Course Code: mys
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. You'll also take some time to learn what makes a mystery great, and to explore a number of real-world examples.
Did you know that there's a big difference between story and plot? Amazingly, even many professional authors are confused about this. In this lesson, 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.
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 taking place within them—there can be no story. In this lesson, you'll discover why the best characters are flawed. You'll explore the main character—the protagonist—and the opposing force of the antagonist. After that, you'll look at tricks and techniques for creating characters that are memorable.
In this lesson, you'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, you'll examine each element of it under your writer's magnifying glass. Then, you'll test your theories against some well-known mysteries. By the end, you'll have solved the mystery of story structure.
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.
In this lesson, you'll 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 their flaw. 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.
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.
Once you've become comfortable with story structure, it's time to put it all together. You'll move from story idea, to story outline, to developing scenes. From these little seeds, you'll grow an entire forest.
This lesson will unravel the internal structure of every piece of fiction you've ever read. This is different from story structure and it's something you probably never even knew existed. It's called scene and sequel. After this lesson, 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. In this lesson, you'll look at the three most common viewpoints: third person omniscient, third person limited, and first person. You'll explore the advantages and disadvantages of each by considering examples from real-word mystery novels.
Much of the content that's been 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. In this final lesson, you'll examine some elements unique to mystery writing. Then, the lesson will wrap up with some ideas about how to follow the roadmap you've created and actually reach your goal of a finished novel or screenplay.
Steve Alcorn is the published author of a wide range of fiction and nonfiction works. During the past decade he has helped more than 30,000 students turn their story ideas into reality, and many of his students have published novels they developed in his classes. His novels include the mystery A Matter of Justice, the historical novel Everything in Its Path, and the picture storybook Molly Builds a Theme Park. He is the author of the non-fiction books How to Fix Your Novel, Theme Park Design, and Write Your Life Story. When he isn't writing and teaching, Steve is the CEO of Alcorn McBride Inc., a leading theme park design company.
There are no prerequisites to take this course.
The instructional materials required for this course are included in enrollment and will be available online.
A new session of each course opens each month, allowing you to enroll whenever your busy schedule permits.
Once a course session starts, two lessons will be released each week for the six-week duration of your course. You will have access to all previously released lessons until the course ends.
The interactive discussion area for each lesson automatically closes two weeks after each lesson is released, so you're encouraged to complete each lesson within two weeks of its release.
The final exam will be released on the same day as the last lesson. Once the final exam has been released, you will have two weeks plus 10 days (24 days total) to complete the final and finish any remaining lessons in your course. No further extensions can be provided beyond these 10 days.
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."
During the course I wrote a mystery using your guidelines. I finished it last week and sent off a query letter. The publisher has requested the complete manuscript!"
Having this course being taught by a published author was immensely valuable. It is great to be taught by someone who has the success and experience, yet can still relate to us beginners and cares that we are successful too. Wonderful!!"
I have a novel coming out in June 2007 (thanks to Steve's help), and a mystery in the hands of another publisher, a mystery that never would have been written without his help. I wanted to say thank you."
I really enjoyed taking this course. Steve is excellent. He knows his subject. When I had difficulty grasping a topic, he gave good examples that helped me understand the point he was trying to make. I recommend this course to everyone who has an interest in/or aspires to write mysteries."
Steve Alcorn is an amazing teacher. I took his Advanced Fiction Writing and Mystery Writing courses, in that order, and I learned more in his courses than I did as a creative writing major at an outstanding university. This is by far the best way to learn, and you're learning from a real pro. Thank you Steve - I am working on my mystery and plan to get a book proposal out there within a few months."
Thanks Steve, you're the best! You're a great role model for all of us who dream of being a writer whose readers just can't wait for us to write another best seller! I enjoyed your sense of humor, guidance and best of all your knowledge of the craft, which is without peer. Thanks again for all your encouragement -- it made a big difference."
You know what I liked about your course? My entire home library of books on writing TOLD ME WHAT I needed to do in order to write a book. You SHOWED ME HOW to do it. Thanks a million."
You may be interested to learn that during the course, I developed a novel. Shortly after completing the course, I finished work on the book and submitted it. It has been accepted by a publisher!! Very helpful course."
Run; do not walk, to sign on for Steve's classes. This is the best writing class I ever took, exceeding a college curriculum."