Murder mysteries meet Northwest’s creative writers


According to Abby Turner, the annual Halloween will begin adorning classroom 131 on Sept. 25 2017. Turner's been decorating her room for about three years.

Dim lights allowing shadows into the room and jack-o-lanterns smiling in the corners. The falling of crisp autumn leaves outside the windows. The faint sounds of typing on keyboards and silence of the brainstorming of plot twists fill the classroom, matching the eerie decorations adorning classroom 101. This is what the murder mystery unit in creative writing looks like under the instruction of teacher Abby Turner.

For the past five or six years, Turner has centered one of the first units in the creative writing course around one of her favorite holidays: Halloween.

“I think it came from my love for of Agatha Christie novels and suspense shows, and I’m already kind of obsessed with Halloween as it is,” Turner said.

The murder mystery unit consists of students reading murder mysteries before writing their own murder mystery plays. Near the end of October, the class performs the pieces whilst the room is decorated in appropriate and fitting Halloween attire.

“[Murder mysteries are] really good work for storytelling. They teach you how you don’t give everything away at the beginning and that you have to send audience in different directions,” Turner said.

For students that are big on Halloween, the idea of the room being decorated brings forth a whole new wave of inspiration.

“I love scary stuff and Halloween,” sophomore Jaden Lawrence said. “Reading the murder mysteries in class has helped [me brainstorm ideas], and I’ve had a couple dreams that inspired me, too.”

Even for those that are not big fans of the holiday, it seems as though they can still find inspiration in their surroundings.

“I find inspiration in everything. Sometimes it’s books or old movies or just my imagination or music or just a singular object,” sophomore Valerie Southern said, though she does not celebrate the holiday due to religious reasons. “I think it’s the writer in me.”

Former students such as senior Zoe Phillips, who is taking the course a second time, agrees that inspiration can often be better than planning, which is something she realized with the first murder mystery she wrote during her sophomore year.

According to Phillips, the murder mystery unit has greatly influenced her as a writer, not only for the way the mysteries are written, but also for how they are presented with the mood set by Turner.

“Murder mysteries made me a lot more crazy and manic and helped me develop how I do all my plot twists. I don’t give things away like I used to,” Phillips said.

Turner claims that she humor in the reactions she gets from Northwest students that walk past her door while her decorations are up and always looks forward to seeing how far her students improve throughout the year as a result of the murder mysteries.

“I think it’s neat to see a creative output in a way other than theatre. Sometimes I get students that I’d never get in theatre, but I love their presence and getting to know them and sort of seeing their creative bone flexed,” Turner said. “Besides, it’s fun to have something in your day that’s a little unorthodox.”