The Difference: Intrigue, Mystery and Confusion

While watching an Asian drama I decided to look at the reviews before continuing. I do this sometimes because; some viewers tend to post spoilers about the show they are watching. This is sometimes helpful for me not to waste my time on a show I would hate. The dramas I watch are posted on a website of which I am a member and I am able to browse through the episodes or jump to the reviews before watching. 

Anyway, I was on episode two and not sure if I wanted to continue. While reading through the reviews I noticed some of the commenters mentioned how confused they were. One person mentioned intrigue and it got me to thinking about the difference between the two. 

The drama in question is supposed to have some amount of mystery that will intrigue the audience, however, it ended up causing a lot of confusion. I noticed in episode one, I was confused about some things as well as episode two. I sorted out the confusion after a while and am now on ep 3.

Here is the thing about writing that many people don't get.

Although there is a huge difference between writing a story and a screenplay, there are certain rules that remain constant in 'writing'. The aim of the writing is to keep the reader/viewer intrigued or interested. The minute the reader becomes confused is the moment the writer fails. A reader/viewer may stick it out in the hopes that the confusion will be made clear in the near future. If, by the end of the story, movie, drama or play, the reader/viewer isn't clearer on those issues, then the writer clearly sucked!


Don't confuse intrigue with mystery. An intriguing plot is not necessarily a mysterious one. Intrigue is interesting. In other words, if you manage to hold the interest of the reader, you have clearly intrigued them. The level of intrigue is another matter. For the reader/viewer to be intrigued you must hold their interest at the beginning of the story/show. An otherwise great novel/movie can fail if you can't hold the audience's interest from the beginning.


We often confuse mystery with confusion. Not knowing what's happening can go two ways. The reader can be highly intrigued and tries to figure it out while dying to see what happens. Or, the reader can get so confused by the plot while he wades through it and try to clear the fog.

Mystery is when you keep the audience glued to your masterpiece without giving away too much all at once. The key is to give a little at a time to keep the audience, and then having the big reveal as the climax.


You want to avoid this as much as possible, thought there are times it can’t hurt to confuse. Confusion is when the reader/viewer can't decipher what you are trying to show them. There is no clear plot and the characters are here and there. There is an upside to confusion that may work, but not all the time. If you are writing about a murder and you make it seemed like one person did it while the other is innocent, you have clearly confused your reader in a good way. That is not bad.

One negative way of confusing your audience is to make the plot hard to figure out. For instance, if you are writing a murder mystery make sure the reader understands that. Don't wait until the middle of the script to make that clear. Make the murder clear from the beginning and keep the “who done it” until the reveal. Also, make sure the reader understands whom the antagonists and protagonists are. You also need to define supporting character roles from earlier on.

One way to confuse your reader is to switch the plot line. You start by making the script’s focal point about ‘Harry’s big day in town’, but the climax of the story is ‘Susan’s day at the salon’. You failed to mention Susan throughout the script, then all of a sudden she is the life of the party.

Define your main plot along with your subplots. Make sure they tie into your story somehow.

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