You’re a huge fan of riveting mystery plots.
Think how gratifying it’ll feel to hear readers raving that you kept them guessing until the final reveal!
All you need right now are some high-quality murder mystery ideas like the ones in this post. Read on to find the seed of your new bestseller.
May it lead to many others.
67 Mystery Writing Prompts
Look through the following mystery story ideas and make a note of those that get your mind working in strange and vaguely uncomfortable ways. You know better than anyone the prompts that speak to you louder than others.
If you get a chill as you’re developing the idea, chances are good, your reader will, too.
1. You’re a memoir writer with a complicated love life. An estranged cousin calls asking if you’ll help her write a “tell-all” memoir. Then she disappears.
2. You’re a private investigator looking into the murder of a philanthropist’s reclusive wife. Two people confess, each swearing they acted alone. You suspect another.
3. You’re the assistant to the creator of the first empathic AI, who disappears just as the first psychopath AI blows away the competition at a global tech convention.
4. Your candle shop wins a prestigious award. Last year’s winner is angry and slanders you and your products. You find their body behind your store, covered in wax.
5. You research your genealogy and find that several people from different branches all died in the same mysterious location — of unknown causes.
6. A well-known motivational speaker is about to give a TED talk when they take a drink from a fresh water bottle and collapse. Their assistant disappears.
7. She’s always been faithful to her husband. So, who’s been trying to frame her for adultery? And what does her husband’s dead lawyer have to do with it?
8. You’re lost in the woods, no thanks to a poorly-planned nature hike, when you find the hatch to an underground bunker. A picture on the wall stops you cold.
9. Someone is stealing items from the graves of historical figures buried in the New Orleans cemeteries near your home. What does your latest Etsy purchase have to do with that?
10. Every eligible woman was eager to claim his attention at the ball, but only one would add his name to her dance card — and something else to her collection.
11. A grandfather you never met has left you an unusual item in his will with a warning: “Don’t underestimate this gift. It’s always been meant for you.”
12. You’re a witness to the opening of an Egyptian sarcophagus that’s only just been discovered in a buried tomb. Resting on the mummy’s chest is an old camera.
13. A few minutes after you buy a friend’s older smartphone from them (for a bargain), you get a phone call from someone who’s tracking your every move.
14. Your business computer has just been hacked by a pro, who happens to be a resident in the local nursing home — and the father of last night’s date.
15. You’re on a solitary walk through the woods near your new home, and you find a set of fresh footprints leading deeper in, possibly toward the lake. You follow them.
16. You’re on your way home from a vacation when an airport official tells you your passport must be a fake. Your country of origin doesn’t exist.
17. You take a short walk out in the snow and come back to find a fresh, icy handprint on the glass by your door. There are no footprints leading to it.
18. You visit a tea shop, and a woman pulls you aside and convinces you to buy a special blend she’s created, warning you to only drink one cup a day — and only at night.
19. While looking for the cabin retreat you signed up for, you get lost and end up at a cabin that resembles what you expected. They welcome you.
20. Every night, a new house of worship in your town is ransacked. Each time, the thieves steal a hidden sacred object but leave more expensive things untouched.
21. A rogue doctor overseas has created a life-saving vaccine for a deadly pandemic but disappears before he can share it.
22. You’re a seasoned detective looking over a murder scene at your ex-wife’s residence. So far, her dog is the prime suspect.
23. The winner of the beauty pageant is the last person everyone expected. Then she wins the lottery jackpot and wakes up with a dead guy in her closet.
24. You’ve agreed to deliver a package to a recluse living in a neglected manor in exchange for $100,000,000. They never told you he’d want you to stay.
25. The night before you head home from college, someone calls you from the home phone and leaves a disturbing message. Now, no one’s answering the phone.
26. You think you know the identity of your “Secret Santa” until you see the most recent gift: a gem your suspect could not have afforded (and wouldn’t have given).
27. After the “prophecy,” he changed her name and never expected her to spell out the name “Petra” with her wooden blocks. The near-drowning was not an accident.
28. At night, she sleeps with a different stone beneath her pillow. This morning, she woke to feel as if she’d spent the night running. She wasn’t wrong.
29. The murder victims all had admitted to the same phobia. And all of them died just as they’d overcome it. Now, the hypnotist who’d helped them was missing.
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30. You arrived early for a job interview and have noticed two candidates walking into a room but not leaving it. The secretary who calls you in is visibly shaking.
31. You visit a practicing witch who happens to be the prime suspect in a murder. Only she wasn’t even in town when it happened. And she’s your sister.
32. The winning pie was the murder weapon. And the pie plate looked identical to your mother’s favorite — the one that had disappeared after she died.
33. A woman claiming to be your sister warns you not to get in touch with your birth parents. She leaves a duffel bag with you and, within a day, disappears.
34. A marriage counselor arranges a scavenger hunt for a struggling couple, based on their history. Someone changes the clues, though, and one of them ends up dead.
35. You go to a friend’s wake and see a different body in the casket. Hers is nowhere to be found. And there’s a note under the corpse’s right hand — addressed to you.
36. A woman returns a lost wallet and becomes the target of a stalker. An item from the wallet (one she’d considered keeping) ends up in her mailbox.
37. Members of a notorious fraternity are found dead and partially “dismembered.” Their leader has the most reason to fear and goes to you for help and protection.
38. You’re reading a book given to you by a quiet but friendly classmate who lives down the hall when you realize it’s about you. And you die in the end.
39. You subscribe to a candle of the month club recommended by a new colleague, and your first candle reveals a ring that once belonged to a local murder victim.
40. A desperate housewife fakes her own death, then ends up in the trunk of her husband’s car, wearing a dress that cost twice as much.
41. A talented musician who performs at a local coffeehouse is found wiped of his memory when his faithful dog leads a police officer to him.
42. A group of carefully selected teens returns home from a conference to find their parents have all disappeared, leaving identical typewritten notes.
43. An orphanage with a reputation for finding good families for every child in their charge finds itself under a microscope when one teen returns with a horrific tale.
44. A stranger uses magic to hide his true intentions as he grooms a new target — the young daughter of a rising politician — to do the unthinkable.
45. You return home and notice strange behavior among the townspeople and an even stranger weekly ritual. You investigate and make an enemy.
46. Bored with your small-town life, you happily accept an offer of a month-long internship at a London bookshop. You get there and find the owner dead.
47. You run a cafe and have just hired a troubled teen. Unfortunately, her reputation raises the ire of some locals, who point the finger when a customer ends up dead.
48. You take a job at a local bakeshop run by identical twin sisters, one of whom wants to start a business of her own. One of them dies, leaving you a note.
49. Every member of this community took vows of non-violence and silence, so when one is found dead in the herb garden, you and your deaf partner investigate.
50. Random objects in your home go missing, replaced by strange, typewritten poems. You wake up to find one of these poems resting on your pillow..
51. A bouquet of flowers arrives each week from an unknown admirer. Each flower means something, and those meanings have taken a dark turn.
52. Whenever you order from your favorite Chinese restaurant, the fortune cookie’s message sounds eerily personal and prescient. There’s a reason.
53. When you’re feeling low, your new best friend knows just what tea to brew to make you feel better. It turns out she can also help you remember things long forgotten.
54. You could swear you’re being followed, but when you turn, no one’s there. Once you’re home with your doors and windows locked, they’re closer to you than ever.
55. You’re a cop investigating the murderer of a homeless person, but your new partner, who grew up here, seems determined to trip you up at every turn.
56. When a local bartender is found dead, his curious neighbor finds a secret door propped open by his corpse. The door leads to an underground world of trouble.
57. You overhear a murder confession and hide where you can see the penitent when the door opens. You recognize the face and barely manage to keep quiet.
58. You’re looking through a deceased relative’s possessions and planning to donate most of it until you find a note she left you — about stolen evidence.
59. You wake up to the sound of a blizzard, and you’re dressed in someone else’s winter clothes, wondering how you got there — and what happened to your date?
60. You turn a corner in your new neighborhood, and someone stops in front of you, looks you up and down, presses a key into your hand, and says, “I’ll be back for this.”
61. You didn’t know you had a doppelganger until you came face to face with her at the new coffee shop on the corner. She’s not nearly as surprised as you are.
62. You’re stress-shopping early Black Friday sales when you notice the cameras seem to be following your every move. The manager nervously invites you into his office.
63. Five fellow college students have been murdered in the same week. Each had stolen something on a dare. One of them mailed their stolen item to you.
64. You’re decorating for Christmas, and you find a book that belonged to your ex. A note falls out of it addressed to someone who died shortly before he left.
65. Self-care hasn’t been a priority for you lately, but you accept an invitation to a weekend spa retreat. You didn’t expect your host to be the boss who fired you.
66. You’re a photographer looking over wedding pictures when you notice a figure with a blurry face that appears in every shot. His face is turned toward the groom.
67. You’re telling your children a story about a babysitting job that went terribly wrong. But you’re not telling them everything. And there will be consequences.
How will you use these mystery writing prompts?
When it comes to storytelling, only a small share of the magic is in the gift of an inspiring prompt. The rest of it lies in you.
Begin by choosing one of these prompts and freewriting for a few minutes — or for as long as you like. Paint a picture for yourself, and describe everything your senses tell you.
May each adventure teach you something new.