1. motormouth

    motormouth Member

    Dec 28, 2010
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    writing a dinner theater mystery (need opinions)

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by motormouth, Aug 4, 2012.

    I'm thinking of writing a dinner theater mystery for use in a church production. Heres the premise/ plot points.

    -in the 1940's/50's a rich socialite throws a christmas party to show off her new priceless diamond collection (some ancient African queens collection) . Theres a poweroutage or fire and when order is resumed, the diamonds are gone.

    she puts out a reward - $10,000 for anyone to find it.
    enter our hero- He not a detective, but a down on the luck actor, they really need the money so he impersonates a private eye and takes the case. Since he cant solve crimes on his own, - he uses a "Private investigation for dummies book to guide him through. (chapters will be indicated by the narrator)

    Throughout she story he meets the suspects and uncovers possible moptives
    1) a high living nephew and his wife ( motive both are secretly in debt due to extravagant living)
    2) The socialites neglected/emotionally abused daughter who has tons on neuroses due to emotional abuse( motive revenge for neglect)

    As the case progresses our hero slips into various roles to meet the people and gather info to solve the case- handyman, psychiatrist hes also helped by the socialites niece who was there and helps him find the suspects.

    1) whats a good character for a 3rd suspect. Or are those 2 enough.
    2) How do i build up the suspense for the solving of the mystery ( giving all suspects good motives is 1 i know)
  2. tristan.n

    tristan.n Active Member

    Dec 17, 2010
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    Overland Park, KS
    I'd throw in a character who seems suspicious when your MC thinks he's getting closer to solving the case, like a maid. Readers (in this case viewers) are always suspicious of the house staff, even though they know it's probably just a red herring.
    Build up suspense by not giving too much information; if it's too easy, it's boring, right? The viewers only know what you let them know, so give them just enough to make them go back and forth between the characters that they suspect.
  3. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    As to question 1, that's your decision to make, and no one else's. No one knows the content of your play as you do, or the audience or venue.

    There are many ways to build suspense. Many are as applicable to a play as to a novel, such as information shared with the audience but not known to key characters. However, there are ways to raise the urgency of a solution, such as an impending deadline, an ongoing threat to others posed by the killer, the imminent arrest of someone known to be innocent of the crime, etc.

    Because it is dinner theater, the audience will participate in solving the crime, and the running time must be limited. Also, you must be prepared with credible variants for each of the suspects to be the guilty party, so repeat diners can continue to share in the fun.
  4. jazzabel

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 5, 2012
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    I think it's a good start, although the premise is cliché (very reminiscent of Agatha Christie plots). I suppose it can work very well in a theatre scenario (I don't write those, I write novels) but I'd imagine that 2 suspects is nowhere near enough to pull of a substantial play. Basically, with these kinds of stories, every single character (except for the detective) needs to have a motive for killing (ie. be a suspect), and then through alibis, which are more or less readily given/admitted to, they are eliminated throughout, with 2-3 being clear red herrings (no alibi+motive, but not the killer).

    I would exploit all the stereotypes I can think of, and have one or two unexpected twists, which would make the play both fun and believable, for maximum impact.
    Good luck!

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