Mystery Writing Prompts to Build Suspense

Kate Miller-Wilson

Creative Mystery Writing Prompts

Mystery writing prompts can be a great way to start your story when you're suffering from a case of writer's block. Flip through this slideshow from LoveToKnow Freelance Writing for a selection of ideas you can use for your next project.

What's Wrong?

In this film noir-inspired image, a well-dressed woman checks her phone anxiously. Write a story that begins "As soon as I arrived, I could sense that something was out of place...."

Unusual Murder Weapons

What is the most unusual murder weapon you can think of? Write a mystery story or thriller novel in which this item is prominently featured.

A Late Night Swim

Use this photo as a mystery story prompt: a pool at night. Imagine you sneak into the swimming pool at the local country club for a late night swim but are shocked to find a dead body floating in the pool. What happens next?

Halloween Fright

Halloween makes a great setting for a mystery novel or story. Set your story in a haunted house that is fully decorated for Halloween. There's plenty of room for suspense as you build tension with costumed characters and surprises.

A Heated Argument

Imagine you receive a phone call from the police informing you that your father's body has been found near an abandoned factory. The night before, you heard him in a heated argument with your uncle over a failed investment. What do you do next?

Malicious Code

In this image, a mysterious hacker writes malicious code that will take down important government organizations in a matter of hours. Your main character is a charming and geeky computer scientist who discovers the code. Can he find the source, come up with a solution, and convince the authorities to act?

Discovery and Betrayal

No one knows how they will react to a betrayal. In this mystery story prompt, the last thing yyour main character remember is discovering her husband in bed with another woman. When she wakes up, her husband lies dead in front of her. Was she the one who killed him?

Blackmail and the Boss

Blackmail photos make a great mystery writing prompt. A secretary notices his boss is acting odd lately - taking longer lunches, appearing distracted, and acting secretive. The secretary follows his boss as he leaves the office and discovers he is being blackmailed. Who is the blackmailer and what is the boss' secret?

Mystery of the Trap Door

People have been disappearing near the Johnson's home, and your main character is determined to find out why. One evening, while Mr. and Mrs. Johnson are out, she sneaks in and discovers a trap door in their living room.

Drugs and Money

Just like a recipe has ingredients, a mystery story has certain elements that will get the plot action started. If you include drugs or money, you can give a character a motive for murder or theft. For example, choose a character who is a recovering drug addict and has a vendetta against his former dealer. He discovers the dealer has been selling drugs that are formulated to cause an overdose. What does he do?

Caught in the Act

Your story opens with your main character standing over a body and holding a gun. He doesn't remember pulling the trigger. There's a sound of tires squealing, and he looks up to see a car pulling away. In the distance, there are approaching sirens. As the suspense builds, you main character must work to clear his name.

Clues at a Crime Scene

In this mystery story prompt, your main character is a police detective. At a crime scene, she must follow the clues to discover who killed the victim. There's a knife, some cigarettes, a drinking glass, and some beer bottles.

The Break-In

A priceless painting was stolen from the home of a collector, but the burglar was a professional. The authorities can't find any clues, but your main character is a specialist at solving mysteries. She discovers the clues the authorities missed.

The Secret Government Facility

People are disappearing, and an abandoned warehouse seems to be involved. Your character investigates, only to discover a secret government facility. What are they doing here that is causing the disappearances?

Whether you're writing a mystery novel, a short story, a play, or any other type of creative writing, photo writing prompts are a great way to jump start your creativity. Once you get started, it's just a matter of increasing the suspense until your character solves the mystery.

Kate Miller-Wilson
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Mystery Writing Prompts to Build Suspense