Put on your detective hat Sherlock Holmes; it’s time to start uncovering some clues.
The first thing to keep in mind is that learning how to write a murder mystery is no walk in the park, but once you learn all the aspects and get into a flow, it can become addictive.
This article will teach you how to pull thought-provoking scenarios from the depths of your soul that are dying to be tied together to tell the most incredible mystery story. A story that readers won’t be able to put down until they find the answers. In a story, you’ve masterfully pieced together to keep them guessing at every turn of the page.
“Murder mysteries are puzzles that are fun to resolve” – Kathy Reichs
Key Elements of Mystery Plotting
1. The Idea
First, you’ll want to develop an intriguing yet satisfying idea for your mystery to keep your readers guessing. Here’s a simple process that can help you get started:
- Grab a pen and paper
- Sit in a nice comfy chair
- Take a deep breath
- Write down the most sinister thoughts you can think of
“Planning a murder takes a lot of prep work”- Brahms Lewis
If the process startles you, you’re doing it right!
Next, you’ll want to think about the genre you wish to write in, such as detective novels, cozy mysteries, police detective procedural, and caper stories. This is vital in creating the outcome, the perspective of the murder mystery novel, and helps you complete a detailed outline.
2. Character Formation
Before you can even begin writing the first page of murder mystery, you must create a formidable cast of characters. They could all begin the story in a large group sprinkled in amongst one another. They’re essential to help develop a back story and keep it interesting.
Remember, though; there’s always one who pulls the strings behind the crimes; the villain. This is a vital role in any murder mystery and can’t be ignored. The villain must have no moral value, they shouldn’t have any redeeming qualities, and they shouldn’t have any honor.
Introduce your reader to all the main characters and give them an idea of who they are, what they’re like, and what their thoughts are. Try to paint a picture of how the characters would act in real life.
Your readers need to know everything about your characters to understand why they act the way they do in your murder mystery. Use your imagination to create life-like characters. Also, think about some of the best characters in your favorite books or movies; how were they developed? Why were they memorable to you? The point is not to copy someone’s characters or work, but it should help jump-start your creative process and help you start to craft the characters for your book.
3. The Intro
At the beginning of your story, you’ll need to introduce a murder and set up a detective. Set up a crime scene, a victim, and suspects (don’t forget to add an intriguing murder weapon!).
Also, set up an audience for your protagonist’s confession or flashbacks; someone in their family? Briefly paint the town where the murder took place; who lives there? Where do they work? What do they love about it?
These are the starting points of the whole story and will have a lasting effect on everyone involved.
Here’s an example of a tricky beginning scene where everything goes wrong:
An argument breaks out a diner which leads to a fight. A blow lands on your main character, who ends up being knocked unconscious. Your character then wakes up with no recollection of what happened and has no clue where they are. Let the journey of putting the pieces together begin.
When you introduce clues, set up hints so they can be discovered later in your mystery.
For your story to be believable, you need to include a place where it all takes place and make it as realistic as possible. The good news is, you will not need to spend a lot of time describing the town or geography only when it adds to a character; instead, spend time building characters and the plot.
6. Pick your landing spot
You don’t necessarily have to start at the beginning; your story could begin at the solution or somewhere in the middle. You can use flashbacks or exposition to introduce characters, reveal clues, and show motivation for people’s actions.
7. Creating a Path
Your mystery should reveal that your character is motivated to solve the murder, to offer a reason for further storytelling.
An example of storytelling motivation is the promise to a dying friend who gives their life savings to your hero in hopes that he will solve the murder.
When you’re pressing onward from your beginning, do not write the complete solution to your mystery too early. One unique aspect of a murder mystery is that it should be a heist; the idea should be a secret from other characters.
8. Be Clear and Concise
Your victim should be easy to identify, easy to kill, and not so flashy as to draw attention. The first murder, the first murder victim, should be the one murdered at the crime scene.
When writing your story, don’t overdo it; focus on developing your mystery rather than filling it with boring events that will bore the audience. Too much exposition can take up a good deal of space and often make a story feel tedious.
9. Tying it All Together
Once you’re nearing the middle section of your story, you’ll want to bring the action around full circle and wrap everything up nicely. This is when you’ll reveal the solution to your mystery.
An example of a turning point is when the detective realizes how easily they could have been killed, as well as his lack of moral stance. You’ll want to include a great deal of foreshadowing for this.
Important to note when you’re near the end of your story, do not reveal clues until it’s necessary, and always let your audience draw their own conclusions first.
Some Cunning Additions:
- If you’re writing in the third person, give each character a distinctive voice that can be heard throughout the story. You’ll want to establish a strong sense of place, tone, and mood to enhance the effect of the description. And always strive for clarity in exposition and dialogue to avoid confusion.
- To keep your audience guessing, keep them wondering what’s going to happen next. This will keep them reading until the final page.
- Don’t allow the murderer to be caught right away, the clues and motives to be discovered or explained by your detective. Allow your audience to feel like they’ve solved the puzzle themselves; make them think they know who did it before you pull back and reveal who it really was.
- When you are conveying information, make sure it’s done so in an exciting and fast-paced way. To keep your mystery exciting, you also need to write clearly and directly.
- Use the concept of red herrings to keep it interesting. For example, mention that person once or twice but then mention her again later. Have people constantly pointing out the same thing to each other using “you know” statements to create mutual misunderstanding
- Add some shocking plot twists at the end of your story to leave your audience confused and anxious for the next installment of the series!
- Utilize the concept of “foreshadowing” to foreshadow what you are planning to occur later in the story. For example, if you want the audience to suspect the butler, you can hint that he’s involved somehow or insinuate that he’s up to no good.
- Add “cut scenes” in-between chapters to keep your audience curious and eager to read ahead.
- When you’re writing a series, there is no real beginning or end; you’ll want to use flashbacks and flash-forwards to tell parts of the story out of order and leave your audience shocked by what you reveal next!
- If the murder is a red herring, do not reveal it until the end of your story.
Make sure that you’re including character motivation for all your characters, and make sure that each one has a personality that will be consistent throughout the entire series!
This list may all seem extensive, but try not to be overwhelmed with all of these additions. They are offered to equip you with some keen mystery-creating know-how simply.
If the thought of creating a murder mystery sounds daunting to you, you’re not alone. Many authors have struggled to pull off their idea, but the truth is: they did it!
Serial Killer Secrets
When writing a murder mystery story, you’ll want to offer your audience a great deal of suspense. Include some shocking twists, ominous motives, and unexpected suspects so that the audience is always wondering who the murderer is!
It’s highly effective to include plenty of descriptive writing to create an atmosphere that possesses an overwhelming sense of being in a foreign land. And try hard not to overdo it by describing every motive for every character’s actions. Use clues and motivation to keep your characters interesting.
Try not to reveal all of your secrets at once; reveal them one at a time as the story rolls forward.
Make sure to include enough dense clues and motives so that your audience is never quite certain who the killer is. Don’t leave them feeling completely confused or frustrated; leave them feeling anxious and confused!
Keep your audience on the edge of their seats as they read to find out who the real murderer at the dinner party is, or what the detective finds next. So make sure to leave them with lots of cliffhangers!
To get a better idea of where to go with your story, you’ll need to know where not to go. Then you’ll be better able to see the path you want to travel with your murder mystery script.
Mystery Plot Ideas
To amplify the horror felt by the reader, here are some of the mystery plot ideas you can ponder about, tweak, and use in writing your murder mystery book:
- Five people confessed to committing the murder. However, each of them testified that they do not know each other. In addition, the victim’s family has another suspect in mind.
- A family reunion is held in a scenic place, but two of the attendees die and no-one knows why.
- The protagonists dreams allow him recognize the villain but he has no proof to stop him killing and no one believes his dreams.
- The murderer targets people who are good at public speaking but aren’t connected to each other.
- A company organizes team-building activities for their employees, but the clues were sabotaged by one of them, and one by one is resulting in death.
- A murderer writes a cryptic poem before committing each crime.
- A woman bought a secondhand book. The book seems to relay the story of her life and the ending is a brutal death.
- A plane passenger with connections to the FBI goes missing without any other passengers understanding or witnessing what had occurred.
- The immigration officer does not accept your passport because it appears that you are using the identity of a person who died ten years ago. However, you have not falsified any documents, never changed your name and you are alive.
- Puzzles given to students at a local school seem to be sending a secret message that the adults are unable to understand.
- It is your first day at your new job. You arrived very early at your workplace to get yourself settled. To your surprise, the security guard pointed his gun at your head and takes you hostage.
8 major no no’s when writing a murder mystery
1. Don’t reveal the murderer until the end of your story.
2. Don’t confuse your audience by revealing too many motives all at once.
3. Don’t overdo it on the descriptions of every motive for every character’s action. Use clues and motivation to keep them interesting.
4. Don’t start with a prologue; it is best to get right into the thick of things. Always leave your audience wanting more!
5. Don’t let all of your characters speak in one intense monotone! Give characters distinct voices, so they don’t sound the same.
6. Don’t leave any loose ends at the end of your story! A murder mystery needs to be resolved.
7. Don’t be afraid to invent some red herrings, or use some foreshadowing, or include some twists in your story! You can always use these things as a clever cliffhanger at the end of your story!
8. Don’t leave your reader feeling cheated. The best murder mysteries take time and don’t reveal all the clues.
These little details are important for new writers to remember. In order to write a good story, they must follow these rules or risk confusing their audience.
Making a mystery out of murder is no easy feat. It takes a lot of talent and skill, but this skill also allows authors to tell a great mystery story.
When you begin to apply the techniques that have been described in the article, your first draft will start to take shape. Then you’ll be able to shape out your script and bring your readers to a place where they want to be as you take them through the long and winding mystery.
When writing your murder mystery, you must make sure to use a good description and include the idea of red herrings to keep it interesting. You’ll need to make sure that each clue and motive is believable and goes with the action of your characters.
Your characters are the lifeblood of your story. The more you develop them, the more meaningful and interesting your story will be to your audience.
Make sure that your audience always has a suspect or two in mind so that they are never certain whether they have figured out the mystery before the big reveal.
Murder Mysteries are a great way to create a captivating story that will leave your readers begging for more.
Whether you are writing a mystery novel or a movie script, you’ll want to remember that an obvious choice for the best murder plots involve great description, unexpected twists, and detailed motives that go hand-in-hand with your actions.
And when it comes time for you to create your perfect mystery, remember not to overdo it with too much detail or leave out all that needs to be included to reveal a good murder mystery script.
Make sure that you build suspense by giving clues and motives for each of your characters so that they can be more believable. When your murder mystery is plausible, the audience will feel like they are getting their money’s worth. You’ll want to make sure that you’ve got a great plot and a great mystery so that you can leave your readers wanting more.
So, there’s your trail of clues along the path to creating your murder mystery. Writing your murder mystery script should be much more interesting than the walk in the park you may have thought it was before. It should have left you with a much better sense of how to create your own story.
Remember that the best way to feel your audience out is to try writing some of your own stories before you settle on one. That way, you’ll have a better sense of how the audience is going to react. And if you can walk away with anything from this article, it’s hopefully a better sense of what a good murder mystery should be. With this edge, you’ll know how to write a killer murder mystery by keeping the suspense alive.