Mystery Story Ideas

by N. Strauss

Turn these mystery story ideas into unputdownable novels or short fiction!

1) Your character is a well-owner mystery author. Recently, three murder victims have been found holding her books in their hands, and some aspects of their murders resemble the plots of her books. Your character begins to investigate the murders. Her first suspect is a young man who has been sending her strange fan letters...

2) Your character's mother dies suddenly in a car crash. When the mother's will is discovered, it includes the following message: "If I die suddenly, it is no accident. It means I have been murdered by Eric Tremblay." The police say there was nothing suspicious about your mother's death, but your character is not satisfied. Their first task is to find out who Eric Tremblay is and track him down...

3) Your character attends a seance. The participants sit holding hands around a candle. Suddenly, the candle blows out, leaving them in pitch blackness. When the lights are turned back on, one of the participants has been murdered...

4) Write a mystery story where the decisive clue is provided by a talking parrot...

5) A serial killer is murdering the descendants of a group of women who centuries ago were tried as witches. Your main character's great-great-grandmother was part of the group. Your character needs to identify and stop the killer before she becomes the next victim.

6) Someone commits a murder by placing a beehive in the home of a victim who is severely allergic to bee stings.

7) A serial killer murders someone named Anne, then someone named Ronald, then a Nathan, an Oliver, a Lisa, and a David... Your main character is looking at a list of the victims in the order they were killed, when he realizes that the first letters of their names spell out another name: A-R-N-O-L-D...

8) Your character is investigating a murder with a very unusual crime scene... The victim was left face-down in a room where everything else has also been turned upside-down or backwards: the chairs and tables are upside-down; the paintings have been rehung facing the wall, flowers have been placed upside-down in their vase...

9) A serial killer leaves a jigsaw puzzle piece near the body of each of their victims. When the pieces are fit together, they show a picture of a famous castle. What message is the killer trying to send?

10) Write a mystery story where the main character, a frequent sleepwalker, becomes worried that they might have murdered a neighbor while they were sleeping...

11) A new client hires your character, a private detective, to investigate their parent's murder. Your character feels a strong attraction for this client, and a romantic relationship develops. At the same time, as your character continues with the investigation, evidence turns up that suggests that the client was in fact the murderer. Your character doesn't understand why someone who had committed a murder would hire a detective to investigate it.... And your character is struggling to remain objective in the face of their deepening relationship with the client...

detective with magnifying glass


12) When your character's wealthy parent is murdered, your character, the sole heir, immediately becomes the main suspect. Then the murder weapon mysteriously shows up in your character's car. As more evidence turns up pointing to your character, they become convinced that someone is deliberately framing them for the murder. Your character must uncover the truth before they end up in jail...

13) The only witness to a murder suffers from a mental illness that causes severe delusion. This witness tells your main character a fantastic story that may or may not contain seeds of truth...

14) Write a mystery where the decisive clue is found inside a fortune cookie...

15) Your character must investigate a mass murder involving a poisoned wedding cake. Several ex-boyfriends of the bride attended the wedding, and another ex-boyfriend was part of the catering team. None of these exes ate the poisoned cake, and all of them are suspects...

16) Your character's sister has been been murdered. The sister had been dating a police detective, whom your character suspects of being the murderer -- and of sabotaging the investigation...

17) Write a mystery where an astronaut is murdered on a spaceship. Apart from your main character, there are five other astronauts, and obviously one of them is a killer...

18) One night, your character looks out their window and sees her neighbor burying something the size of a dead body in his back yard. Soon afterward, your character reads in the newspaper about a local girl who has gone missing -- a girl that your character has seen around town with the neighbor. Your character is certain that the neighbor murdered the girl and tells the police of her suspicions, but they brush her off. Taking matters into her own hands, your character comes up with a plan to lure the neighbor out of town and then dig up the girl's body. But what your character finds buried in the neighbor's back yard isn't what she was expecting...

19) Write a mystery story about a murder that took place during a game of hide-and-seek.

woman spying through leaves


20) Someone is murdered in your character's back yard, and the name "Kevin" is written in the snow beside the body. Your character calls 911, but when the police arrive, the name in the snow has been erased. Your character tells the police about the name, but the police seem to think your character imagined it. Your character decides to investigate on their own. They'll begin by talking to three people they know named Kevin...

21) Write a mystery story where the following items are all clues: a peacock feather, a forged painting, and an online dating profile...

22) After a masquerade ball, the hostess is found murdered. Everyone who attended the ball is a suspect. What complicates the investigation is that only a small number of the people on the guest list admit to having attended the ball. Most of them claim to have never received an invitation. Did someone prevent their invitations from arriving? And who were all of those masked people who did attend?

23) Your character is investigating a murder with unusual characteristics. Someone mentions to them that a similar murder took place in the town in the distant past. Reading the town newspaper archives, your character discovers that the previous, similar, murder happened on the same date exactly fifty years ago. And another murder happened exactly fifty years before THAT...

24) Your character is on vacation in _______ (choose a place where you'd like to take a vacation in your imagination). One evening, when they return to their hotel room, they find a dead body on the floor. Your character flees the room and runs down to the lobby, where the hotel receptionist calls the police. But when the police go up to her room, there is no body there, and no sign that any crime was committed. No one believes your character, who therefore decides to investigate on their own. Your character's first step will be to follow that man who keeps turning up at the hotel bar and the swimming pool and whose odd behavior has aroused their suspicions. If only they could find a way to get into his room and take a look around...


About the author

N. Strauss taught creative and expository writing at the University of Michigan before moving to the Czech Republic and then Spain. She has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan and a B.A. in English from Oberlin College. In 2009, she founded Creative Writing Now in collaboration with the author Linda Leopold Strauss, who has taught writing courses for the Institute of Children's Literature and published children's books with Scholastic, Holiday House, Houghton Mifflin, and others.


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