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Creo23
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 25, 2012 8:52 pm    Post subject: Help to explain whydunit Reply with quote #40526

Hi. This is my fist post here. I have read the three books and they are the best I have ever read about storytelling and writing and I have learned a lot, but could someone explain Whydunit?

I have written mostly Monster in the House stories and I feel that I am getting the hang of it, but now i want to try to write a whydunit.

Is there anyone who can elaborate and maybe give me some examples of Whydunits, i still feel the books dont give me enough for me to grasp it completely.

Thanks.


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Rachel T.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 25, 2012 10:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote #40527

Welcome to the site! Very Happy

There aren't many Whydunnit movies, so it's difficult to give you a very long list. But Clue, and I, Robot come to mind.



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quade
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 26, 2012 12:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote #40528

“There is only one story: nothing is as it seems” -- Jim Thompson.

You can agree or disagree with that, but I believe it's the essence of Whydunit. And certainly if anybody knew what he was talking about on the subject, it was Jim Thompson.

At the root of every good mystery is why somebody did what they did; their motivation. People in real life generally don't do random acts of violence. Even if they did, it wouldn't make much of a story since you can't really learn anything useful from a random roll of the dice.

You've said you're comfortable writing Monster in the House type stories. Whydunit is related, but the key difference is why the monster is a monster to begin with. What made him a monster? Beyond that, what made the thing that made the monster a monster do what it did to make him a monster?

A woman kills a man, because he is her father and was raping her daughter, who was the result of him raping her to begin with.

If I were you and beginning research into this type of story, I'd start at what most people consider to be the beginning; Sherlock Holmes. I'd start with the very first story, A Study in Scarlet. Not a movie adaptation, but the book.

You can get into a thousand other stories and movies later, but I would absolutely begin there.

After that you might want to get into things like; Citizen Kane, Rashômon, Chinatown, The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, Twin Peaks, L.A. Confidential, The Manchurian Candidate. I don't know if you have a Netflix account, but some can be found there including an old TV series, Columbo.


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Creo23
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 26, 2012 8:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote #40530

Thank you for great answers. I will definitely look into Sherlock Holmes. Love Chinatown and L.A Confidential too.

I am also wondering, does the mystery have to be a murder or can it be something else (I realize that murder creates a more interesting story then say, figuring out who stole a cake)
I love the movie Caché by Haneke. I believe this to be a Whydunit. (It might also be a MITH)

It is about about a man who receives packages containing videos of himself with his family--shot secretly from the street. Gradually, the footage on the tapes becomes more personal, suggesting that the sender has known Georges for some time. Georges feels a sense of menace hanging over him and his family.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0387898/plotsummary

Hanekes other film, The White Ribbon is also a great Whydunit,but here the mystery is a series of murders.

Does anyone have any ideas to other mysteries than murders?
It would probably have to be some act of menace to create an interesting story through.

Wow, It is really interesting to explore genres.

And if someone have some great examples of the "dark turn" it would truly be appreciated. Smile


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Hollywood crAZRick
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 26, 2012 11:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote #40531

DARK TURN

in Ace Ventura Pet Detective, the Whydunnit is who abducted Snowflake the dolphin and why

Ace is a Pet Detective, he makes it clear early on 'I don't do humans'

by the Midpoint, he has bedded Melissa, and by the All is Lost, he has made out passionately with Lieutenant Lois Einhorn...

... but Einhorn is Finkle... Finkle is Einhorn... Einhorn is a man!!

Ace's Dark Turn is that he breaks his own rules, he does humans, including the Evil Antagonist Mastermind...



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quade
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 26, 2012 3:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote #40533

Creo23 wrote:
Does anyone have any ideas to other mysteries than murders?

You are right in they are mostly about murders. I think that's a function though of what is "shocking" for audiences and allows them to ask the basic question, why would anybody do such a thing?

Other, smaller crimes can sometimes be a bit too relatable. A thief who steals money is all too obvious. Everybody wants money, so it really isn't a mystery as to what the motivation is, at least not an obvious mystery.

I think today you could probably do something interesting with somebody like a Julian Assange. Here is a guy caught up in international intrigue, releasing state secrets, considered an intellectual terrorist by some, yet he hasn't personally committed any murders, just released secrets; why? What's his game and why does he choose to play it? It doesn't look as if there is a profit motive, so what the hell is he up to?


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RobbRoss
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 26, 2012 6:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote #40536

Blake lists 10 cousins for each of the five Whydunnit subcategories. That's 50 movies to read or watch to better understand this style of story.


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Rachel T.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 26, 2012 10:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote #40539

Well, if we're going to branch away from movies... Very Happy

Scarecrow and Mrs King - this 80's tv show was a precursor to Alias, but often had mystery plots.

Remington Steele - the 80's classic that basically launched Pierce Brosnan, about a straight-laced female private eye who invents a male boss to appease clients, only to have her boss's make-believe shoes filled by a very real, very charming con man. Some eps are murders, some thefts, some missing persons - and some require Mr Steele and Ms Holt to do the stealing (which technically makes them GFs, but who's counting? Laughing).

Columbo
Matlock
Diagnosis Murder
NCIS
and NCIS: LA
CSI
and variants
Psych
Castle


And if we're going to open up the book aisle...
Edgar Allen Poe's hero C. Auguste Dupin - the grandfather of all detective fiction
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes - arguably its reigning king
Agatha Christie - the grande dame
Dashiell Hammett's Maltese Falcon and Thin Man
Raymond Chandler
Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody books (some stray into adventure/thriller territory)
Lindsey Davis' Marcus Falco novels - hard-boiled detective fiction set c.62-74 AD Rome
Carole Nelson Douglas' Irene Adler (about Sherlock Holmes' "The Woman") and alphabetical Midnight Louie books
There are scores of others - the bookstores usually have a section devoted to them.



As Quade touched on, Whydunnits and MITHs are often two sides of the same coin. However, I disagree that the treatment of the Monster is even the key way in which the two genres are different. Off the top of my head:

MITHs
the hero is being chased
the hero is guilty of a Sin, but is unaware of it
the hero is confined to a location, called the House
getting out of the House is a major plot hurdle
the Monster is tailored to, and seeks to punish the hero for, the Sin
the hero is only saved by acknowledging his Sin and repenting of it
the Monster is aware of the hero, usually before the hero is aware of the Monster
little is hidden from the hero except the way out of the House - he cannot leave when he wants
the audience sides with the one being punished

Whydunnits
the hero is the one doing to chasing
the hero is often aware of the fact that he is guilty of something which society deems a sin, but which he does not
the hero's search is confined to a group of people, aka "suspects"
the hero does not wish to escape this circle, and must actually winnow it down even further
the villain is often aware that the hero is on his tail, while the hero has only a vague idea of the villain
the villain is the guilty one, and it is the hero who seeks to punish him
the hero can only solve the case by taking a Dark Turn, which often means embracing the 'sin' that separates him from society
everything is hidden from the hero, though he is free to walk away from the case at any time
the audience sides with the one doing the punishing

Whydunnits also have elements of GF (a search for the truth, and sometimes a strong caper/heist-focused Act 2), Superhero (the hero's observation and deductive skills often put him outside society), and yes, even MITH (there is a Whydunnit sub-genre called a "thriller" which is a hybrid of the Why and MITH plots, in which the hero is selected and pursued by a Monster, but also solves clues to unravel the Monster's identity - most things written by Mary Higgins Clark fall in this category).



I also want to add that, while I agree with Blake about a lot of things, I think "Whydunnit" is a misnomer. Many of the classics in this genre use "why" as a clue, offering up several possibilities during the course of the investigation while saving the "who" for the big, final reveal at the end. (Thus they were called "Whodunnits" before Blake came along.) If you can give the villain a "why" that the audience doesn't see coming, that's a bonus, but it's not a requirement.



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Creo23
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2012 10:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote #40548

Great replies again. Thanks

The MITH and Whydunit comparison was a great help, Rachel T.

Now I just have to begin wirting Laughing


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Rachel T.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2012 9:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote #40551

Creo23 wrote:
Now I just have to begin wirting

"Just." Laughing Laughing

Glad I could help. Very Happy



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William
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 29, 2012 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote #40554

We have many whydunnits posted on wikiscreenplay including all the ones Blake lists in his books.

You are correct in suggesting there aren't as many as other types of films out there, but there are still more than enough to research and use as a guideline in writing your own.



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gdeangrant
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2013 7:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote #40757

Watch Masterpiece Mystery on PBS

Or better yet read Agatha Christie. She has sold 4 billion books. The Master indeed-

Death on the Nile is a good one to read- to watch amovie, try Murder on the Orient express. She lays out all the clues for you and never hides the ball and you won't figure it out. MotOE has a classic scene at the end when the murderer is exposed or not. This story is very structured, and uses the textbook elements of a whydunnit to fool you.


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gdeangrant
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2013 8:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote #40758

I am also not sure I would use Sherlock Holmes as an example, much as I am a fan. The main character is Watson, and the protagonist is Holmes, and that is a hard trick to pull off. To my point on Watson, the stories are all told from his viewpoint, with a few unsuccessful exceptions.


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quade
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2013 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote #40759

gdeangrant wrote:
I am also not sure I would use Sherlock Holmes as an example, much as I am a fan. The main character is Watson, and the protagonist is Holmes, and that is a hard trick to pull off. To my point on Watson, the stories are all told from his viewpoint, with a few unsuccessful exceptions.


The books are from Watson's point of view, but Holmes is absolutely the main character.


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gdeangrant
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2013 9:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote #40760

quade wrote:
gdeangrant wrote:
I am also not sure I would use Sherlock Holmes as an example, much as I am a fan. The main character is Watson, and the protagonist is Holmes, and that is a hard trick to pull off. To my point on Watson, the stories are all told from his viewpoint, with a few unsuccessful exceptions.


The books are from Watson's point of view, but Holmes is absolutely the main character.


I'm not so sure. Watson is a lot more active in the stories than on the screens. He does all the changing. He gets the girl, gets the familty, and his practice back and grows as a person due to his relationship with Holmes. Holmes on the other hand is the same person when he goes over the Reichenback Falls as when we meet him in a Study in Scarlet. Its Watson who evolves.


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