1. isaac223

    isaac223 Active Member

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    Murder Mystery In A Fantasy Setting - Is it Plausible?

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by isaac223, Sep 17, 2017.

    The murder mystery genre has been known to focus on detectives or police officers meticulously scourging crime scenes for evidence of how and why a murder was committed and by whom by employing grand feats of deductive reasoning. However, known to accompany a detective's logic is science, most notably forensic, but what if assume that rather than scientific rules being used to prove or disprove the validity of a witness's statement or to see new possibilities as for what happened, it were magical laws?

    Assuming this happens in a setting where knowledge of magic is commonplace, perhaps witnesses can claim to have witnessed somebody cast a spell to murder a victim, but how they claim the spell was cast, from where or how it was utilized doesn't add up with how the spell actually operates? Or, in a setting where superhuman abilities are common place and vary massively from person to person, be it in sheer nature, degree or breadth, these abilities act as a sort of "fingerprint", so if a murder is carried out using these abilities, perhaps they could utilize them in a way that makes it look like somebody else's abilities were used to commit the crime -- in a way, them using their abilities in a way that makes it look like no abilities were used in the committing of the crime, or making it look like a different ability was used, could be the supernatural equivalent of "wiping away your fingerprints".

    But it seems like they would be very short. It seems like once the "detective" figured out how the spell doesn't work like how a witness claimed it did, and then found out how someone else could've actually used it in that situation, it'd be way too easy, perhaps, to finger a culprit? Or perhaps the world-building could detract from the mysteries or vice versa? In what way could one find a balance of fantasy and murder mystery? World-building and mystery? How could clues be hidden in ways that don't make it impossible for the detective to figure it out? How would witness testimony even play into it? Would witnesses seeing what happened make figuring out the real culprit all too easy?
     
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  2. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    Short answer: I don't see why not.

    Longer answer: I think it can be as complicated or simple as you need it to be. You're making the rules, so ...

    My wip is low fantasy with mystery elements (albeit not murder mystery), and I worked this out by letting the reader know what the rules are and playing by them, just playing with them in what I hope to be a way that's interesting without feeling cheaty. You need to know what your magic rules are, but the good news is that they can be whatever your story needs them to be. My wip introduces a wizard of great power, who turns out to be a charlatan - but I never had them do anything they shouldn't've been able to do, so if you read back knowing the full story, you can see that I kept to my own rules and never liked to the reader.

    Let's say Joe was killed with a very complex incineration spell. Detective knows that A) only skilled magicians can even use this spell, and B) it takes X amount of time to channel/ cast. So they look at people with the time and ability to do so. But in the worldbuilding you also tell the reader that spells can be bound to objects - maybe it's as mundane as the street lights being enchanted to glow. So although Detective focuses on the more obvious solution of "a magician killed Joe", you've established that a muggle could do it if they just had an enchanted object. So, who enchanted it? Maybe they have some sort of magical signature that could lead to them, but the muggle asked for a different 'signature' instead, to frame someone else, so earlier in the story you establish that this type of 'forgery' is possible. But wait! It actually was a magician, and she just used the enchantment to get around the signature thing in the first place, even though you've told the reader that it's socially considered distasteful - or it's even illegal - for magicians to use others' magic. She just hated Joe that much.

    It's the same as any mystery, I think. You make sure the reader has all of the information before it's needed. It's just that in this case the information is "elves have green blood" so that when Joe is reduced to a scorched spatter, we all get to gasp in unison that the spatter is green, and we all thought Joe was a human.
     
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  3. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm going to cite this as proof that it can be done successfully, not to say "Oh, that's been done before." From Wikipedia:

    *Emphasis mine.

    And I really love those books, so go for it.
     
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  4. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    As for this aspect, think about how little most modern people really know about how modern devices work, and how much their worldviews are colored by conscious or unconscious prejudices. If, in your world, your average person has very little knowledge of exactly how magic works, the detective would be sorting through a whole bunch of unreliable eyewitness reports that focused on religious or ethnic minorities being blamed for the crime because "everyone knows they use those black magics", people mistaking flyswatters for wands, regular weather events for witchcraft, etc etc.
     
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  5. isaac223

    isaac223 Active Member

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    Clearly, my good sir, you must be Shu Takumi in disguise because only the grand creator of Ace Attorney could conjure up such a comically clever contradiction in witness testimony.
     
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  6. isaac223

    isaac223 Active Member

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    But in all seriousness, what you say makes sense. I need to think of why and how eyewitnesses reports contain misinformation and mistakes, and what circumstance could possibly cause the eyewitness to believe that what didn't happen did happen or vice versa.
     
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  7. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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    There's also the Dresden Files.
     
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  8. Jason Govender

    Jason Govender Member

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    Surprisingly I thought of almost the same premise and have started writing. Maybe not a murder mystery but just a detective duo in a medieval fantasy thrust into something bigger than they should be able to handle. This incorporates a large amount of clue-finding and crime-solving. If you have started already I would love to hear how its going and maybe we could bounce ideas off of each other.
     
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  9. isaac223

    isaac223 Active Member

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    I almost always work better having someone more skilled than I am throw my ideas back at me, so that sounds rather fun!
     
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  10. Jason Govender

    Jason Govender Member

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    I definitely think 'skilled' is a strong word for what I am at the moment:superlaugh: I think it'll help us both to at least finish our works. My email is jasongovender97@gmail.com. Send me whatever you have at the moment and I'll send you my first chapter when I get it done which should be soon.
     
  11. isaac223

    isaac223 Active Member

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    I'm sorry I hadn't gotten back to you yet, mate! I've gotten caught up in life and, well, other projects of mine, so it completely slipped my mind to contact you.

    I'll go ahead and tell you I do not have much done as of yet, and not enough to really make something presentable out of, though I do hope you'll go ahead and send me the first chapter at minus223@live.com.
     
  12. GrammarJedi

    GrammarJedi New Member

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    Since it's been done many times, in many ways, there's certainly no reason it can't be done again.

    You have to keep in mind that, even though your world has magic, it is still going to have limitations, just like the real world does. If it doesn't, you don't have a story. So, just like the real world, magical forensics is going to have things it cannot solve quickly and easily (or at all), and you're still going to have to have detective work. What those limitations are and how your characters work around them is where your story is going to be.

    Consider all of your questions in the context of the real world first. Detectives figuring out that things can't have happened the way they're supposed to believe they did is frequently the first indication that a crime was committed (think murder mocked up to look like a suicide). How are clues hidden in the real world to make it difficult for detectives to figure out (if it's impossible, you again won't have a story)? How does witness testimony play into real-life investigations? Does the existence of witnesses make it too easy to figure out whodunit in real life (the answer is "frequently not")?

    World-building shouldn't detract from the mystery for the simple reason that the world-building will be a major part of the mystery itself. How does magic work in your story? What does it actually do, how does it do it, and what can't it do? Your culprit is going to know magic exists and what its rules are, just as real-life culprits know at least some of the forensic rules of the real world, and he's going to be looking for ways to work around that. So figure out what those rules are, and then figure out how you would get around them to commit a crime without getting caught.

    Joel Rosenberg wrote three books (one which was never published, I believe) about a fantasy world where his main character introduced the practice of detective work to solve crimes into the society. The two books I read were quite good, and you should consider taking a look at them to get some ideas.
     
  13. Privateer

    Privateer Senior Member

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    It worked pretty well several times for Terry Pratchett and Jim Butcher, so there's no reason why it can't work again.

    Murder by magic is still just murder.

    'Oh, I saw him hex him!'

    'But he didn't die from that spell...'


    Is no different in practice than:

    'I saw that guy shoot him with that gun!'

    'But the bullet in the body is the wrong calibre...'


    So who fired the shot/cast the hex, if not the guy cooling his heels in the cells?
     
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  14. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Not only plausible, it has been done numerous times. If that’s what you want to write, go for it.
     

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