Thursday, September 13, 2018

Taking the Mystery out of Murder Mystery Events

Q: What are you sharing on the blog today?

A: How I write murder mystery events.

Q: Why?

A: People seem curious as to what’s involved.

Q: In writing one?

A. Yes. Not in attending one. Geesh.

Q: Don’t be snippy. How will you describe the writing process?

A: That it’s an odd mixture of writing a detailed book synopsis and a play.

Q: Why do you describe it as a detailed book synopsis?

A: Because you need a very detailed plot and setting. The characters/suspects must ring true as each of them has to have a believable motive for murder.

Q: Why do you describe it as a play?

A: Because I write all the questions and the answers. Each suspect has to answer the question in a voice which is different to all the others employing a different rhythm with a different vocabulary. However, unlike a play, I have no idea which answer is going to follow which. So setting up jokes can be tricky. I have to make the jokes in the one suspect’s speech…or over a number of speeches. Hurrah for the rule of three.

Q: Do you follow any general guidelines?

A: Yes, I do. The murder has always already happened. The suspects' names are usually groan worthy. For example: in a recent event, I created a lawyer named Lou Pohl. There is always only one guilty party. When I reveal the solution (I act as the detective/facilitator), it makes sense because all the necessary clues were there…either said or handed out.

Q: What do you mean by ‘handed out’?

A: Not every clue is answered in the questions and answers. I hand out copies of ‘Crime Reports’ and other such pieces of evidence. Plane e-tickets. Texts.

Q: Do you follow any non-general guidelines?

A: I’ve been doing these murder mystery events for a long time. People get better at them…and then I write trickier plots. Muahaha.

Q: Do people solve the mystery?

A: Yes, usually one table is close. I’ve never written one that went unsolved. Luckily, I’ve also never written one that more than two tables got the correct solution to.

Q: How long have you written murder mystery events?

A: Many, many years. More than 15. Let's leave the actual number a mystery.

Q: How long do they take to write?

A: That depends on the number of suspects and the complexity of the plot. At least 2 weeks usually though it could be longer.

Q: Is writing a murder mystery event the same as writing a murder mystery game?

A: Similar, but not the same. Same church, different pew.

Q: Do you plan to continue to write these events?

A: I’ll write them as long as there’s a demand for them. Luckily, the demand doesn’t seem to be going away. And hey, out there in Internet Land. I can write one for YOUR group. Get in touch.

Elspeth Futcher is a bestselling author of murder mystery games and playwright. She has been the top selling author at since 2011. Her British games are published by Red Herring Games in the UK. Her latest game is "Which Guide Lied?" Elspeth's 'writing sheep' have appeared in the European writers' magazine Elias and also appear on this blog from time to time. Connect with her on Twitter at @elspethwrites or on Facebook at Elspeth Futcher, Author.


  1. I like the Q&A format of your article, Elspeth. It's direct, to the point, and fast-paced. I can see how having a plan, a formula of sorts, facilitates the creation of the murder mystery. All of us who write can learn from this process, however, because it can be adapted to other genres to keep us on track and help us avoid inconsistencies and loose ends. Excellent post.

    1. Thanks, Linda! I suspect some of this post’s pace came from it being squeezed in as I worked on two murder mystery events’ plots.

  2. A fun post, Elspeth. I haven't participated in a murder mystery event for years, but the two I did experience were so much fun!

    1. They are fun, Pat. I’m fortunate to have many returning detectives!

  3. I admire your talent for doing these kinds of events, Elspeth. I have enjoyed participating in mystery events, but never thought about trying to create one. I'm happier writing and directing plays. :-)

  4. This sounds like a great possibility for our Sisters in Crime meeting. We have about 25 people average at our meetings.

    1. Ooooooh. Let’s chat, Polly. I would love the opportunity!


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