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Dinner Party

An occasional dinner party with friends and family strengthens bonds and keeps connections open in human relationships. Dinner parties, however, can also be vehicles of creativity and fun! They are the adult equivalent of playtime when work has ended and socialization begins. Celebrate your dinner parties with murder mystery games and adult-oriented themes. Find articles about dinner party planning tips and ideas at DayCelebration!

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How To Write and Host A Murder Mystery Dinner Party - Part 1

How To Write and Host Your Own Large Group Murder Mystery Party
(For Parties of 20 or More) Part 1

By Susan Haley

Hello, fellow mystery lover!

Welcome to my world.

It's all fine and dandy that I sell mystery games but what if you want to write one yourself - just for your very special event?

Where do you start?

The answer is, "right here."

This a how-to guide for mystery lovers and creative party planners like you who want to write and host your own personalized interactive murder mystery game.

If you want to create an unforgettable, personalized party your guests will be talking about for months to come then this is the guide for you. If you've tried those mysteries in a box and found them to be lacking, then this is the guide for you. If you're bursting at the seams with untapped creativity, then this is indeed the guide for you.

In this article, you'll learn how to write, cast and host your own interactive murder mystery game and you'll learn the basic elements that make up a good murder mystery plot.

Happy Reading, Writing & Sleuthing!

Susan Haley


1. Writing it
2. Casting it
3. Guidelines for your prime suspects
4. Party Details
5. Plot and character samples


Hints to help you get started:

* The setting, events and characters have to come alive for your guests.

* Tell a story! Don't just have a crime, a victim and a detective; give them a reason why they've been brought together other than the superficial solve a murder/crime.

* First step: figure out what the story is and how best to tell that story. * Second step: figure out what the crime is, who committed the crime and how the criminal will be caught.

Here's how I design my mystery games: They are all geared towards groups of 20 or more. To play the game, you'll need to provide 6-8 people willing to take part in the mystery as the primary suspects, victim(s), detective and killer. They'll have full knowledge of the script, which means they'll know whodunit. The rest of your guests will take on the role of detective and it will be their job to solve the case. Essentially, everyone will have a crucial, interactive part in the mystery. Your guest actors won't have to memorize a lot of dialogue but they will have to be familiar with a sequence of events or timeline that will move the mystery through the clues, the murder(s) and the solving of the crime. They'll have to carry out certain actions (like arguments) and suspicious activities to set themselves up as suspects. I like to pack a lot of action into the mystery to get people active and involved unlike those mysteries-in-a-box where everyone just sits around reading their part and asking questions they get from a booklet.

PLOT. You need to come up with a plot, the cornerstone of the mystery. It will be your crime scene if you will. Why have the primary suspects gathered? What do they all have in common that brings them together to this soon-to-be crime scene? The stakes need to be high for all your primary suspects to give them a motive for murder. Most people murder for love, money or revenge. Sometimes pure insanity is the reason but mostly it's for love, money or revenge.

CHARACTERS. Add your characters, your primary suspects. I would recommend a minimum of 6 but no more than 8 because you want to have enough suspects to keep the mystery challenging but you don't want to have too many to make it confusing. Of those primary suspects, 1 or 2 will be victims. To keep everyone’s interest and make them really want to interact and get involved, these characters must be quirky and interesting love 'em or hate 'em types and ALL MUST HAVE MOTIVE. You must give your guests a stake in the primary suspects' lives. Give them a reason to hate the bad guy (usually the 1st victim); give them a reason to ally with another suspect (maybe he's a pathetic mama's boy? Women love to protect this type of character. Or maybe it's the vulnerable, innocent but stunningly beautiful woman?).

One of your characters should be your "detective" character. He or she doesn't actually have to be a police officer but he should be in charge of the investigation (and yes, he can still have motive). He will be the one who will strongly maintain control and be able to best deal with your guests' questions. NOTE: If you want, you can have your first victim come back as a detective character so they can be a part of the entire show. If not, they make great support "backstage". They can prep the clues and the next victim for example.

MOTIVES. Select your victim(s) out of the primary suspect list. Why will they be murdered? Give your characters motives. As I said, all characters need motive or else the mystery will be too easy too solve or too vague for folks to follow. I like to make a chart where I list the 2 victims at the top of the page and the primary suspects down the side of the page. Then I fill in the motives: unrequited love, jealousy, in debt, feuding and rejection are just some examples of motive. Once you have this chart filled in, you can then proceed to filling in the action. Each character should have a motive-establishing scene with the victims. But more on that later.

THE ACTION. Write your sequence of events, with an action of some sort happening every 5 minutes or so. These actions should promote motives, provide clues, logically lead up to the murder(s) and cohesively lead the guests through the mystery. Make sure to add plenty of physical action (chases and fights for example). You don't need to write dialogue because in my opinion it will take away from your audience participation if your primary suspects need to recite and remember dialogue. It becomes a play and not an INTERACTIVE mystery. Simply set the scene and let the suspects improvise their dialogue as the scene unfolds. You should make mystery about 1 1/2 - 2 hours long (your guests' attention spans will start to wander after about 2 hours).

The sequence of action outline that I generally use as my template:

0:00 - 0:15 General mingling and introductions. All primary suspects begin to set up their motive to kill the first victim. Perhaps you can include a welcoming speech to establish the crime scene: why everyone is here.

0:15 Action or physical clue found to establish motive of one of the primary suspects. Actions can include arguments between the victim and the primary suspect; "private" conversations where the audience sees the interaction but can not hear what is being said - this looks secretive and suspicious; physical fights: water in someone's face, a push and shove match (make sure you practice these ahead of time for safety!)

0:20 Action or physical clue found to establish motive of another of the primary suspects.

0:25 Action or physical clue found to establish motive of another of the primary suspects.

0:30 Action, which is the cue for the 1st death. It could be a nasty speech by the 1st victim, in which she brings up more motives against the primary suspects, for example, or in which the victim reveals that she knows a secret that someone does not want revealed. This action should solidify why this person will be killed.

0:35 1st death. A non-identifying clue is left behind which will eventually lead to the killer. It could be a partial letter from the killer to the victim: "Keep quiet or die. You never should have eavesdropped on my conversation with your father…" (Later, another clue can be found, perhaps a love letter to victim's father saying she doesn't want to hurt his young son with their affair. It goes to the killer being a male, which narrows down the suspects if people are paying attention.) In general, you can use a red herring or two but your clues should lead to your killer. You can even put a splash of blood on the killer (he can always say he got it when he touched the body but to the observant eye, he had the blood on him when he entered the room, before they found the body). Hint: Verbal clues are easily missed unless repeated. Most clues should be physical/visual.

0:40 After body is removed; your detective organizes a summation of the crime. Each of the primary suspects accuses another of the crime thus reaffirming each of their motives.

0:50 Action or physical clue found to establish motive for the 2nd victim.

1:00 Action or physical clue found to establish motive for the 2nd victim.

1:10 Action or physical clue found to establish motive for the 2nd victim.

1:15 2nd victim discovered. Clue found that leads to the killer. Be careful here not to give the answer away.

1:20 Final summation and motives; allow your guests to ask the primary suspects questions (you don't want them revealing anything that comes out in the wrap, in the killer's confession, however). All clues should be accessible to your guests as they fill out their solution sheet (on which they describe the victims, the causes of death, the clues, the motives and their theory on whodunit and why).

1:30 You wrap the show. The killer confesses in some dramatic fashion and is either taken down or taken into custody. End your show with a bang, not a whimper. A murderer confessing is one thing but having them take someone hostage as they try and make their escape is much more exciting for example. The more action the better - always!

Continue to Casting Your Murder Mystery Dinner Party Game...

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