Entertainment | How to Throw a Murder Mystery Party

So as some of you may know, I was Social Secretary for Sheffield University Swing Dance Society this past year. One of our annual events is a Murder Mystery Party. Whilst great fun to plan, it's the kind of thing you do need to think through a fair amount and it can be a little daunting. However, party planner by night and blogger by day that I am, I have some top tips and reassurance that it's really nothing to fear!

One big thing to remember, which might seem somewhat strange, is that the plot isn't really the thing to explicitly focus on building. As it's a Murder Mystery, the basic framework of plot is already a given (someone is murdered, it is a mystery, the mystery is solved). It's also impossible to keep everyone within the confines of a strict plot. Instead, the best way to start is by deciding your theme. For example, we decided upon a party in a haunted house. The next step is to create your characters. Our party was to be hosted by a wealthy lady to celebrate her husband's publication of a murder mystery novel.

Creating your characters
- Give your characters names that relate to them. For example, we had a drunkard named Gene Anntonic, a French spy named S. P. Onage and two journalists named Tabatha Lloyd and Jenna Lizst. Not only are pun names fun, but it will also help you as the party-thrower to remember who everyone actually is!
- We found it was easiest to break our characters down into what their connection with the victim was, why they were invited to the party, and what their secret (if any) was. You might find this layout needs altering slightly to fit your purpose, but in any case it's good to have some kind of structure when it comes to writing out people's prompts!
- Assign your own character tactically. In our Murder Mystery, I had the role of Tabatha Lloyd, a gossipy tabloid journalist. This meant I had actual plot-related reasons for knowing everyone's business and was able to spread rumours about characters to drive the plot.
- Create an army of red herrings*. Whilst one character will be the murderer and have that motive present, it keeps things interesting if several other characters have motives too. It will keep people guessing and accusations flying.
* Apparently army is the collective noun for a herring

On the night
We had two slips of paper per guest, one of which was given out on arrival and one of which was given out midway through the night (usually this is done after the murder occurs, although our evening's structure differed slightly from this). It's best for the first slip of paper to give your guests instructions to talk to another character as it gets people interacting and gets rumours buzzing. Depending on how your plot is structured, you may want to give out one or two more slips of paper throughout the night, generally containing information on how a character should react to an event and in one case, that they are the murderer and to keep quiet for now! It's also important to inform your victim of how their murder is to be staged. In our case, we told our victim to pretend to die when I said a certain sentence.
At the end of the night, my fellow-organiser and I broke character and gathered everyone in a circle where everyone took a guess at who the murderer was, followed by a speech from the murderer (which we had written for her but she actually decided to improvise one and honestly, it was great).

- It will never go exactly to plan, and that's okay. For example, we had our intended suspects and guests still accused people with no motive. As long as people are accusing people, interacting and enjoying themselves, it doesn't matter much how much this diverges from the plot.
- Keep it simple. People of course need enough information to go off, but give them some room for improvisation too, to keep things free and fun.

Hope you enjoyed this verrrrrry belated post, I'm off to Disneyland Paris for a few days now and hope to blog all about it when I'm home!
Paris out 💃 xxx