30 Scene Ideas for Mystery Subplots

Mystery Writing Prompts

A mystery is an easy way to add interest to an otherwise simple story. These mystery writing prompts will make you curious to know more. And your readers too!

What Creates Mystery?

A few elements are vital to keeping a mystery story moving forward:

  1. Questions – A single question can be enough to sow doubt in a reader’s mind, and create a mystery where previously there was none.
  2. Answers – The dance between questions and answers is what keeps readers engaged in a mystery. Every answer creates a new question until the final dénouement resolves the last loose ends… Or does it? Here’s a worksheet to help you solve a mystery (your own or another writer’s).
  3. Suspense – Between the questions and the answers there’s… suspense.

The mystery genre often solidifies these elements around physical objects – a dead body, a murder weapon, a clue, a suspect, etc. – whereas a psychological thriller will focus on the internal, non-material aspects – a doubt about another character, the suspense created by a ringing telephone, the silence on the other end, etc.

Mystery Plots & Subplots

You can use these scene ideas in your mystery story, suspense story, adventure story, or thriller, and they can also come in handy for mystery subplots in any genre.

You could generate a whole plot from these mystery writing prompts alone, but if you need mystery story ideas, you might like to adapt one from this list of story ideas, or from this list of romance story ideas. Or you can consult a mystery plot generator!

Mystery Writing Prompts

Sometimes we can overcomplicate a story problem, or overestimate the amount of effort required to fix a plot. It doesn’t need to be that hard!

Randomly choose a few of these mystery writing prompts and draft a quick scene summary for each…

01A note is discovered.Who was the intended recipient?
02A character who was thought lost or who departed reappears.Why did they stay away until now?
03A new (contradictory) clue is discovered.Is it a red herring?
04An old clue is reevaluated.How has the evaluator’s perception changed?
05Suspicion shifts to another person.Why were they not previously suspected?
06The investigator examines the scene of the mystery.What seems out of place?
07A previously innocent or unrelated person is connected to the mystery.Why wasn’t their connection noticed earlier?
08The investigator explains their own interest in the mystery.Are they qualified to try and solve this?
09A character puts two and two together.What leads them to the connection?
10A character finds they’ve misread someone’s motivation.How were they misled?
11A character trails another character.Are they detected?
12A character is found dead.Who could have foreseen this?
13A character is abducted, or discovered to have been abducted.How does this help to deepen the mystery?
14A character defends another character.Do they know who’s guilty?
15A character plants a false clue.Who discovers the false clue?
16A character tries to obstruct the investigator.Who are they trying to protect?
17Someone sets a trap to catch the perpetrator.Do they have the right person?
18Someone solves the mystery.What do they do with this new information?
19A character is discovered to have a secret identity.Who are they really?
20A secret passage is discovered.Where does it lead?
21Someone is acting strangely.What would they normally do?
22A character is caught red-handed.How do they react?
23A character’s alibi falls through.Who let slip the truth?
24The investigator talks the mystery over with someone.Are they trustworthy?
25Someone confesses.Why were they lying?
26A character tries to destroy a clue.Can they be stopped in time?
27A character tries to escape.Do they succeed?
28The investigator interviews a suspect.What’s their first question?
29Two or more people meet secretly.Are they observed?
30The investigator explains the solution to the mystery.Did they leave something out?
RELATED:  Writing Suspense


P.S. If you’re enrolled in The One Page Novel course, don’t forget to refer to the mystery cheatsheet in the Genre Cheatsheet pack!

Don’t miss these writing prompts…

Worldbuilding ideasWriting ideas - 30 scenes for plot developmentCharacter Development100 Opening Scene Ideas

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