Ask the Expert: Murder Mystery Party

15 Apr

Ask the Expert is a series where I interview friends and others who are experts in a particular party concept.

For this edition, I’ve interviewed pretty much my favorite person ever: my mom. A few years ago, my family decided to have a Murder Mystery theme party. Rather than use one of those Murder Mystery in a Box kits, we decided we wanted to have a custom party tailored to our family, and my mom stepped up to pen the script. Read on to find out how she did it, and what exactly was going through her mind when she chose me as the murderer and my father as the victim.

Everybody’s Invited!: How does a homemade murder mystery party work?

Mom: Well, in advance of the party, everyone is assigned a character with a backstory, some costume recommendations, and several important personality traits. A premise is established for the dinner party, and when guests arrive they settle in to a delicious dinner. Then, just before dessert, the murder is staged! Each character receives a little booklet which contains important clues and information about their own character as well as the others, and a series of discussion rounds begins. For our party, I served as the emcee for the evening and instructed people when to turn the pages in their booklets to learn more information. Guests improvised conversation and revealed more and more clues each round. At the end, everyone guesses the identity of the murderer.

EI!: How did you get started writing the materials for the Murder Mystery party?

M: I started out brainstorming around “Death by Chocolate” which was the gastro theme we’d all agreed upon. That was the inspiration for choosing when and where I wanted the action to take place.  I chose a place with a cooking connection – the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). The time would be the present.

EI!: The murder mystery script you wrote for our theme party featured great character names: Leonard Smithson, Music Critic; Renee Flambert, Opera Singer; Marie E. Claire, Pastry Chef; Maxine de Winter, Attractive Woman; and, my favorite, Al Truist, Socialist. What was your inspiration for those names?

M: I decided who my cast of characters would be based on the folks that were coming to the party. I tried to choose fun names that would fit with the characters as well as be memorable. I particularly like Renee Flambert.

EI!: What’s the secret to keeping the guests engaged in the game?

M:I made sure that each character had a motive for the murder and a way to carry it out, and that those details would be revealed throughout the evening. And, of course, I threw in a few red herrings.

Not a bad way to die.

EI!: Do you remember what we ate?

M: I hope we had some great chocolate dessert to end the evening, but to be honest, I can’t remember what that was.

EI!: I remember. It was called Death by Chocolate Cake (Editor’s note: this isn’t the recipe we used, but it looks off the hook. Plus, there’s a gluten-free adaptation). We also had Chocolate Chili and Chocolate Cherry Cordials. How long did it take you to prepare the materials?

M: I had never done this sort of thing before, and it took quite a few index cards and a number of days to accomplish, but in the end, it was a lot of fun for everyone.

EI!: It was always funny to me that you made me the murderer and dad the victim. He recently sent me a piece of writing he did reflecting on this party. It included this paragraph:

“Here you are, your part is underlined. You need to go into the bedroom and lie down.”
“Okay.”
Here I am reading my part. It’s short on dialogue and not much on stage direction.
I’ll write it here for you to see for yourself:
“Dad’s part: VICTIM. (Go to bedroom and lie on bed. You are dead. At some point you will be discovered. Don’t move until then).”

Do you remember why you made the choice to have dad be the victim and me be the murderer??

M: I think I was just being Shakespearean.

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One Response to “Ask the Expert: Murder Mystery Party”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Second Blogiversary! « Everybody’s Invited! - November 30, 2010

    […] party in NYC; Ask the Expert interviews on “creating a party playlist” with DJ Jojo and “writing your own Murder Mystery” with my Mom; as well as useful environmental tips from Sarah and […]

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