Mystery Factory

Murder Mystery Scripts, Kids Games & Writing Tips – Jokes, Quotes & Anecdotes

WRITING MYSTERIES – The Mystery Bones Method

Mystery Bones PosterWriting mysteries can be complicated.

If you have ever tried writing mysteries you may have wondered about the following:

What kind of clues do I need? Where do I hide them? How do I make sure all the loose ends are tied up when the story is over?

is the answer.

If writing mysteries is what you want to do, working within the Mystery Bones structure makes it easy.

Juanita is available for workshops and consultations.
Contact her for more information at: jrv(at)

‘Fairplay’ Mysteries means the author “plays fair” and gives the reader, along with the protagonist, all of the clues and other information necessary to solve the mystery.

Mystery Bones instructs you in:

  • Knowing what clues to create and how to plant them so the reader or audience is puzzled right up to the end of the story.
  • How to create clues so that the solution, once revealed, appears obvious.

When you know how to create a cluetrail using the “Bones” method, you can use it in several different formats:

  • Mystery novels, short stories or scripts
  • Parties & games
  • Contests for promotion entertainment
  • Fundraisers

The MYSTERY BONES method takes you through the dirt, bones, muscles, heart, mind and soul of a Fairplay’ Mystery plot.

Basic Plot Wheel

As mystery guru Chandler says “the solution…must seem inevitable.” But it must not stand out. The reader needs to be tricked, distracted from the matter at hand. It is only at the denouement that he should smack himself smartly on the forehead and admit “Of course! It was obvious all along.”

Reading and writing mysteries has always been a passion for me.  After working as a production manager for a theme entertainment company in the 80’s, I struck out on my own to custom write ‘fairplay scripts’ for corporate groups, fundraisers and various other organizations and associations.  I created “MYSTERY BONES” after many years of analyzing and dissecting everything written by Agatha Christie and other fairplay authors.

A Bit About The Bones

Motive Method OpportunityFor a murder mystery plot, at the very least, you need a victim and some suspects. There is a detective as well; in fiction writing the detective will be a character but for live entertainment the detective can be a character or the audience. Stories will have any number of supporting characters but in mystery events, everyone is a suspect.

Start with your classic story formula:
Desire – Obstacle or Conflict – Conflict Resolution
One of the characters, for our purposes the killer, has a desire.  Another word for this desire, in mystery lingo, is the motive. There is an obstacle to the killer’s desire; in the case of a simple murder mystery plot, the obstacle is the victim. The conflict resolution – removing the obstacle – is the crime; murder the victim. How the killer kills is the method aka the means and when the killer kills is the opportunity.

So that’s the story formula from the antagonist’s point of view. For the protagonist, the desire is to solve the crime. The obstacle is the killer and the conflict resolution is following the clues to the solution.

MYSTERY BONES takes you through the creation of the relationships between the suspects and the victim as well as showing you how to create clues for the detective/reader/audience to follow, which will lead them to the inevitable solution.

It’s a lot of fun to create these literary puzzles; to see how cleaver, (oops, make that clever, Freudian slip) you can be. By the time the mystery is solved the solution will seem simple BUT as you go along the cluetrail, it will seem incredibly complex to your reader or audience because you have twisted the presentation of the evidence in such a way as to distract them from the obvious. SO MUCH FUN! At least I think it is…..

There are many other types of clues. They can take the form of physical evidence such as diary entries and incriminating photographs or verbal evidence such as what a suspect says or doesn’t know.
Once you have decided who did what, when, where, and why, there is the inevitable challenge making sure you have created all the clues that you need, keeping track of them all, and making sure they are all included in your plot.That’s just one thing, but the main thing, that MYSTERY BONES will teach you. It’s all in the geometry.

Bones Triangle





  1. Thank you!! I truly enjoyed the “Mystery Writing” Workshop on March 23, 2013. I am excited to teach my students “the bones” and I would love to share their work with you once completed. We are going to start the 2nd week in April so expect a possible call as I may need your assistance. Again, I certainly got what I wanted from the course as you made it interesting and easy to follow.

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