Mystery Writing I
See also:
Fiction Guide
Mystery Writing II

Mystery Writing II is a 10-week workshop, which includes lectures, exercises, and the critiquing of student projects. The prerequisite is Mystery Writing I, or the equivalent; Level II courses work best when students know the fundamentals and have experience with the workshop process. Farther down, you can view a syllabus for this course.

Nothing quickens the pulse like a good mystery, which is why millions of readers surrender themselves to the page-turning exploits of their favorite sleuths. Mystery is an expansive genre, welcoming amateur detectives, intellectual puzzle-solvers, policemen, private eyes, lawyers, spies, even average folk caught in a web of suspense. If crime is a central element, consider it a mystery.

To write riveting mysteries, you must merge the skills of a fiction writer with the clever tricks of the mystery trade. Here you will learn about the various types of mysteries and their special requirements, as well as fiction craft and how to market your work.

Whether you seek to write short stories or novels, classic puzzlers or crime fiction, we’ll show you how to capture readers.

About Mystery Writing
Mystery Writing II

I learned how to think like a mystery writer.

Fiona Kirk



If you’re working in the mystery genre, you may take Fiction I or (at the advanced level) Novel II First Draft or Novel II Critique, or one of our genre courses: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Romance, Mystery.

If you’re working on a YA novel, you may take a Fiction/Novel course, or a “genre” course, or you may take a Children’s Book course, where the full spectrum of children’s books will be covered. 

Upcoming Classes

Check back soon. You'll likely see options when we finish our next schedule.


This course helps you sharpen your skills at the mystery genre and work toward completion of a short story (or two) or a novel. Writers often repeat Science Fiction & Fantasy II to continue their projects. Course components:
     Writing exercises
     Workshopping of student projects (each student presenting work two times)

New York City/Zoom classes
The syllabus varies from teacher to teacher, term to term. Many topics will be similar to those covered in the Online classes.

Online classes 
Week 1
The Detective Metaphysic: The metaphysical journey of the detective. Purpose of the protagonist. Evolution of the protagonist.

Week 2
Character Development: Protagonist vs. antagonist. Revealing characters. Believability. Consistency.

Week 3
Plot and Story Structure: Plot—desire/obstruction. Structure—beginning/middle/end. Breaking through the wall. Outlining.

Week 4
Narrative Hook: What is a hook? Begin at the end. Begin in the middle. Begin in the beginning. Enticers—evocative description, interesting character, archival hooks.

Week 5
Suspense: The question and answer. Intention and anticipation. Inevitability. Authorial integrity.

Week 6
Clue Mechanics: What's a clue. Subgenre differences. Fair play.

Week 7
Villains: Do you need a villain? Purposes of villains. Creating a good villain.

Week 8
Scene Construction: Analysis of scene construction. Types of scenes.

Week 9
Scene of the Crime: Evidence. From a police detective perspective. From a private detective's perspective.

Week 10
Reading as a Writer: Reading nonfiction. Reading fiction. The pain and pleasure of reading as a writer.

Note: Content may vary among individual classes.