Murder Mysteries and Writing to Suit the Audience

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This week I wrote a murder mystery game – the third time I’ve been commissioned to do this professionally – and it was a reminder of the importance of writing for your audience.

The first time I wrote one of these games it was for a small group of cosmopolitan twenty- and thirty-somethings. This time it was for a church youth group running the game for fifty teens. The mechanics are completely different, but so is the tone. In come non-player suspects to be questioned. Out go the sex and drugs.

The biggest lesson for me was in how much assumptions colour what I right. I put in infidelity as a motive because I’m so used to that being a feature of murder mysteries – even Miss Marple is constantly running into respectable English people who can’t keep it in their pants. But that was the one thing I was asked to change, because while infidelity might be an acceptable feature of murder mysteries, it definitely isn’t an acceptable feature of church camping weeks.

Sure, as writers we work in a creative field. You could even call what we do art. But art is never pure, it’s always affected by who you’re writing for. So the dead hotel manager has put his wandering willy away, and by the time he winds up dead he’ll be in a whole other sort of trouble. He clearly hasn’t learned his lesson, but I have.