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Mystery Writing

You may be surprised to discover that many, if not all, of the books you have read recently are mysteries. From Dan Brown to Dennis Lehane, mysteries are hot items on today's best-seller lists. This course is designed to teach you the techniques you need to know if you want to become a best-selling mystery author.

The course begins by introducing you to the four types of stories and explains how they relate to mysteries. You will discover the three-act story structure and show you how to propel the action forward to a climax, followed by a release of tension as your readers experience a great finish. You will discover the between story and plot and get a chance to experiment with viewpoints to see which one works best with your mystery. This course will allow you to write a complete scene and learn the internal structure that makes every scene feel right. You will discover special techniques that apply to mysteries, including crime scene description, MacGuffins, and the use of red herrings to misdirect your readers and create suspense. Following each lesson, you will get to practice on your own story.

This information-packed online course combines the best advice of many writing professionals. Follow the guidelines taught in this course, and you will be well on your way to writing a successful mystery of your very own.

6 Weeks / 24 Course Hrs
Starting June 17, 2020

Offered in Partnership with your Preferred School

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Learning Method

Instructor-led

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Starting June 17 | July 15

Mystery Writing

Details + Objectives

Course Code: mys

What You Will Learn
  • Discover the four different story types and explore how they combine to create some great mysteries
  • Learn the difference between plot and story
  • Explore the relationship between passion, theme, character, and premise
  • Learn to create your protagonist, antagonist, and other characters, and invent their flaws
  • Master the nine checkpoints around which you will construct your mystery
  • Apply Act 1, Act 2 and Act 3 checkpoints as you create your hook, design your crisis, and polish your plan, climax, and ending
  • Learn an easy way to expand your mystery's structure into a story outline
  • Explore the way scene and sequel intertwine to create your mystery
  • Select an viewpoint that will work best and gain an understanding of its benefits and limitations
  • Learn to incorporate suspense, misdirection, and deductive reasoning as you finish structuring your mystery
How the course is taught
  • Instructor-led course
  • 6 weeks in duration
  • Courses begin each month
  • 2 lessons released each week
  • 24 course hours
How you will benefit
  • Gain the best advice of many writing professionals, tempered with the instructor's own experience as a mystery writer
  • Be well on your way to writing a successful mystery of your very own

Outline

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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. You'll also take some time to learn 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. 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.

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

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.

The Checkpoints of Mystery Story Structuring

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Scene and Sequel

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.

Viewpoint

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.

The Mystery

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.

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Instructors & Support

Steve Alcorn

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.

Requirements

Requirements

Prerequisites:

There are no prerequisites to take this course.

Requirements:

Hardware Requirements:

  • This course can be taken on either a PC or Mac.

Software Requirements:

  • PC: Windows 8 or later.
  • Mac: OS X Snow Leopard 10.6 or later.
  • Browser: The latest version of Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox are preferred. Microsoft Edge and Safari are also compatible.
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader. Click here to download the Acrobat Reader.
  • Software must be installed and fully operational before the course begins.

Other:

  • Email capabilities and access to a personal email account.
Instructional Materials

The instructional materials required for this course are included in enrollment and will be available online.

FAQs

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When can I get started?

A new session of each course opens each month, allowing you to enroll whenever your busy schedule permits.

How does it work?

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.

How long do I have to complete each lesson?

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.

What if I need an extension?

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.

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