70 Mystery Writing Prompts That’ll Keep Your Readers Hooked
From whodunits to unsolved crimes, here are over 70 mystery writing prompts that will keep your readers hooked from beginning to end.
The mystery genre is all about gathering clues and evidence to solve a crime or mystery of some sort. Common mysteries to solve may include murder, kidnappings, theft and any other unsolved crimes. The thing that makes a mystery story so appealing is that no one knows who the true culprit is until the very end of the story. And the big reveal at the end is always shocking to the reader. The secret to a good mystery lies in the plot twist. You have to be two steps ahead of your readers – Get inside the head of your readers and think, “Who would your readers think the main culprit is?” Then switch it around, and pick someone who is highly unlikely to be the real baddie.
You can pick a random prompt from our mystery writing prompts generator below to practice your plot twist skills on:
In a mystery novel, characters are a huge part of the mystery. Common characters may include:
- Street smart detective – They ask all the right questions, but are the answers to be trusted?
- Bent cop – Known for planting fake evidence at crime scenes.
- Mysterious guy – No one knows anything about them, and therefore they could be an easy suspect in the case.
- The scapegoat – The one everyone is blaming.
- The obvious suspect – All clues point to this person.
- The unobvious suspect – No real evidence against this person, but somehow they link to the crime in question.
When writing your mystery story think about the characters you would include carefully before diving in. We even recommend creating character profiles for each character, and maybe even a mind-map to show their connection to the crime in question.
70 Mystery Writing Prompts
List of over 70 mystery writing prompts, from unsolved murder cases to items that vanished into thin air:
- The richest man on Earth has a hidden vault filled with millions of dollars, expensive jewellery and gems. One night he goes to add to his collection of gems and notices a sentimental piece of jewellery missing.
- One-by-one random things keep on going missing in your house. First your watch, then a teapot. Who is taking them and why?
- One of your classmates mysteriously stops coming to school. It’s been nearly 2 weeks since you last saw them. What could have happened to them?
- A police officer finds a dead body at a barber’s shop in town. The cause of death was drowning. No one knows how the body got there and who did it.
- A person takes a game of snakes and ladders too literally. In random locations around the city, snakes and ladders have been placed. Where do those ladders go? Why are snakes placed in these random places? Can you solve this strange mystery?
- You wake up in a warehouse with no memory of how you got there. The warehouse office is filled with newspaper clippings of missing people from the past 20 years. Who is the kidnapper and why are you in this warehouse?
- Last night a series of supermarkets and warehouses across the city were robbed. The thief or thieves only steal toilet paper. Can you solve this case?
- Meet Benji, the cat detective. Benji is a feisty feline who is on a mission to capture the great tuna can thief.
- At exactly 7.08 pm last night a scream was heard from 59 Pebble Lane. The neighbours knocked but no one was home. Later that night, the police arrived at approximately 2.13 am to find a cold dead body on the floor in a pool of spilt tea.
- You are a reporter for the Imagine Forest Times newspaper, you are writing an article on the missing bird eggs in the local forest.
- Imagine you are a security guard. It’s your first night shift at the local art Museum. The next morning a priceless painting goes missing, and you are blamed. You need to prove your innocence before you are sent to prison, but how?
- Write a time travel mystery story where the main character keeps going back in time to find out who really murdered their parents.
- You and your friends go to the fairground. You decide to ride the carousel. Round and round you go, and then the ride stops. When it stops you notice one of your friends is suddenly missing. Where did they go? (See our list of writing prompts about friendship for more ideas.)
- The main character in your story is caught red-handed with the missing jewel in their hand. But did they really steal this jewel?
- Write a diary from the perspective of a paranoid person who thinks their neighbour is stealing from them.
- Write down an action scene where the main character trails the secondary character to an abandoned warehouse. What do you think will happen next?
- Someone has been stealing mobile phones at your school. You think you know who it is, so you set up a try to catch the thief.
- A bent police officer has been planting false evidence at crime scenes for years. Who are they protecting and why?
- Write a script between two characters who are meeting in secret to discuss some new evidence in a murder trial.
- Imagine you are a detective interviewing a suspect in the crime of jewellery theft. Write down some questions that you might ask the suspect. If you have time, you can also write the possible answers from the suspect’s point of view.
- You discover a note in your bag. It says, “I know what YOU have done!” – Who can have left this note, and what are they talking about?
- Write a story about a young police officer who is solving the murder case of his best friend from high school. The twist is that this police officer turns out to be the murderer.
- For over 10 years, your twin sister was missing. But there she is – Suddenly walking in the middle of the street. Where has she been? What happened to her?
- Imagine you are an investigator examining the scene of a murder crime. What types of clues would you look out for? Can you make a list of at least 10 possible clues you might find?
- A police car is chasing a potential suspect in a murder trial. Halfway through the chase, the police car disappears. The suspect slows down their car, and wonders, “What happened? Why did they stop coming after me?”
- You come home from school one day and notice that your mother’s things are gone. Your first thought is that she left you and your father. But the truth is that she was kidnapped by someone.
- A mysterious person has stolen all your teddy bears and is holding them for ransom somewhere. Each day you get a cryptic riddle. If you can solve each riddle you will receive one teddy bear back each time.
- It’s the year 3,000. Your main character is a lawyer for a robot. They must prove this robot’s innocence in a human murder trial. (See this list of sci-fi writing prompts for more inspiration.)
- Someone keeps stealing textbooks from your school. One day you go to school and see a huge statement art piece outside the school made from the stolen textbooks. Can you find out who did this?
- Cinderella has turned into a detective. She needs to solve the case of the stolen glass slippers. After all those glass slippers are super rare.
- The main character in your story must prove their innocence in a murder trial. How would they do this? What evidence would they need?
- The main character in your story discovers that their brother is the real killer. They then try to destroy all evidence linked to their brother to protect them.
- “Poppy! Poppy! Where are you, buddy?” Mindy searched for her pet Labrador everywhere. But she was nowhere to be seen. It turns out all the dogs in town have been missing since last night. What could have possibly happened to them?
- Someone has been leaving embarrassing photographs of various people all over town. Can you track down this person? Why are they posting these photos?
- Write a mystery story titled, ‘Piece-by-Piece’ about a jigsaw puzzle thief who is stealing random puzzles pieces.
- You notice some muddy footprints leading into a thick forest at your local park. You follow this trail of footprints to a secret hatch in the woods. The door of the hatch has been left open. When you go inside you discover something shocking.
- Your dog digs up an old lunchbox in your backyard. Inside the lunchbox, you find a key, an address and some old newspaper clipping of missing people. You think you can solve this case of the missing people by just visiting that address. But things get a little more complicated…
- This is a mystery story about a boy named Billy who’s home alone and is playing with a toy truck when he finds a strange box. His mother, a lady with a past, is suspicious of this mysterious box, so she calls the police. Billy’s mother is a detective, and they find that the box is really a trap, and Billy is kidnapped.
- Write a crime mystery story about how a little girl’s dream of becoming a scientist led to her death. Why would anyone murder a young girl who wants to be a scientist? How did this happen?
- A small-town sheriff gets caught up in the biggest robbery in history. When over a million dollars just vanish into thin air, people are quick to blame the shifty-eyed sheriff from out of town. But is he really the culprit in this crime?
- When Sara was a young girl she was kidnapped by a strange man and woman who took care of her. But now Sara wants to know what happened to her real parents. Are they still alive? Are they still looking for her?
- The clock is ticking. Somewhere in the city, a group of hostages are locked up. With every hour that goes by, one hostage will be killed. The main character, a street-smart detective must solve the clues to find the location of these hostages in time.
- A police officer finds himself in a very unusual situation. It is just before 6 pm on a Friday night when police were called to a disturbance in the street. The call came from a man who was allegedly threatening a woman with a knife. The man was arrested at 6.05 pm and taken to the police station. However, it was later revealed that the woman left at home has been murdered by someone else, but who?
- A murder mystery party takes a dark turn when one of the guests is murdered for real.
- Write a mystery story titled, ‘Who Stole My Homework?’ The main character’s A* worthy English essay is stolen by someone, but who?
- Use this sentence as inspiration: Inspector Robins pulls out his notebook and writes down two words: Green fingers.
- “10 car windows broken in 10 days! What does it all mean? What does it mean?” Exclaimed Detective Riley.
- During a stop and search, a police officer finds a dead body in the boot of a car. But is the car driver really to blame?
- A lost bracelet ends up in your best friend’s locker at school, along with other precious items. Your best friend is wrongly accused of stealing these items.
- One girl must find her stolen prom dress before the prom. In the days leading up to the prom, more and more of her accessories for prom night are being stolen. Who is this thief?
- Write a mystery thriller titled, “Come and Get It”. It’s about an arrogant criminal who is stealing sentimental items from each police officer in the state, He leaves these items in random locations in the city, along with a note that says: Come and get it!
- Every night the car alarms for every car on your street turn on at exactly 2.03 am. why is this happening, and who is responsible?
- A mysterious hacker has hacked into the city’s power grid. They have the power to on and off electricity whenever they want. Can you catch them before they do any more damage?
- A secret admirer is leaving expensive gifts for your main character. At first, these gifts seem great, but then they soon take a dark twist (see our Valentine’s Day Prompts for more inspiration).
- Your main character is at their senior prom. Dancing the night away. Suddenly the lights go off. Pitch darkness for a minute. When the lights come on, your best friend is gone. And there’s a message in red paint on the wall: You’re next!
- Your teacher gives back your English assignment, and you got an F! Looking closer, you realise that this is not your assignment at all! The same starts happening in your other classes. Someone has been swapping your assignments – But who?
- For the past few days, you have been receiving anonymous emails from someone. The emails are telling you not to be friends with him. You don’t take any of these emails seriously until the police come knocking on your door.
- A family picnic at the park becomes unbearable when you open up the basket to discover every family members untold secrets.
- You are at a Chinese restaurant with your family. It’s time to open up the fortune cookies. When your mother opens up her fortune cookie, it says: “One of your children has been very naughty!”. Then your father opens his cookie up, it says: “Who’s been sneaking around behind mommy’s and daddy’s back?” All eyes at the table are on you. But what did you do?
- Your main character is a bent cop. Trying to manipulate the course of justice, and helping real criminals get away with murder. One day, someone plants evidence that gets this bent cop arrested for a murder they did not commit.
- Write down a scene between two characters. In this scene, the ‘real’ criminal is trying to convince a detective that someone else is guilty of the crime of stealing from a church.
- There are three potential suspects in the murder case of Phillip Green. You are the lead detective on this case. What questions would you ask these suspects to find the real murderer? Make a list of at least 10 questions you may ask.
- A health inspector arrives at a vegan restaurant to discover rotten vegetables, and raw, old meat. The owners know nothing about this and believe someone planted this as sabotage. Who can have sabotaged the vegan restaurant?
- Write a short mystery story for kids titled, ‘Why is the sky blue?’ One child’s curiosity about the sky leads them to discover a secret playground in the park.
- Your main character is a news reporter who is convinced that the killer of Rosie Moore is still out there. They know that the police have convicted the wrong person for this heinous crime. Can your main character find the real killer before the wrong person is sentenced to life in prison?
- Someone has been replacing all shampoos around town with a hair removal solution. When half the town’s hair starts falling out, it is up to you, a top detective to solve this crime.
- Write a mystery story set in the future where a secret cyber group called the ‘Merry Man’ are hacking the bank accounts of rich people and giving this money to the poor. Your main character is a police detective trying to hunt the members of this cyber group down.
- A mysterious person is playing a nasty game of hide and seek with you. They have kidnapped your friends and family members and hid them in various locations within the city. You have exactly 1 hour to find each person before something bad happens to them.
- Someone has left a note in your locker at school. The note reads: Help me, please! You ignore this note, but more notes start appearing in your notebooks, bag and even at home. Until eventually you get a package through the mail. You open this package and scream…
- Write an animal mystery tale about a dog who wants to find the original owner of a doll he found in the park.
- Can you solve this bonus mystery prompt: Someone has been stealing socks from the locals at night. Who could this be and why would they be doing this? (See video prompt below for more ideas.)
Did you find these mystery writing prompts useful when writing your own story? Let us know in the comments below!