So I’ve called this meta-knowledge/metagaming because I don’t know the literary term for it. First, I will provide a definition of metagaming for those unfamiliar…

“Metagaming is a term used in role-playing games, which describes a player’s use of real-life knowledge concerning the state of the game to determine their character’s actions, when said character has no relevant knowledge or awareness under the circumstances. This can refer to plot information in the game such as secrets or events occurring away from the character, as well as facets of the game’s mechanics such as abstract statistics or the precise limits of abilities. Metagaming is an example of “breaking character”, as the character is making decisions based on information they could not know and thus would not make in reality.” - Wikipedia circa 900 Anno Domini, colorized

So without being vague and withholding information from the reader (please make the distinction between the reader and the character as they are seperate entities) that would make something appear bland, how do you give the reader a generalized understanding of what’s happening while being secretive enough that the dynamic can potentially change on different playthroughs?

One example could be the assassination of a king. There is, in an assassination, ultimately a murderer involved or a coup. However, if we leave too much evidence it points at a single person. The goal here is to blur the lines so it could be any potential person and the evidence can potentially changed based on playthroughs to implicate one person or another. HOWEVER! Any good plot needs an eventual “this happened” with X being who our murderer is and Y being how they did it (probably easily established on the latter even despite multiple avenues of evidence).

Sorry if this is very vaguely worded. Having trouble articulating this concept. In a nutshell; how do we give the readers a clue enough to form a hunch on but without enough information that it’s merely a hunch while simultaneously being interesting?

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Disputably whydunit is considered more important and satisfying than whodunit.

I think you’re asking how to say enough without saying too much.

  • No single evidence should be enough to make a case;
  • Implant conflicting or misleading pieces of evidence (red herring);
  • Sometimes it’s okay if the reader gets it before the character (dramatic irony), just make sure to use it in your favour (such as having the unsuspecting character having tea with the real murderer after arresting the wrong suspect. Will they realize in time?! :scream:).

On the first part, I believe the literary equivalent is mimesis vs diegesis.

Mimesis shows rather than tells, by means of action that is enacted. Diegesis is the telling of a story by a narrator.


I’ve seen it used as: Mimesis is anything that is known by means of showing, like a game hud or character sheet. Diegesis refers to anything that exists inside the story world. Roughly speaking.

Mimesis vs Diegesis
Mimesis (IF Wiki)


I’d argue this; why not both?

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I don’t have an opinion one way or another. :grin:

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In regard to the mystery for the reader:
Your question seems to be less about meta-gaming and more about how to foreshadow for multiple outcomes. In linear novels, there are clues that are considered “red herrings” (they intentionally lead the reader in the wrong direction). In your case, your clues would fluctuate between red herrings and true clues depending on player choices (ie depending on the outcome of the mystery, which changes per playthrough). The best mysteries have multiple clues that all point in different directions, and I think this would also work for an IF. The reader suspects multiple culprits/motives, but is never really sure until the end.

In regard to the mystery for the character (ie: meta-gaming)
As a counter-point to allowing the character to figure clues out organically, you could also hang a lantern on the “meta” aspect–eg have the character acknowledge that the information/conclusion came out of nowhere. They might even suspect that there’s some external force driving their decisions, or that they inexplicably have access to knowledge they shouldn’t…
This obviously would change the flavour of your story quite a bit, but it could be fun!