The Spine of Crime with David Corbett

Master the unique demands of setting for crime, thriller, and suspense stories.

Your Instructor: David Corbett (author of Blood of Paradise and The Devil's Redhead)

Where: Online — Available everywhere!

When: This class is not currently enrolling. To be notified when it is offered again, Click Here

Enrollment: 15 Students Maximum

Price: $397

Class Description

Building on his preceding course, The Character of Crime, award-winning novelist David Corbett moves from the 'Who' of crime writing to the Where, What and How. (The prior class is not a prerequisite for this course. The subject matter to be covered here stands alone.)

In this 4-week course and workshop, you’ll learn the crucial role of setting in crime stories—perhaps the most setting-dependent genre in literature. You’ll learn how to let suspense emerge not from coincidence but as a natural extension of character, context, and conflict. Last, you’ll learn how to construct the “spine” of your story through structure, finishing up with an examination of the unique plot elements that characterize stories in the detective, crime, and thriller sub-genres.

What This Class Covers

Week 1 — Setting: How to Ground your Theme, Characters, and Structure in Place

Whether your story takes place in a pastoral village or a skyscraper jungle, how people live in a specific place and time will define the nature and limits of what’s deemed a crime, who gets called a criminal, and what stands for justice.

Week 2 — Techniques of Suspense: Character, Conflict, and Context—not Coincidence

The trick is always to make the reading keep turning pages. Creating suspense always requires a bit of legerdemain, but to do it well, you need to look deep inside your story, not rely on chance.

Week 3 — Structure: Letting the Conflict Shape Your Story

Three-Act structure too often strands the writer in a meandering second act. By understanding structure as an outgrowth of character, plot points become meaningful events in your story’s growing conflict, not just turnstiles in the plot.

Week 4 — Structural Beats for Specific Sub-genre Types: Detective, Crime, Thriller

Each sub-genre has its own unique thematic emphasis, and that’s reflected in the nature of the adversaries and the conflict they generate. Those variations result in unique structural emphases and expectations.

Goals Of This Class

  • Gain a working understanding of setting not just as physical space but as the ground from which character, theme, and structure emerge.
  • Learn to use setting to heighten conflict, elicit emotion, and reinforce structure.
  • Defy expectation through the use of suspense created through character, conflict, and context—not coincidence.

Additional Info

Author Profile on David Corbett, from

About Our Classes Class FAQs