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McKinley Valentine on the user experience of the whodunnit (and neural networks)

The Whippet #126 is great. The Whippet is reliably good, and you should subscribe because (as this edition makes clear), it will be a while before AI can do McKinley’s Valentine’s job.

But for now, here’s a great reflection on how the whodunnit (and I think, by extension, all writing) is really about creating a particular experience or feeling the reader:

So, when a mystery writer is writing a book / film / tv show — let’s say show — their target is for you, the audience, to figure out who did it just a few minutes before the detective does. If you figure it out too early, you’ll get bored. And if you figure it out after the show reveals it, you lose the joy of solving a puzzle and feeling clever.

(The writer is not aiming to outsmart you, because they’re not in competition with you. They’re trying to create something fun for you. If you figure it out just a bit before it’s revealed, I’m sorry, you have not outsmarted the writer, you have fallen exactly into their trap, the trap of “having an enjoyable experience”.)

McKinley Valentine, The Whippet #126, emphasis mine.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...