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Mystery Outline Template


Story Shop has Closed. The concepts still work but I am unable to share examples.

Master Mystery Outline Template

I am using Story Shop to create a master outline template for mysteries. The software is still in development stage with a generic outline. The developers have plans for outline templates in the future, but in the interim while the software is in beta testing, I decided to create my own format for mysteries.
Mystery stories have a number of false suspects and false clues. In the planning stages I like knowing what those false leads are so I can add foreshadowing.
An important part of the outline for a mystery is each of the crimes. In addition to the overall mystery outline, I created an outline for the crime(s) with sections for:

  • What appears to have happened
  • What really happened
  • Why this crime matters to the sleuth

These are the crucial elements that create the mystery in this genre. I felt it was important to detail each crime in this manner as part of the overall outline.
Of course, I have the overall story outline from start to finish.



Every story has its cast of characters, and for a mystery the characters have a rôle in the story. The sleuth, the villain, the false suspects, the supporting cast all contribute to the story. I created a set of character qualities for each of these rôles to work in any story.

Then, depending on the character rôle in the story, each type has a set of details.

With these prototypes set up, I can easily begin a new story and add details as I think of them. For instance, as I work on finishing The Peach Widow I can begin notes on the next story. The story is still waiting for a title but I know some of the characters and details of the crimes.
I’ll be curious to see how my outline compares to the outline the folks at StoryShop provide in the future.

Beta Testing

Beta testing has its challenges. Although the software is much more stable than it was at the beginning, there are still bugs. For instance, when I entered the  The Crimes outline everything was saved. But, when I entered the overall outline for the generic story the software was unable to save it. I tried several times, but no save.
The developers warned us that things could be lost and that we should keep a backup of everything until the software was stable. Today I’m waiting for feedback on this problem. Overall, I’m delighted with the planning aspects of StoryShop and am enthusiastic about testing the software.

​Zara Altair

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