When I first thought of asking authors I admire to join me in an anthology, I asked a few of my close writing friends if they’d try to write a mystery for me. And I got blank stares. Okay. Totally fair. Because not one of them has ever written a mystery. I got it. But I really wanted them to write a story for me. So I thought of an idea.
“What if we use the game Clue to inspire us?”
The game itself is copyrighted. But I didn’t really want to base it on the game or movie. I just wanted to help my friends get ideas for mysteries.
“What if we each choose a room? A weapon? And a color? And use those in our stories somehow.”
I ended up picking Miss Peacock with a wrench in the kitchen as loose inspiration for my story. Miss Peacock became Earnestine Peabody, a nosy busybody who’s trying to dig up dirt on the volunteer decorators who are working on a grand, old house in River Bluffs to sell so that the profits go to charities. Jazzi, Ansel, and Jerod sign up to renovate the kitchen, dining room, and half bath to help support the food banks in their town. And as it happened, Earnestine was killed in the kitchen but stuffed in a hall closet, but that’s all right, because the game was only supposed to inspire us, not to be taken too seriously.
Which was a good thing. Because my fellow writers went in all kinds of directions with the stories they wrote. Mr. Plum evolved into a plum room in an attic, haunted by two ghosts, when Kathleen Palm sent me her psychological horror mystery. I can’t say much more without giving away the plot. Julia Donner, not content with one murder weapon, chose two for her humorous Regency mystery. The poor victim had a bell pull wrapped around his neck and then he was whacked with a candlestick to finish the job. And C.S. Boyack couldn’t find a weapon to his liking, so chose his own. Had to. A knife, revolver, wrench, rope, candlestick, or lead pipe wouldn’t harm Jason Fogg when he transformed. Mae Clair chose the hall, but put that hall in a castle for her medieval whodunnit. And Rachel Sherwood Roberts made the conservatory the pivot point of her literary mystery. D.P. Reisig decided against the regular weapons, too, and introduced one I’ve never heard of, a slung-shot, but it definitely sounded deadly.
So, even though we used Clue to get our little grey cells working,–and really, that’s all we needed it for–we all went in our own directions once it sparked ideas. It served its purpose. So from this day on, I’ll enjoy it as a game, a movie, and now as inspiration.