Before I became a writer, I put a great amount of energy into entertaining. My efforts have been in decline recently due to my writing career, and my latest endeavor was to host my small group—and I served frozen pizza. (Doing this was both liberating and terrifying.)
Because I’ve fallen so far, I’m reflecting on my glory days as an entertainer and writing a series of posts to give tips on how to create a unique murder mystery dinner party. (This party took place in 2008 a few months before I enrolled in the Christian Writers Guild’s Apprentice course and began my writing journey.)
Part 1—The Mystery
There are scripts for murder mysteries available, but after doing research, I couldn’t find one I liked because I didn’t want my guests to play a role or prepare ahead of time. So I wrote my own, A Tumble in to Death. (Looking back, this was a major hint from God that I needed to be writing novels.)
Tip #1—Consider using your hometown as the setting of your mystery.
Your hometown probably has some interesting history and secrets. Plus your guests will find the local connection fun and may learn something they never knew.
My hometown is known for Early American patterned glass (Greentown glass) that was produced until a fire destroyed the factory in the early 1900s. The fire’s cause was never determined. When I added this mysterious element to the secret formulas the chemists used to create the unique colors of the glass, I had a perfect situation for a mystery. I created a story and used it as my guide for developing clues.
Tip #2— Create a crime scene.
Each guest had ten minutes to investigate a crime scene in the guest bedroom. I hid clues in the room that helped guests determine the killer’s motive. For example, each guest had to find a hidden tape and play it. The recording revealed pivotal information. Other clues included journal entries, letters, and pictures. I put a tape outline on the floor to add to the crime scene feel.
Tip#3— Create fictional characters, but make one of the guests the murderer.
I wrote a backstory for the murder victim, Lydia. When I welcomed my guests, I shared her story and explained why she was visiting my home when she was murdered. Then, I created a secret life for the murderer so she’d be connected to Lydia.
While my guests awaited their turn to visit the crime scene to figure out why Lydia was murdered, they searched for additional clues hidden in the living and dining rooms to determine who murdered Lydia. These clues were puzzles that, when solved, provided the guests with one letter of the murderer’s first name.
Check back next week for more tips on the logistics of creating a unique murder mystery dinner party.