25 Mystery Clues for Writers!

I’ve been meaning for a while to do this post, which is kind of a mystery clue generator. If you’re writing a murder mystery, a mystery short story, or even a mystery subplot in any kind of novel, it can be tricky to figure out how the truth comes to light. Hopefully, these examples of clues in a mystery will help.

An important key to mystery writing is to have your detective or amateur sleuth actively seek out the clues. The answers shouldn’t just fall into their lap! They can buddy up to people who might have information, go out of their way to eavesdrop on conversations, or do a little discreet snooping.

The other thing to keep in mind is that not all “clues” should lead to the guilty party! At least a few of them should be misdirects or “red herrings” that make the sleuth—and the reader—suspect someone who’s innocent.

Here’s my list, which it’ll probably make you think of more mystery clue ideas. You may want to pin this on Pinterest or bookmark it for future reference!

25 MYSTERY CLUES FOR WRITERS, image of magnifying glass, newspapers, computer. bryndonovan.com

1. correspondence—email, handwritten letters

2. other writing—journal entries, blog entries, lists and notes, old comments or posts on social media

3. internet search history—this can tell you a lot about a person!

4. payments—follow the money! Venmo and PayPal payments and payment requests, bills, and invoices

5. bank accounts—a recently opened, closed, or drained bank account

6. insurance policies—a new or increased life insurance policy or a policy on a building

7. trash—something in the bin or the dumpster may provide important information

8. a name change—if someone used to go by another name, that may be a clue…or just a red herring!

9. an overheard conversation

10. an unusual word or phrase—something most people don’t use that connects someone to the crime or the victim

11. an object belonging to the victim in someone else’s possession

12. a secret meeting between two people who don’t seem to have a close connection

13. an underlined passage or dogeared page in a book

14. a person knowing a detail about the crime that hasn’t been made public

15. a discrepancy between two people’s stories

16. a photo or video—it may show two unexpected people together…or show someone in an unexpected context…or a noise or detail in the background may be a clue hidden in plain sight!

17. stains—blood, ink, coffee, or wine, for example

18. a broken stair rail, window, or fence

19. scratches or damage to a car

20. a revealed history of animosity

21. a revealed secret love affair—we tend to avoid this one at my publishing house because we like to stay G-rated

22. a building permit

23. a job or school application

24. someone’s fear—a pet, child, or another person may exhibit subtle or very obvious fear of a suspect

25. food left in the fridge—an untouched, covered casserole, leftover pizza, or a dish that contains peanuts in the fridge of someone with a peanut allergy, may provide more insight into a victim or a suspect

If you found this mystery clue generator helpful, or if you have other advice about writing a murder mystery, let us know in the comments! And if you like lists for writers, check out my book Master Lists for Writers, if you haven’t already. A lot of bestselling authors use it for plot inspiration, descriptions, details, and more.

Master Lists for Writers by Bryn Donovan

Thanks so much for reading, and happy writing!

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10 thoughts on “25 Mystery Clues for Writers!”

  1. Ah, this is list is great timing for me! About to start the solve-the-mystery part of my wip, and I’ve been bogged down with what kinds of clues they can follow. Thanks!

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