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…

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


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!

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