KS2/3 VIDEO: How to plan a detective story with Robin Stevens (5 mins)

Reading Robin Steven’s  Murder Most Unladylike series can feel like trying to put a jigsaw together.  In the video, Robin shares how she plans her books and breaks it down so young writers can try to.  Every mystery story needs six key ingredients:

  1. Setting
  2. Victim
  3. Crime
  4. Suspects
  5. Clues
  6. Resolution

Use this video in your classroom to spark pupils’ imaginations. Time codes are included so you can pause and start the video as your class write down their ideas.

Setting (00:50)

The first thing we need somewhere that I call a “closed setting.” A place that is very hard to get into and out of, and has people in it already who know each other very well. For example, a train, a theatre or a school . . .

Victim & Crime (01:30)

Next you need to think about the crime and the victim, and this is really the heart of the story. What do you want to have happen in your mystery? For example, a theft, a murder or a kidnapping . . . in this video Robin uses the example that the victim is the school PE Teacher and the crime is a theft.

Suspects (02:11)

Every mystery and dective story needs suspects. Suspects are people who may have committed the  crime. To write your own story you’ll need to think of a couple of people who could have done it. Think about who might have been around the crime scene and, very importantly, why they might have committed the crime. This is called a motive.


Clues are the objects that can help the detective track down the criminal. It should be something that could belong to one of the suspects. Perhaps there is a lipstick which matches the shade worn by the school science teacher. Look around the classroom and choose an object – can you think about who it might belong to? This might help you spark a story idea.

Resolution (03:22)

The final piece of the puzzle, is the resolution. This comes at the very end of the story and answers all the readers questions about the crime. For example in the

A good mystery story will leave your readers guessing until the very end and be filled with twists and turns so the reader don’t guess who committed the crime until the very end.