Mystery Writing (Online)
What makes a mystery?
If you consider the books you've read most recently, you may be surprised to discover that many--if not all--are mysteries. From Dan Brown to Dennis Lehane, mysteries are hot items on today's best-seller lists.
This course will teach you the techniques you need to know if you want to become a best-selling mystery author.
Mystery Writing begins by introducing the four story types and then explains how they relate to mysteries. It then reveals the three-act story structure, which is any story's key to success. Next, it shows you how to propel the action forward to a climax, followed by a catharsis in which your readers feel the release of tension that accompanies a great finish.
The difference between story and plot is one of the most important distinctions in fiction writing--and one that many professional authors don't fully understand. But you will have mastered it by the end of this course. You'll also get a chance to experiment with viewpoints and see which one works best for your mystery. And you'll write a complete scene from your story and learn the internal structure that makes every scene feel right.
Finally, you'll delve into the special techniques that apply to mysteries, including crime scene description, MacGuffins, and the use of red herrings to misdirect your readers and create suspense.
Examples from real mystery novels will show these techniques in action. Then, following each lesson, you'll get to practice on your own story. And when you have questions or insights to share, you can join your instructor and classmates in a dynamic, interactive discussion area.
This information-packed online course combines the best advice of many writing professionals, tempered with the instructor's own experiences as a mystery writer. Follow the guidelines taught in this course, and you'll be well on your way to writing a successful mystery of your very own!
The Four Story Types
You're probably wondering if you can really write a novel or screenplay. You may have already started one—maybe even several—and then run out of steam. In this first lesson, you'll begin finding out the secret that guarantees success. It's the secret of knowing where you're going before you start. We'll also take some time today to discuss what makes a mystery great, and to explore a number of real-world examples.
Plot vs. Story
Did you know that there's a big difference between story and plot? Amazingly, even many professional authors are confused about this. Today you'll learn that plot is physical while story is emotional. Balancing the two is one of the keys to writing fiction that will satisfy your audience.
Passion, Theme, Character, and Premise
This lesson is about the dramatic elements at the heart of every story: passion, theme, character, and premise. Your passion is what drives you to tell your story and the theme is the underlying message it carries. To convey your theme, you create characters that represent it—either positively or negatively. Put these elements together and you've got your premise.
Character is what story is all about. Without a character—and a change in him or her—there can be no story. Today, you'll discover why the best characters are flawed. We'll explore you main character—the protagonist—and the opposing force of the antagonist. And then we'll look at tricks and techniques for creating characters that are memorable.
The Checkpoints of Mystery Story Structuring
In this lesson, we'll explore the structure underlying almost every great story. That's right: Nearly every successful story has the same structure—a structure that virtually guarantees success! Like Sherlock Holmes, we'll examine each element of it under our writer's magnifying glass. Then we'll test our theories against some well-known mysteries. By the end, we'll have solved the mystery of story structure.
Act 1: Hook, Backstory, and Trigger
This is the first of three lessons in which you'll construct your story outline, act-by-act. In Act 1, you'll hook your readers. Then you'll fill them in with some character history called backstory. Finally, you'll exit Act 1 with a bang by triggering a traumatic event in the life of your protagonist.
Act 2: Crisis, Struggle, and Epiphany
Today, we work on Act 2 of your mystery. If Act 1 ended with a bang, Act 2 starts with a whimper. Your protagonist begins in crisis—an emotional state brought on by his or her flaw. And because of that flaw, your protagonist will struggle throughout the act as the antagonist deals setback after setback. Fortunately, at the conclusion of Act 2, your protagonist finally figures out the source of all this emotional distress and overcomes it.
Act 3: Plan, Climax, and Ending
The epiphany that ended Act 2 has prepared your protagonist for triumph in Act 3. So it's time to devise a plan. The result will be a final confrontation with the antagonist. This lesson looks at the best way to defeat the antagonist—it's not what you might guess. Then, with that dramatic climax behind you, you'll be ready to tie up all your story's loose threads in the ending.
The Story Outline
We've accomplished a lot and you've gotten pretty comfortable with story structure. This is the lesson where we put it all together. We're going to move from story idea, to story outline, to developing scenes. From these little seeds, we're about to grow a forest.
Scene and Sequel
In this lesson, we'll unravel the internal structure of every piece of fiction you've ever read. This is different from story structure and it's something I bet you never even knew existed. It's called scene and sequel. After today, you'll never forget it.
One of the most important choices an author makes is viewpoint. It affects every aspect of story—from theme, to pacing, to suspense. Today we'll look at the three most common viewpoints: third person omniscient, third person limited, and first person. We'll explore the advantages and disadvantages of each by considering examples from real-word mystery novels.
Much of what we've talked about in this course applies to all types of fiction, not just mysteries. So, in learning how to write a great mystery, you've also been learning to be a better writer in all genres. But in this final lesson, we'll examine some elements unique to mystery writing. Then we'll wrap up with ideas about how to follow the roadmap you've created and actually reach your goal of a finished novel or screenplay.