Plotting a successful whodunit requires the skilful blending of a number of key ingredients. When executed with precision a whodunit will intrigue, engage, and excite those participating. Should the event be poorly scripted, feature uninspired characters, or offer no real suspense, the mystery will flop. This will be the real tragedy of the occasion.

What are the core components of a successful whodunit?

The Crime Itself

Obviously, a murder will have to occur. Depending on the nature of the storyline more than one death may befall the occasion. This will build the tension to boiling point. Participants won’t know what will happen next.

A well executed story will feature numerous elements. Different circumstances, weapons and methods will create an illusion of unpredictability and heighten the experience. Unique settings will allow participants to completely immerse themselves in the fictional world and enjoy themselves. The nature of the crime will allow those participating to deduce the personality of the perpetrator and offer a clue to their identity.

The Clues

Physical evidence of the crime is a vital element of any murder mystery. Items left at the scene of the crime, the victim’s personal effects, documents found in the possession of the victim or other guests, and superficial marks or scratches on any of the participants are all pivotal pieces of the puzzle.

Gauging the reactions and listening to what the players is also important. To enjoy the occasion it’s important that everything is clearly understood. Carefully crafted acting and subtle character nuances must be portrayed. This will make the mystery all the more intriguing.

The Use of Red Herrings

Red herrings are an effective plot ploy. Often employed by storytellers to turn the attention of the audience in a whole new direction, they prove very successful in mystery sagas. Once such ploys are deduced the story takes a dramatic new direction with potential suspects discarded, or in well-constructed whodunits, bumped off.

The Suspects

A successful whodunit should have scores of suspects. This is what propels the narrative. Clear motives should be established from the outset – this is achieved through good characterisation. Opportunities to commit the crimes should be clearly presented and any reason for eliminating suspects should be outlined and portrayed.

The Detective

Murder mystery fiction has a rich history of charismatic detective characters. Either professional or amateurs with a gift for deducing characters – they will find the culprit. The character should point out the significance of factors that haven’t necessarily been considered by everyone else.

The Conclusion

A satisfactory ending leaves you wanting more. Should the structure or pace of the occasion be even slightly off the participants will be left with a hollow feeling once the curtain has been drawn. A successful conclusion brings the occasion to a close and leaves the participants in no doubt to the identity and motive of the perpetrator – and that they’ll get their comeuppance.