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Plot Point #4 – Everyone Has a Motive

           In murder mystery entertainment every suspect has a motive. For every motive you need a piece of evidence. I write mystery entertainment so that some of the evidence is spoken dialogue, some of the evidence is hardcopy clues and much of the evidence is covered both ways, just to make sure no one in the audience misses anything.

If the clue is verbal only then it must be included in a ‘scripted’ scene. All scripted scenes must be on microphone. There is nothing so detrimental to murder mystery entertainment as the audience not being able to hear what the characters are saying. Except a boring script. My scripts are never boring.

The actor who is giving out the ‘verbal only’ clue must also make sure it is relayed to every group of people as he ‘works the tables’. Mingling should take place between the scripted scenes as well as at the beginning of the evening.

           Included in this posting are the motives for three of the four suspects; Nadia, Shyster, and Samira. The fourth piece of evidence, although addressed to Samira is a clue to something that Shazam is trying to hide. His motive is covered in the dialogue with the other characters during the scripted scenes.

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Plot Point #3 – Who are the suspects?

Now that we know who dies, who are the suspects? The best mystery entertainment is always over the top! Colourful characters are just more fun and able to get away with extreme behavior. This helps your audience relax and enjoy themselves; it makes it easier for them to participate as well. Since no one is acting ‘normal’ it gives guests permission to act a little melodramatic as well.

In mystery entertainment, every character has a motive for wanting the villain dead. Here’s the cast / characters for Midnight at the Oasis.

  • Deanna Berrington as Nadia of the Night – Betrayed by the Sultan
  • Tony Berryman as Sheikh of Shazam – Robbed by the Sultan
  • James Lazarus as Sheihk of Shyster – Blackmailed by the Sultan
  • Judy Smith as Samira of the Sunset – Cursed by the Sultan

The Arabian Mountain Spice Belly Dancers play the harem. Cam Berry as the Sultan of Haberdashery is not in this photo but you can get a glimpse him with Alice the drug sniffing camel in Plot Point #2 Who Dies?

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Plot Point #2 – Who Dies?

Who dies can be quite different in a written story than at a mystery party. In fiction writing, a writer has the ability to be subtle; in live events, not so much. The dead person in a novel can be good or bad or both. At a party, there is no room for subtly.  The dead person is always the deepest, darkest villain who truly deserves to die. Not one tear will be shed as he (or she) drops down in pain, rises up gasping for breath, pulling over chairs and knocking over lamps as he finally stumbles his miserable way out of this world.

Case in point: In Midnight at the Oasis, the Sultan of Haberdashery with his drug sniffing camel Alice, is the villain. Well, the camel gets to live. The Sultan – no. A truly detestable bad guy, he gives everyone he comes in contact with a good reason for wanting him dead. Blackmail, burglary and betrayal are just of few of his horrendous habits. The Sultan has control over something which the killer and other suspects want; their hearts, their freedom, their pocketbooks. Motive is all about being in control at its bottom line.

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Over the next however many blog entries I make I will be taking you through some vital points that need to be addressed as you create a murder mystery party. Since I am currently creating such a party, it seems like an excellent time to share some key pieces of information and to be able to show you what I am doing as we go along.

Plot Point #1 – What is the Event?

If you are thinking about writing or putting together a murder mystery entertainment party the first thing you need to think about is this:  What interesting occasion is happening when the murder occurs? For instance just having someone die at a regular house party or awards ceremony is boring. There must be some exciting reason for people to be gathered together. This is a fictional event on top of if it is for someone’s birthday or anniversary.

The project I am currently involved in is a fundraiser for the community arts and culture centre and the local belly dance group. With a combination like that the title ‘Midnight at the Oasis‘ immediately popped into my head. Now what could be the fictional reason for the gathering? After about a week of thought and trying things on I made up my own tale out of the Arabian Nights and set about using that as the basis for the mystery reason to be. The fictional reason for the gathering is that it is the one day out of the year that the Midnight Genie can be enticed out of his genie bottle to grant three wishes.

The Tale of the Midnight Genie
If the adventures in the Arabian Nights had been 1002 nights long, instead of 1001, you would have heard the incredible tale of ‘The Midnight Genie’. This genie was not trapped in a bottle, but he hid in one. Tired of constantly being besieged to grant wishes, curse enemies and find lost camels, the genie escaped into the solitude of a bottle refusing to come out. For thousands of years no one saw the magic jinn.

Then, one midnight, a ravishing princess was dancing on the sand outside of the cave where the genie’s vessel was sequestered. The pulsing rhythms of the dance, road the wind into the still air of the bottle. Something inside began to awaken. The genie grew curious. For the first time, in a long time, the enchanter was enchanted and left his dwelling to gaze upon the form of the dexterous dancer.

Smitten by the sultry seductress, the genie offered the princess three wishes. For her last wish, in hopes of repeating her good fortune, the woman wished for the genie to be forever enticed by dancing.  Whenever someone’s dance beat could match the rhythm of the jinn’s mood he would be obliged to leave his bottle and grant them three wishes. The magician had no chose. He did make the wish provisional though. The dancing could only entice him on the anniversary of the night that the princess first charmed him from his bottle.

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Canmore AB is a town with a rabbit rampage – it’s riddled with a ridiculous amount of rabbit holes. If those wacky characters that live in Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland were to run up a random rabbit hole, chances are good they would end up in Canmore!

And that’s exactly what happened.

Do you remember The Queen of Heart’s tarts? The Knave (Jack) of Hearts was accused of stealing them. But really …. he was playing in a poker game in Texas. So who really pilfered those tasty pastries? The answer is at the Shop Local Canmore Trade Fair taking place this weekend.

Mysteries are infinitely flexible in their ‘cluetrail’. Mystery contests and parties can be tailored to fit any situation. Clues can be as tricky or easy as the participants. Investigating (oh that reminds me – What do you call an alligator wearing a vest?  An Investigator! Ha) can take as little or as much time as you want. Theme and prizes can be specific to any group.

Mysteries really are the miracle of masterful entertaining.

Why is it called a murder of crows anyways? Is it possible that our justice system was inspired by crow courts? In the book Marvels and Mysteries of Instinct or Curiosities of Animal Life published in 1862, author G. Garratt shares his research on crow communities and their laws and penalties. If some rule is violated an assembly gathers. Vast numbers of the blackbirds will come from far and wide.

Regarding minor offenses, Garratt states:
“The young rooks, or those of one year old only, often violate the rules of the rookery by pilfering twigs and other materials from the nests of the older ones, but the theft is always discovered, and never suffered to go unpunished. The rogues do not allow themselves to be caught in actual fact, for they seem to watch their opportunity, and commit their robbery only when both owners are absent.

Now the criminals are convicted in a very singular manner. They first seem to be suspected like a person who has made his fortune too fast to have done it honestly. Having their material close at hand, and already broken up for them, their work goes on apace, and getting so much ahead of the rest, the whole company act as if jealous of such proceedings, and envious of the quick success of their juniors. On these occasions some eight or ten rooks have been seen to fall upon the nest of the convict, and in a moment tear it all to pieces. ”

More serious offenses, though what those might be are left to speculation, suffer much more serious consequences. For those Garratt refers to the research of Dr Edmonson and his observations in the Shetland Islands:
“No business must be transacted till the convocation is complete; the first comers, therefore, wait a day or two for the arrival of the several deputies. A particular field or hill of some character about it is selected, as befitting the importance of the session to be held upon it. When all the deputies have made their appearance, the court opens. What crime has been committed is not known, but criminals there certainly are at the bar. The charges appear to be made, and the evidences given, not individually but collectively, in a general croaking and clamour; and this seems to include the passing of judgement also, for it is no sooner over than the whole court, “judges, barristers, ushers, audience and all, fall upon the two or three prisoners at the bar, and beat them till they kill them. When this is accomplished, the court breaks up and quietly disperses.”

Was the purpose of this secret society of Irish immigrants, The Molly Maguires, to fight oppressive mine owners in the mid 1800s in Pennsylvania – or were they a Death Squad? Killings by the Molly Maguires were as common as slagheaps in coal country. Twelve unsolved murders took place at the headquarters for the Coal and Iron Company in the first 8 months of 1867. Pinkerton’s Detective Agency was called in. Irish newcomer James McParlan, standing 5’7″  was assigned to the case. He got paid $12 a week.

Disguised as a clean-cut Irish dandy, McParlan rolled into Pottsville. A large bankroll in his pocket he headed to the Sheridan, a bar where the Mollies were frequently found. After buying drinks for everyone in the house he then took everyone’s last penny playing poker with them – then he announced “I kill an English bastard in Buffalo. And I play with counterfeit money. But you boyos needn’t worry – my counterfeit is perfect.” The bills, later carefully examined by a bank tell with a magnifying glass, were pronounced perfect. McParlan later commented “Of course it was perfect. It was good US money.”

After two years undercover as Jimmie McKenna, secretary for the secret society, the detective was distressed to find himself named as the leader of a three man execution squad. He hoped for circumstances that would prevent his carrying out of the orders – and he got his wish. The ‘fingerman’ James ‘Powderkeg’ Kerrigan got impatient waiting for their arrival and took care of the execution himself.  Powderkeg later turned stool pigeon and was the only one of the Mollies to walk away from a death sentence. James McParlan went down in history.

One of the trickiest parts of writing a ‘fairplay’ whodunnit is creating clues. One way you can compose a clue is by using anagrams; a phrase or sentence formed by rearranging the letters of another group of words. Sort of a cross between scrabble and … um  … scrambled. So unscrambled scrabble. (There’s a bit of a tongue twister.) And in the creation of an anagram there’s a bit of sudoku thrown in too. But back to the clue.

Suspects, involved as they are in nefarious pursuits, can’t just leave straightforward messages lying around. That sweet young psychopathic teenager would be deceptive in her diary doodles.  The two-faced politician would be indirect in his daytimer. Maybe there’s a clue in the classified that’s begging to be decoded.

To create the clue you would start with the final phrase and rearrange it to make the phrase that the detective finds. Especially clever people can come up with phrases like these:

When you rearrange the letters

When you rearrange the letters

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

But don’t worry if you don’t have time to be that clever. The scrambled letters can just seem like a bunch of jumble. Then it’s your detective that has to be clever figuring out there is a message hidden there and not just a bunch of nonsense.

Buyer beware is the usual code for online shopping but not so long ago, James Labrecque from Bartlett, California, learned the hard way that the opposite is also true; seller beware. Labrecque was flipping a combination safe he couldn’t open. (Might make a nice end table I’m thinking, so what the heck.) He did take the precaution of shaking the thing, heard nothing, assumed it was empty and sold it on Ebay for $122.93.
The fellow who purchased the merchandise went to be bit more trouble and took the safe to a welder to cut open.
SURPRIZE! $26,000!!!!!    (That amount is worth breaking the one exclamation point rule)
I guess the buyer must have blabbed because before long he got a message from Labrecque saying it would be a nice thing if he shared the spoils. The buyer didn’t see it that way and quoted Labrecque’s selling policy back to him “What you see is what you get, no returns, and no money back.”

“Mystery Bones”

How to Plot A Murder Mystery
With  Juanita Rose Violini
20 years experience writing Murder Mystery Entertainment Scripts
Author of Almanac of the Infamous, the Incredible and the Ignored

“Fair Play Whodunnits”

Mysteries where the author “plays fair” and gives the reader all of the clues necessary to solve the mystery. Fair play cluetrails can be used in:

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

Love reading mysteries? Want to be a writer? Working within a structure makes it easy. Juanita Violini takes you through the dirt, bones, muscles, heart, mind and soul of a mystery plot.

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