"Reaching an end to his path, Eric found a locked door, the lock was a combination of 4 numbers, and above the doorknob a script explaining the lock : 'finishing four circles, a lost day is found' "

This is an imaginary script, I want to know if I should solve the riddle for the reader, or just say that the character discovered the solution and got past it and move on ?

One last thing, A game is under-development based on this story, And I don't care if it will affect gameplay or not, because if he read the book he already knows the end of the game :p

  • Why don't you say rounds instead of circles, for a bit of rhyme. Mar 26, 2013 at 21:07
  • well, rounds it is, yet you must know that i made this riddle real quick just to explain what's the issue
    – SAFAD
    Mar 26, 2013 at 21:12
  • Also, it may be relevant that while most of the world writes 29/02, in the U.S. many write 02/29. Mar 26, 2013 at 21:15
  • As I said earlier, this riddle is just an example, it means nothing to the main story, so anything about it is not really important, what is important, should I solve the riddle in the book or not ?
    – SAFAD
    Mar 26, 2013 at 21:20

3 Answers 3


As always in a good story, I'd say it depends.

Is the riddle itself relevant to the story? Or, is the method of solving it relevant to the story? If so, I think it's fair to show the reader how the protagonist solves the riddle, even if it ends up boiling down only to something like he thought about it for a moment before it dawned on him that these astronomically centered people probably meant circles around the sun, making it obvious that they were somehow referring to leap years.

If the riddle or method of solution isn't relevant to the story, then I'd leave it out altogether. The protagonist encounters some undecipherable (by him/her) symbols, which there is no need to explain further, next to a lock, and he starts thinking through what he knows of the people who left it or even just tries combinations at random. Exactly what works then would depend on the established backstory - obviously it can't be completely indecipherable if he is the established expert on the people or culture, for example.

Bottom line, the reader is probably reading the story for entertainment, not to be quizzed at puzzles. So whether you decide to outline the process of solving the riddle in excruciating detail, or just do a little bit of hand-waving, don't simply dismiss the obstacle you introduced for your character. There are few things more jarring (and breaking suspension of disbelief) than bits of story which are introduced and then left completely unexplained to the reader. If you aren't willing to explain it (the lock in this case), don't introduce it at all (leave the door unlocked).

  • Thank you! you have just inspired me to something even bigger in the story ! an addition must be done <3
    – SAFAD
    Mar 26, 2013 at 22:07
  • @SAFAD I'm glad I could help.
    – user
    Mar 26, 2013 at 22:09
  • Yes, this -- if it's important enough to mention the riddle then the question merits some air time, and if it's not important, then we don't need to know what the specific riddle is either. Mar 27, 2013 at 19:43

You can do both by leaving the riddle unexplained at the time but later have another character demand to know how the protagonist passed the door. Then the method can be explained to reinforce the smugness of those who worked it out or to put the rest of us out of the misery of not knowing.


I think you need to be fair. A puzzle with no solution offered to the reader seems like cheating to me.

My current novel has some encrypted text. I show the full text to the reader. The protagonist tries and fails to decipher it. This gives the reader the opportunity to try for himself if he wants to, or just continue reading if he doesn't want to.

Later the protagonist figures out how to decipher the text. This is briefly explained in the text, but the whole process isn't shown - just the finished result. Again, the reader could decode the message by himself if he wants to.

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