may not be relevant at all. I prefer to make virtually all details relevant to the solution. I don't feel like irrelevant details make anyone happy. Does the community agree?

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My thoughts, such as they are:

Continuous story?

There are other puzzle-series on the site, many of which have been pretty well received. Where the context from earlier parts is needed for later parts, it would be more than advisable to (a) include in each part navigation links to the previous and next entries, and (b) note that the series builds on itself (I would do this in every entry, so you're not just including it in the parts to which it applies—that sort of sticks out like a sore thumb).

You say the solver "may have to review evidence from a previous case." I would strongly recommend that any evidence reused later is something that stands out in the case in which it first appears, and ideally as part of the solution to that case. It wouldn't be a good idea to make a solver looking at Case #5 have to review de novo every tidbit of evidence presented in not only the current case, but in the four that preceded it. If the required information could be gleaned by skimming the prior cases and reading their accepted solutions, that to me would be best.

Writing: Gender?

To me, the biggest reason to write a story in the second person is for immersion. If the reader is supposed to feel present in the story, there's little more distracting from that than being referred to by the wrong gender and/or name. I've seen other stories written in the style of "You, Ace Detective John Ventura, are on the case!" - and that works too, but sacrifices a good deal of the immersion.

Logical deduction vs. Lateral thinking

Someone, I don't recall who, once noted that the best answer to a riddle (or a puzzle) is the one with the most parsimonious fit—that is, the one that fits everything provided, and requires the fewest assumptions (or inventions) not given or hinted by the setter. I completely agree; a good answer should be one that doesn't require wild and unmotivated stretches of the imagination. Logical deduction arrives at conclusions based on what is given; lateral thinking takes what is given and looks at it in creative or unconventional ways, but still is interpreting what was provided. Neither should require (or, in my opinion, tolerate) answers that are largely pulled wholesale from someone's posterior. "You didn't say foo wasn't the case!" shouldn't be a valid defense of an answer.

I think most puzzles and riddles don't have to waste their time ruling out completely unmotivated "solutions"; we intuitively know that if we have to go through those kinds of gyrations to argue for why a proposed solution is valid, it's probably not the intended solution.

Ruling out more obvious incorrect answers, making sure there is enough constraints to prevent too-broad puzzles, and striking a balance between completely logical-deduction and lateral-thinking to keep the solution on the rails but more than just plodding mechanically through the clues, I think is the best overall approach.

Red Herrings

Making a puzzle or riddle more difficult just by throwing in red herrings is frustrating to the solver unless they're not only intentional but also resolved within the puzzle itself - I don't want to pursue a clue or line of thinking, feel like it's leading somewhere, and then have no way to see if I'm right or wrong short of serendipitously arriving at a complete solution. Red herrings can be fun, but only when they lead you somewhere interesting and then make it obvious you've hit a dead end (ideally in a humorous way).

Extraneous details that are part of story-building are pretty normal, but are often separated from the meat of the puzzle through formatting blocks or the like. I think this setup works well, and doesn't make people have to guess what is relevant to the solution and what isn't.

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