How to write a murder mystery

Interview with murder mystery Scriptwriter Lesley Gunn and the lovely Bertie!

Lesley Gunn is well known to M4M community as a guest scriptwriter. We asked Lesley, and her lovely cat Bertie, some questions about how, why, when she writes her scripts, this is what she said: 

How do you write a murder mystery script?

It varies, sometimes I start with the murder and the revelation then go to the back story. Other times I start writing and then decide who I don’t like and kill them off! 😁. But I always have a rough plot in mind, which is usually scribbled on a note book somewhere, or a random post-it note!

Where do you get your ideas from?

Anywhere! I tend to pick up on things in real life, maybe something overheard while having a coffee with my friends, or even on the telly. I think of situations which could really get fiercely competitive or cause annoyance and then take that idea to the extreme.  At the MurderedforMoney afternoon tea event recently there was a band doing a (very loud!) sound check while Bridget was talking… so you never know, that might end up as a story line one day!  😁.One of my scripts actually started with the punchline at the end on the reveal because I was following a lorry which belonged to… oh, sorry, I can’t tell you that or I’d have to kill you 😁

What are the challenges that you face when developing a murder mystery script?

For me it is mainly time. I have a very demanding full time job working in IT so by the time I’ve done 6am conference calls and a full day’s work my brain doesn’t always have much creativity left in the evening.  Although “writer’s block” sometimes plays a part too! I can write two scenes in an afternoon and then sit there looking at a blank page for ages. Sometimes I start a scene six or seven times and am still not happy with it.  You just have to learn to walk away, not worry. Always make sure you have a paper and pen with you wherever you go, because sooner or later you’ll get that lightbulb moment (usually around 3am!) 😁

How did you become a murder mystery scriptwriter?

I was chatting to a lady on holiday who had travelled the world as a journalist. I mentioned that I once sent a script to a reviewer who told me not to bother and I’d lost confidence. She told me not to give up, but to find something which made me happy.  Shortly after that holiday my other half was acting in a Murder Mystery play and I thought “I could have a go writing one of those”.  I wrote “The Great British Bump Off” in just two days the following weekend, sent it off to the publishers and they accepted it! It took quite a few reworks to get it in the right format and tie up all the ends. Four years on it has been performed all over the world and is now my Publisher’s best selling murder mystery and has been for the past three years.

What advice would you give to anyone who wanted to become a murder mystery scriptwriter?

Well, first of all, don’t expect it to pay the mortgage!  If you’re only in it for the money then murder mysteries are not going to keep you in the manner you are used to, unless of course it gets snapped up by the BBC writers room or ITV and turned into the next Midsomer Murders!  It also helps if you can envisage how it could look on stage.  When writing I keep in mind how the MurderedforMoney team might interpret it. Also, do something you enjoy and makes you happy. I often giggle while I’m writing. If I’m not giggling then it rarely goes further, not without a few changes anyway!

Which is your favourite murder mystery script and why? 

Well I should probably say The Great British Bump Off because that is by far the most “seen”, but I do have a soft spot for the second Moody & Sullen investigation. MurderedforMoney will be presenting this soon. It comes with cake and champagne (which is great for the actors afterwards!), a very silly running joke, and lots of giggles. One of the best things about watching MurderedforMoney perform one of my scripts is being able to see the audience’s reactions. If everyone is happy and smiling then it’s a great feeling to know that I played a small part in doing that.

….and the MurderedforMoney team would like to add a big thank you to Lesley for all her wonderful plays and for the giggles she provides us all with!


Leave a Reply