Mysterious Events

Mysterious trees on a foggy night.Murder mysteries have grown in popularity as a corporate event. One of the major advantages of this format is that people do not need to physically participate so it suits more or less any guest.

Typically a murder mystery is delivered by a group of actors from an external corporate event company. Sometimes parts can be written for employees of the company organising the event and this can make it more personal and memorable.

This sort of event can become quite competitive as the storyline builds. Those who want to really get involved tend to do so while those who are less interested can break away and chat. This social team bonding event format works well because it is not forced and people can approach it however it best suits them.

Murder mysteries can be arranged at any location with suitable space. The best events are held at venues with the right atmosphere; so gothic mansion style hotels or castles are ideal. There are also specialist locations such as crypts and prisons which make ideal settings. As with any event the quality of the meal is crucial, but compromises do not need to be made as plenty of suitable venues have excellent catering.

The key is to choose a professional company who have experience of delivering events to an intelligent and sophisticated corporate clientele. A badly written script with corny lines can be excruciating.

There will be a high level of audience interaction and this is crucial in making the event enjoyable. Often the funniest moments happen ‘off script’ as exchanges between the actors and the characters that exist in every group.

Experienced actors know how to choose those people by observing the group from the outset. Some people prefer to watch quietly whilst others enjoy getting involved and having the chance to show off a little. Differentiating between the two is a key skill of experienced actors.

The format is also particularly effective as a team building event. If you have a wide range of ages and a mixture of genders this event will have a broader appeal than, say, quad biking or paintball. Teams will need to communicate in order to investigate the crime and solve the mystery so it makes an excellent icebreaker.

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Preparing For Murder

A gun, hat and murder mystery script.

Tonight we are holding a Murder Mystery at the Grand Harbour Hotel in Southampton. It’s our Little House of Horrors script which centres around the UK launch of a film that has done very well in America. The plot is a cross between a horror film and 50 Shades of Grey, so it fits in with current memes. I must remember to research whether 50 Shades has made it into America and whether it means anything over there.

The procedures of preparing are almost ritualistic. First the script and clues is changed to take into account the date. How many times have I done this now? Seeing the dates and places of the last performance of this script takes me back, this time to exactly a week ago – last Friday – at Syon Park south of London. Was that really only a week ago? That was an audience of 150 from Germany and other countries in Europe. After a slightly confusing start for them they warmed up and loved it. What a great way to learn more English.

I am convinced that one way of making a life seem as though it lasts longer is to fill it with experiences. There is a paradox; you do a lot of different things with different people at different locations and what what recent seems long ago while what was long ago often feels recent.

As well as the script costumes and props need to be prepared. My Trilby hat is starting to look well worn – how many times has that been worn to imply that the character is a gangster? Trilby hat, pinstripe suit and black and white brogues; what am I, some sort of cliché? Finally, there is the gun. Used rounds from the last event are removed and replaced with fresh ones. This is Gun 2 and it’s fresh and tight, whereas Gun 1 – the original – is now grey with gunpowder and much looser after a few hundred shows.

We’re ready to go. This is quite an enjoyable ritual and while I’m doing it I go through the script in my head. I expect that many actors have a ritual before their performance – the calm before the storm. Can I say ‘break a leg’ to myself?

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Avoiding Clichés In Writing

I’m preparing to write a new script. It’s called ‘The Ball’s In Your Court’ and it’s about a down and out baseball coach who is given one last chance. He takes on a group from a poor neighbourhood who are being ostracised from their community because of a mixture of issues including race relations, gang violence and petty crime, which is in reality incidental as they are good kids. The star player and the coach don’t get on. The coach doubts the star player’s commitment and the star player thinks the coach is washed up.

As the story progresses the group is brought together by being a team and the coach starts to believe in the star player’s abilities. The star player learns that the coach actually sustained a serious injury which ended his career and finds some old footage of him in action, which makes him see things differently.

They meet their main opposition at a pre-match event and they are better dressed, better equipped and generally seem to have a better chance. On the way back from the event the brother of the star player, who is also on the team, is involved in a fatal car accident. The star player goes off the rails and back to his old ways.

The rest of the team do their best to pull together, but it’s not looking good. Just as the big match is about to start the star player turns up, dressed to play and gives an emotional speech saying that this is what his brother would have wanted. He and the coach exchange knowing looks.

So far so good. However, it’s the next bit I’m a bit concerned about. During the match the star player is injured and it seems that the team have no chance of winning. But he comes back and wills them on from the sidelines which turns the game round and they win by a point with just seconds left on the clock. I’m worried that might be a bit of a cliché.

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How Do Murder Mystery Evenings Work?

Someone looking through a magnifying glass.A murder mystery evening comes together a bit like a jigsaw. Guests are trying to establish three things; method, motive and murderer. The challenge is that each of the suspects will have a possible method and motive. Each can be the murderer.

The murder itself often happens in front of the audience, who are usually divided into teams, often defined by the tables that they will eat on. When the murder happens in front of everyone the method is usually poison, but the audience have to establish how it was administered. In the opening scene each suspect will do something that could have administered poison, for example a drink may be thrown. The victim then either staggers out of the room to die or falls to the floor in the room.

In some scripts the murder happens offsite, and this opens up the possibilities to include gunshots, stabbing, suffocation and other methods. In all plots there will be preliminary forensics but in more complicated plots a full scene of crime suite may be opened up.

Each suspect will reveal a motive during the opening scene. Sometimes this is obvious, but often it is alluded to and paper based clues given out later will add to the motive. The audience must pay attention during the opening scene and it’s probably the most difficult time for this because the event has just started and the senses can be overwhelmed. Watch the facial expressions of the actors; if love is declared is it reciprocated? What might it mean if an actress declines a drink and strokes her stomach?

Paper based clues will back up the storylines. These may include love letters, bank statements and contracts. How do they fit together and add to the plot? One very effective way of dealing with clues is to set out a timeline. What happened and when?

The main element of the event is interaction with the suspects who will go from table to table for questioning. This is the part that many enjoy most of all because they can have a lot of fun putting questions to the suspects and trying to catch them out.

Finally teams establish their version of events and the detective who is acting as MC of the evening will read these out and choose the best one who will win a prize. However, it’s often the more creative solutions that are the most enjoyed.

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Murder Mystery Idea – The Intriguing Letter

A letter from the Discrete Investigation Bureau

Over the weekend I was going through my grandfather’s old briefcase which I have kept for sentimental reasons. It’s a battered old brown leather case and it contains various papers, mainly dividend receipts from his investments. It smells of old documents and I find it a very comforting thing which reminds me of a wonderful man.

In among the papers was a letter which I hadn’t noticed before. It’s dated 19th January, 1963 and it’s from a time when my grandparents owned and ran a school. The matter it addresses is Parkfield Schools Ltd -v- S.Faux and it’s from the wonderfully named ‘Discreet Enquiry Bureau’. Sadly this no longer exists and Google earth shows me a residential house at the address. It’s likely that the Bureau was a lone self-employed private investigator; a ‘gumshoe’.

The Bureau had been contracted my my grandfather to track down this Faux fellow, who they were suing for some reason and who appears to have done a runner. Perhaps their solicitors put him in touch with the Bureau, as they forwarded the letter to him. A more romantic idea is that he found it in the small ads in the back of a newspaper. My grandmother was a wonderful lady and she would not have been directly involved in such matters, but I know that she would have followed the shenanigans with great interest.

The Bureau followed the rogue Faux to the address he had given as a forwarding address and found that his name was not on the nameplate. Instead there was the name ‘Raux’. Faux is French for ‘false'; had he given a false name, even using it in court, and been so brazen as to taunt with wordplay?

The false fellow had moved on again and had given a forwarding address, but cancelled it after four weeks. At this point he goes off radar. However, the Bureau, no doubt by discreet enquiry, ascertained that Faux or Raux was known to frequent the infamous Curzon Club in W1. Now we really are starting to get the measure of the man. A rogue, a gambler, in my imagination now sporting a thin pencil moustache and wearing a sharp pinstripe double breasted suit.

It is just one chapter of a bigger story. We don’t know what this chap had done in the first instance, nor do we know what happened next. Did the Discreet Enquiry Bureau ever find their man? Was he called up to explain his nefarious activities. You don’t use an alias in life without good reason, and having the sangfroid to stand in court and swear by it certainly implies a villainous nature. My search for further documents sadly yielded none.

I was delighted to find this letter. It made me feel close to my grandparents again, whom I adored and who died over 30 years ago. However, the writer in me would have been intrigued by this letter even without that connection. The wonderfully named Discreet Enquiry Bureau harks back to a time long gone. These days almost everything in the letter would have been discovered using the internet and much of the investigation would have been conducted using it. Has the internet made it easier for rogues to vanish and hide, or has it made it more difficult? Locard’s Exchange Principle is one of the principles of forensic science and it is summarised as ‘every contact leaves a trace’. Then we have a respectable private school being wronged by someone who appears to go by an alias. I wonder what happened. No doubt it was some financial matter and nothing too serious, or I would have heard about it I’m sure. The final piece of intrigue is his frequenting of the Curzon Club, which throws in glamour and a little extra seediness.

I am probably imbuing the story with more romance than it deserves, but I shall continue to develop the story and it will be the starting point for my next murder mystery script. It began with the discovery of an intriguing letter.

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Batman – The Plot

The Caped Crusader. The Dark Knight. 50% of the Dynamic Duo. Call him what you will, he’ll always be Batman to us. Like Doctor Who or James Bond, everyone with an interest in pop culture, will have their own definitive Batman. For children who grew up in the 70’s, Adam West will always be their guy. It remains to be seen how Ben Affleck’s latest take on the character will go down with fans, but both Affleck and Christian Bale owe a lot to a Batman that many people have forgotten about. Despite the mantel changing a number of times throughout the franchise, Michael Keaton’s Batman from Tim Burton’s 1989 film of the same name set the dark standard that others have been following ever since.

It’s hard to think of a time without regular Batman movies appearing in the cinema. In recent years we’ve been spoiled thanks to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, but before Michael Keaton donned the cowl, Batman hadn’t seen the inside of a movie cinema since Adam West’s camp hero in 1966; Bat shark-repellant anyone? There had been a few aborted attempts to kick start a new version of Bob Kane’s creation but, for one reason or another, they had all failed to materialise. That was until self-styled ‘Gothic’ director Tim Burton came along. The movie had been drifting through development hell for a number of years until Burton signed on. Once on board, one of his first choices was a controversial one amongst fans. Michael Keaton, up until that point, had been primarily known as a comedic actor so when Burton cast him his Batman, many fans were outraged. If the decision to cast Keaton was causing concern, the casting of Jack Nicholson as the Joker was inspired, not to mention expensive.

For the first time, the distinctive style and architecture of Gotham City of the comics was finally realised on the screen. Using Burton’s flair for the dark and the macabre, the aesthetics of the movie were stunning to behold. From the Batmobile to the buildings through to the dark, shadowy citizens that populate the city, Burton and his team went to town to create a look as far removed from Adam West’s version as possible. With its distinctive look overshadowing everything else, you could argue that the film is style over substance, one of the main criticisms of the film and all of its subsequent sequels. Either way, audiences loved it.

As is the problem with many original stories, Batman the movie struggles to build a film around a linear structure that must include the incident that happens many years before which gives Batman purpose and the creation of its villain. If you can remember the plot of the film you’d be doing well. To recap, Gotham City finds itself in the middle of a crime wave, spearheaded by criminal Jack Napier (Nicholson). Napier and Batman’s alterego Bruce Wayne are both fighting for Gotham. One to destroy it, one to save it. They are also fighting for their shared love interest; Vicky Vale, a newspaper photographer played by Kim Basinger. After an accident at a chemical factory where Batman almost catches him, Napier fall into a vast of acid and is transformed into The Joker. Now a maniacal sociopath but with more make-up, Napier takes control of organised crime from his boss Carl Grissom and sets out to destroy Batman, armed with a toxin to turn the people of Gotham into disfigured freaks, just like him.

As Batman figures out Joker’s plans and attempts to stop him, the question for the people of Gotham becomes one of trust. Do they trust the clown prince of crime or the man in the bat mask. What a choice! They are both victims of what Gotham City has made them. Batman’s mission is to avenge the death of his parents. His links to the past have made him a man out of time. He can’t truly find love or peace in the present, however hard he tries. Napier, as it turns out, was responsible for the death of Wayne’s parents although not directly. The catalyst for the man he must defeat.

Whatever shortcomings the film has, it created a Batworld we now recognise as definitive. It also revolutionised modern movie marketing; the Batman symbol was everywhere and the Prince soundtrack was heard on radio stations around the world. Batman had come of age. The franchise may have skewed away from Burton’s vision and into neon lights and Bat nipples but Keaton was a revelation. There was only one more film with him in the lead role, but he remains the best Batman for many, with or without the mask.

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Basic Murder Mystery Writing

The murder mA shadow of a person writing behind wet glassystery genre has become very popular since Agatha Christie. This particular genre need to include an exciting cliffhanger and a storyline that needs to be created in such a way that it keeps you interested in reading.

The first thing you need to do is figure out the basics of the novel and its structure. Note down who will be murdered, the reason, the suspect, where the murder takes place and if there are any witnesses to the murder. Once you nail this information down, you need to go to the next step.

Now you need to expand on those questions by wring down more ideas and expanding on the ones you already have. After doing this, a good idea is to write the opener, where you basically introduce the setting and characters.

Once you do that, you need to write the murder scene. As this is the main subject of the book, you need to treat it with a great importance, and describe it in detail. You might want to hold on to some information in order to introduce it in later chapters, but do what you can to describe the murder as well as possible.

After that, you should try and write the discovery sequence. Who finds the body? A suspect or a random person? Is this tied to the murder, is there any significant information? Integrate this portion into the overall story.

Once you write the discovery, you also need to bring the suspects in. To make the plot as thick as possible, bring as many suspects as you can, and broaden the overall plot with how each suspect might be tied to the murder. You should also add the discovery of new evidence and eliminate suspects as you go along.

Rule the suspects out one by one and, in the end, leave only two or three suspects that give the reader the impression that any one of them could have done it. Once that is done, you should concentrate on the ending, and how you want to finish the story. Will the murderer be sent to jail, or he will live on to kill once more?

A good writer will also proofread and rewrite some portions of the novel at least two or three times. If you want your novel to be perfect, you should try and revise it yourself or hire additional help.

This is very basic advice and professional writers will have much more sophisticated techniques. However, for the new writer the biggest challenge is the first story. Not only is it a challenge to start a story but finishing it is often the most difficult thing. Many stories are sitting out there unfinished. Your first may be a short story, but it’s important to put pen to paper that first time. Good luck!

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