Thursday, August 22, 2013

#36 - Writing a Murder Mystery Party

Parasol row

Patty Kakes, local restaurant owner

Maid to the heiress

The prospector

The school marm in her best dress (photo credit to Janet Swanson)
I have often used murder mystery dinner kits with my friends, and a good time was had by all.  For my 40th birthday, I wrote one myself because I planned to have such a variety of guests involved and couldn't find a kit with enough roles.  Unfortunately, only one member of my family was able to make it to that party (my niece Jenni), and I knew that several family members were quite disappointed to miss out.  Fast forward a couple of years to this summer ... my Mom had a big birthday on the horizon.  My siblings and I asked her what she wanted - her answer:  everyone to come home at once and NO PRESENT!
The blacksmith shop

The milliner with her hats

The laundress and her shop

It took some arranging for all of us to get a summer weekend off at the same time.  Sadly, the weekend that worked for myself and siblings did not work for two of my nephews' families, but everyone else could be there (at least for Saturday).  I suggested that I could write another murder mystery for the family - set in the old west, Mom's favorite historical period.

Handing out the packets (photo credit to Mandy Heinrich)

Getting started with the clues

I did what?!

Checking on what to do next
It sounded so easy!  Ummm ... coming up with the characters went just fine, but then I started running into problems.  I decided on the character who was the culprit before anyone else saw the names, but I made the mistake of letting people choose their own roles.  And, I gave them a long lead time to make the decision.  Not so helpful from the writing standpoint as people didn't choose the roles that I thought would be the most interesting.  So, I kept having to move minor characters to more major roles.  My second stumbling block was the crime; I had thought to have it be the theft of a silver tea set.  I kept running into the problem of motive though ... if everyone just wanted to sell it (well, everyone but the prospector, who had other plans for the raw silver content), all of the clues sounded the same.

The school marm cries over her broken heart (photo credit Janet Swanson)

Much discussion of cakes, surveying, and laundry (photo credit Janet Swanson)

The best way to get lots of clues - lurk on the edges of a group (photo credit Janet Swanson)

The prospector asks the blacksmith about fixing equipment

The mail-order bride confers with the heiress

The mayor has a proposition for the saloon owner

Confrontation between the bride and the heiress

The dogs just wanted to be able to get into the saloon
So, I needed to sacrifice a character to turn it into a murder mystery.  I made that decision less than a week before the party - goodbye, sheriff Justin Case.  Talk about cutting it close.  I wrote 90% of the clues in one day and spent 4 hours the next evening printing things off and assembling the packets.

The heiress concentrates her thoughts (photo credit Janet Swanson)

The mayor is concerned about his reputation (photo credit Janet Swanson)

It's so hard ...

The cowboy rechecks his notes on clues

However, the party was a splendid success (as you may see from the photos).  My Mom seemed to have a grand time.  Everyone hammed it up - some in costumes - a few even set up little shops in the yard to go with their character.  Wild rumors started ... just why did the mayor ask about washing ladies' delicates, how many women was the cowboy juggling, did the heiress have money or not, why was the seamstress so sleepy, what was in the cakes served in the local restaurant, and where did the baby appear from?  All those questions and a murder too ...
This was my favorite photo of the day ... my parents and their dog having a grand time

All of the people at the party

And, yes, there was cake :)

1 comment:

  1. Hello SmartCookie,

    we're a start-up Murder Mystery Party company based in the UK, and we'd like to offer you one of our host-it-yourself games for free, in the hope that if you like it you might blog about us :)

    They're terribly easy to organise - our website sends out the invitations directly, by email. See

    If you're interested, get in touch at, and also please feel free to pass the offer on to other bloggers.