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Story through Dialogue, Part 7: Mystery

It is very common in mystery stories for there to be dialogue in which the detective interviews the victim of the crime of mystery, the suspects, and the witnesses. Through these interviews, the detective is able to gather information about what the crime or mystery is; who may have witnessed the crime or mystery; who had a motive to commit the crime; and where to find clues and/or other people (witnesses and suspects) to speak with to get more information and solve the crime or mystery.

Common Interview Questions

If the person you are interviewing is a suspect, start with these basic questions:

  • What is your name?
  • How do you know the victim (use the victim’s name)?
  • Did you have a good relationship with the victim?
  • Where were you at the time the crime was committed?
  • What were you doing at the time the crime was committed?
  • Can anyone prove that you were in the place you say you were at the time the crime was committed? If so, who?
  • Do you know anyone who might be angry or upset with the victim?
  • Was he or she having any problems with anyone? If so, what is that person’s name and relationship to the victim?
  • Where can I reach you if I have further questions?

Always thank the witness at the end of the interview. Remember that even if the detective rules out someone as a suspect at the beginning of the story, that person might still be the actual criminal. He or she could be lying in the interview. So, during the interview, it is important for the detective to also pay attention to the way the interviewee acts.

Some Signs that an Interviewee Might be Lying

  • Sweating
  • Being unable to look the detective in the eye
  • Shaking or fidgeting (tapping their foot, jingling their keys, fiddling with their jewelry, etc.)
  • Hesitation before answering questions
  • Gulping or stuttering when answering questions
  • Having a story that keeps changing or doesn’t make sense
  • Having a story that has details that contradict the facts or what the other interviewees have said

Activity: Interview Freewrite

Now, create at least one interview between the detective of your mystery and the victim, a suspect, or a witness. Keep the common interview questions in mind.

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