Mystery Plot Template / Story Beats / Roadmap

In the Novel Factory, we use a Universal Storyline template based on the Hero's Journey, and we've created a few more targeted structure templates for common genres, such as Romance and Mystery.

However, we've been asked a few times if we can develop these further and tailor them more closely to those genres.

So, we've researched and read and scoured the web and are proud to present the Mystery Plot Template!

Obviously, a template is only ever intended to be a starting point and a guide, and should not be taken as hard and fast laws. Take it, shake it up and deviate from it.

 It's a tool, not a rule.

And here is the same as text, for your convenience.

Act One

Present the crime
Introduce the sleuth
Offer plausible suspects
Introduce crime complications
Introduce private life subplot

Act Two

Initial investigations and interrogations reveal clues
Disappearance of one suspect
Raise the stakes
Development of sub plot

Act Three

Reveal hidden motives of stakeholders
Unsatisfying solution reached
Return to overlooked clue from act one
Resolution of subplot
Confrontation with perpetrator


  1. OMG! Thank you. This is perfect. I've been looking for something like this as I attempt to write a mystery for the first time—heck, as I attempt to write a novel for the first time. Thank you!

  2. Thank Karen - really glad it's useful : )

  3. It is REALLY REALLY helpful! Thank you so much for it!

  4. This template is awesome!
    "Offer plausible suspects" - Don't really know why but this made me laugh.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Jennifer | Website

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  7. Four years ago I started a "story" -- had never written anything longer than a 10 page "Post Modern" essay for Methodologies of Modernism" at Art School. But it was a huge it with the two Professors. So, not having any idea how to start what to write. I took a friends advice and just started writing with no plan, no plot, no characters except me as the narrator. 120,000 words and later I am doing a third time through edit.
    A friend said I should make an outline to see what I have. This template has given me solid ideas how and where to go with it.
    Michael Patrick