If you love suspense and finding clues is your idea of a good time, you’re probably a fan of mysteries. Now, pick up a pen and — presto! — you’re ready to also become a mystery author, right? Well, not so fast. Because we all know, the key to a gripping whodunnit are the unique mysterious story ideas behind them. If you’re currently waiting for a lightbulb to go off in your head before you embrace your inner Agatha Christie, you’ll enjoy these mystery writing prompts!

Here are three broad categories of mystery stories you might want to consider writing:

  • Cozies. These usually take place in — as the name would suggest — cozy settings, such as small towns. They are meant to be a “light read” meaning they don’t involve graphic violence. The detective is typically an “average joe” with a knack for sleuthing.
  • Hard-boiled. Typically feature a professional detective. As the story unfolds, not only is the mystery untangled, but so is the protagonist’s character development as they face their own internal struggles. These are typically more “gritty” than cozies.
  • Procedurals. Distinguished by their very in-depth explanation of how a mystery was solved — whether a police procedural or an explanation from a medical examiner. 


Want more help learning how to write a short mystery? Check out How to Write a Short Story That Gets Published — a free, ten day course by Laura Mae Isaacman, a full-time editor who runs a book editing company in Brooklyn.


Have a story you’re ready to start submitting? Check out our list of writing contests or our directory of literary magazines.