The first step in writing a murder mystery is to create a synopsis of the scenario. Here
are the main things to consider:
Mood/Theme of the Mystery - The mood or theme is the historical reference or specific content of the mystery. For example, you could have a Wild West mystery, or a winery mystery, or an all-woman mystery. The mood or theme determines all subsequent work.
Setting - The setting is the location where the mystery is taking place. This could be, for example, in a winery, on a boat, in a mansion, or even at a specific location in a particular city. (Although this is very tricky if members of your audience are very familiar with the
Location of the Body - This refers to the exact spot where the body of the victim was found. It could be, for instance, floating in the river, under an oak tree, at the bottom of a staircase, or on a beach.
Cause of Death - This describes how the victim died. Only a brief overview should be revealed at the start of the mystery. Later, additional details should be added in the form of, say, a newscast, a coroner's report, a police report, or other similar methods of notification. Examples of cause of death are: a stab wound to the heart, strangulation, or a blow to the head. If too much about the cause of death is revealed up front, the murder could be solved too soon. Facts must be built upon other facts to achieve a satisfactory resolution to the case.
Clues found on the Body - What facts about the body can be used by the investigators when solving the case? Some of the information can be “red herrings, " facts that might seem important but that lead the investigators down a false path. The clues can refer to physical objects found on the body, or even to the positioning of the body. For instance, objects could be found in pockets, markings could be left in the sand, or jewelry could be worn by the victim.
Clues found in the Vicinity of the Body - What other objects or details in the immediate
area around the body should the investigators be aware of? For example, it could be an
open window with unique scrapings on the window sill, or marks left on a wall from a
Name of the Victim - While you may want to name the victim as soon as you start writing, I've found it easier to think of a name after the above details of the scenario are finalized. I like names with alliteration such as Myron Mason, Peter Petulant, Bertha Brothert, etc. , etc.
Important Facts about the Victim - What should be known up front to help the investigators develop theories about why someone would have wanted to kill this person? The victim, for instance, could have been a greedy industrialist, a fortune teller to the rich and famous, or a wealthy casino owner. THIS IS IMPORTANT: Make the victim someone with a shaky past that few, if any people, feel any affection for. It's easier to investigate the death of someone who deserved to meet an untimely end than someone whom many people liked and respected.
Jack Pachuta has been writing and facilitating murder mystery party events for over 25 years. Through his websites, he markets his products and services to a worldwide clientele. In addition to his downloadable products, he provides advice and consultation on how to create the perfect whodunit experience. Plus, he orchestrates “mystery seminars, " unique experiential learning events in which solving a case is tied to key organizational and personal topics.