Writing Mystery Games and Novels
By: Elspeth Antonelli
My first foray into mystery writing was writing murder mysteries as fundraising events for various theatre companies. I came up with a plot and the characters and the actors (for the most part) worked out their own dialogue. This experience was to hold me in very good stead when I began writing murder mystery games.
These games are usually played in people’s houses and are used as entertainment for a dinner or birthday party. Obviously, they’re very popular over Halloween and many people play them New Year’s Eve. What’s it like writing a mystery game? It’s similar to writing a very detailed outline for a book. You need to have a certain number of characters and the murder has usually just occurred.
Everyone is a suspect. Some of my games have actual scripted clues where guests have the option of just reading their clue cards out loud, but many have clues that begin “Tell several people...” and the guest can put the information into their own words.
My latest game Deadly Ever After is a mystery involving famous literary characters like Snow White, Juliet and Long John Silver. I used a similar theme for Once Upon a Murder (although more characters come from nursery rhymes). I’ve also written ‘decade’ mysteries for the 1970s and 1960s. I try to make the mysteries funny and the solution logical but also amusing. It’s a party, after all! I’m very fortunate because, if I put my mind to it, I can write a game and be sending it to my editor within a week.
Writing mystery novels take a great deal more time, mainly because I seem to be drawn to plots taking place in the 1930s and 1940s in England. These mysteries are rather complex and the characters are multidimensional. I write “whydunnits” rather than “whodunnits” as it has always been the “why?” which I have found fascinating.
The other main difference between my games and my books is the subject matter. With the games, I try to write what will sell, regardless of whether I find it personally intriguing. It’s like writing a commission; which I have also done. The market dictates what I write. With my books, I write what I would want to read; and hope that I’m not the only one!
Both forms are fun and both have their different rewards. I’m glad I can play in different ways, it makes for some interesting times!
Check out Elspeth’s blog:
To check out Elspeth’s and others wonderful mystery games go to: