Mystery Writing

Mystery Writing
Instructor-Led Course
Hours: 24
Duration of Access: 6 weeks
Start Dates: Nov 11, Dec 09, Jan 13, Feb 10
3,364 Students
have taken this course.


A new session of each course starts monthly. If enrolling in a series of two or more courses, please be sure to space the start date for each course at least two months apart.

Week 1

Lesson 01 - 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.

Lesson 02 - 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.

Week 2

Lesson 03 - 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.

Lesson 04 - Character


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.

Week 3

Lesson 05 - 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.

Lesson 06 - 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.

Week 4

Lesson 07 - 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.

Lesson 08 - 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.

Week 5

Lesson 09 - 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.

Lesson 10 - 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.

Week 6

Lesson 11 - Viewpoint


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.

Lesson 12 - The Mystery


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.


Every person considering writing any type of fiction should take this course with Steve Alcorn. It contained concise information, writing assignments and quizzes, as well as comprehensive review by the instructor. Mr. Alcorn was in his classroom available for instruction and assistance when it was 2:00 a.m. and I was in my pajamas! The class was strikingly beneficial, fun and up-to-the-minute with instructional responses. He has my highest recommendation.

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