Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How to Write a Murder Mystery Game, Part II

by Jennifer Lamont Leo

This is Part II in a series about how to write and host a murder mystery party. Lest this post seems like a mystery, please read Part I first.

If you've been trying your hand at writing a murder mystery for an event or party after my earlier post, you should now have your setting (locale and time period), the basic plot (the victim and circumstances of the murder), and characters (including several suspects and their motives) well in hand.

6) CLUES: The next thing you need to do is to concoct plenty of genuine clues, red herrings (false clues), and rabbit trails to confound your amateur detectives as they try to guess who the murderer is. Make sure that you have real clues that lead to the real answer--the game is rigged if you don't--but sift in plenty of false clues, too, to keep people guessing and send them on a wild goose chase or two. Remember, you don't want the puzzle to be too easily solved, but it must be solvable.

7) HOW CLUES ARE SHARED: Clues are shared by conversations between guests ("Did you hear that So-and-So was Mr. Victim's ex-spouse?"), arguments and accusations that take place in front of the guests ("I saw you polishing knives in the kitchen on the day of the murder!" "You always hated Ms. Victim for firing you from that job!"), or telltale objects left lying around ("Wasn't this your scarf that was found on the victim's dresser?") along with vehement denials and counter-accusations. Clues should be spoken loudly and clearly for as many guests to hear as possible.

Whoever the murderer turns out to be, he or she must have a clear motive and means, such as access to the weapon or an opportunity to be alone with the victim. In the end, everything must make sense, and all the relevant clues must have been shared with all or most of the guests throughout the course of the party. No fair introducing fresh information at the end that the crowd was not given earlier. Give everyone a fair chance to solve the murder.

8) ENDING THE GAME: At the end of the event, give each guest the opportunity offer his or her opinion of who the murderer is. This can be done aloud, or alternatively by paper ballot. The winner may be the first person to correctly identify the murderer, or you might consider declaring all the correct answers to be winners, or drawing a winner at random from among the correct answers.

These are the rudiments of planning a murder mystery party. Since my own "history mystery" is still a work in progress, in Part III of this series I'll report back how the actual event played out, what went right and what we would do differently next time. In the meantime, if you write a murder mystery game of your own, let us know how it goes!

Have you participated in a murder mystery party? If so, what did you like about it? Any suggestions for improvement?


Jennifer Rova said...

I had never thought of writing a party dinner mystery. What a great post! You gave me all the tools I need to try this. We often have people of varied interests together at our home. That would be a perfect time to play this game. How fun!

Jennifer Lamont Leo said...
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