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Writers@Work: Murder Mystery Madness by Amanda Craig

Happy Friday, writers! Today, I am delighted to welcome Amanda Craig to the blog. She’s writing about her unique writing job: creating murder mystery games. And here’s the best part: you can enter below to win one of the games. The game will be sent as a PDF via email just in time for your Halloween party! Yes!

Murder Mystery Madness by Amanda Craig

We’re in the month of October, when the weather begins to cool and words like “cider,” “pumpkin,” and “fall” bring evocative, colorful images and cozy, warm feelings to mind. It brings an atmosphere which makes you want to build a fire in your long-ignored fireplace and read a good book. That meets my definition of joy!

October also means Halloween! I hope most of you have loving and even funny memories of Halloween festivities from your childhood. Bobbing for apples, fall festivals, and the opportunity to dress as someone else for a day! It’s certainly a unique holiday, isn’t it? If I show up to my office job in a costume any other time of year, I’d be certain to get a few looks (not that this would stop me).

In addition to all those things, October also means something extra-special to me. As a creative writer, it’s my busiest time of year, because I am a murder mystery game writer.

Why do I write murder mystery games for parties? As a writer, here are a couple benefits to consider:

+They are a fun option for writers who want to dig into crime fiction without the long term commitment of a full-length novel.

+You get to see your writing come to life as people dress in costume and act out your story!

Not to dig on novelists in any way, but how many of them get to say that? Not many.

First, what are murder mystery games? Simply put, they are home-based games where a host or hostess throws a party to act out a “murder.” Each party attendee is assigned a specific character, and they arrive the night of the party dressed in costume, ready to act their part. All participants discuss the crime, listen to the facts, look at clues, and guess who the murderer might be by the end of the game.

Murder mystery games—like so many other writing genres—have been evolving over the last decade. While finding boxed game sets was a common thing 10 or 15 years ago, more and more writers are shifting to online, downloadable versions of the games, which have the added benefit of allowing for last minute parties and no shipping costs for the customer.

If you are considering a career in writing murder mystery games for parties, my first question I would ask you is: have you ever participated in a murder mystery game? I enjoyed roles in dozens of murder mystery parties before I ever picked up the colloquial pen. By no means am I claiming you need to participate in that many, and there is no magic number, but you should be familiar with the variety of home-based, murder mystery game options out there, which include:

Interviewing the Murderer This style of murder mystery has two types of roles: the potential murder suspects who are interviewed for their knowledge, and the remaining participants acting as the detectives who interview the murder suspects. This is a more cerebral type of murder mystery party where the detectives attempt to determine the guilty person, and how they did it, by way of asking the right questions during the interviews.

Turn-based Games These are typically sold in boxed sets. This style of game is scripted and each participant receives a booklet. Some include an audio CD which allows the participants to listen to a description of the murder activities as a starting off point, and the participants are both the potential murder suspects and detectives, attempting to solve the murder together as a group. All of the speaking roles are scripted for each participant, removing the guesswork about what to say. At the end of the game, each person attempts a guess at the identity of the murderer before the answer is revealed.

Unscripted or Interactive Games These games operate similar to turn-based games, but most or all of the character parts are not scripted. Instead, a general description of what to say to accuse other characters is included, but not written word-for-word. This style of game allows participants more freedom and a chance to work on their acting chops. As with the turn-based games, each person attempts a guess at the identity of the murderer at the end of the party.

Many people start off with turn-based games, because they can feel less intimidating for people new to the genre. However, a large percentage of those eventually graduate toward unscripted games to experience more freedom to challenge their own personal creativeness.

Finally, I must also mention the dinner theater type of murder mystery games, which are generally restaurant setting murder mysteries. These parties could be described as more of a theater performance, because the main participants are usually paid actors. However, some of these games include an “interview opportunity” style of role-play where the dinner patrons get the opportunity to ask the actors questions about the crime, and attempt to solve the murder.

At a minimum, most home-based games include:

+crime scene maps,

+description of the crime or how to act out the crime,

+description of each character and tips on how to dress the part,

+menu options,

+instructions (or additional optional characters) which allow some flexibility for the number of participants,

+instructions for how to put the game together,

+printable decorations, and

+tips on how to decorate for the party.

If you are considering writing murder mystery games, you can expect to charge around $30 – $50 USD a game. The prices fluctuate based on the number of characters you include, and the number of included options mentioned above.

Regardless of whether you intend to participate or write murder mystery games, I hope you develop a love and appreciation for the unique genre that it is—and maybe even enjoy one for yourself this Halloween!

About the author: Amanda Craig was involved with business writing for years before realizing she could no longer ignore her creative side. With several projects underway, she recently launched her new murder mystery game website, Her Facebook page is


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