To write a mystery that grips your reader, you need to know your ending and plant your clues in the right places. Author and editor Joe Clifford shows you how it's done in this four-week workshop.
Your Instructor: Joe Clifford, author of 'Lamentation' and 'December Boys'
Where: Online — Available everywhere!
When: March 28, 2017 - April 25, 2017
Enrollment: 16 students
Think of the best mysteries you know.
Go ahead. Think. Your very favorites. The ones that stick with you.
The better the twist, the more convoluted the plot, the more you can be certain the writer knew his or her ending first. The key to a successful mystery is knowing when, where, and how to plant your clues, because these are the essential building blocks to propel your narrative.
But how do you know where those vital pieces of information should go?
Joe Clifford is the acquisitions editor for Gutter Books, managing editor of The Flash Fiction Offensive, and producer of Lip Service West, a reading series in Oakland, CA. He is the author of the books Choice Cuts, Junkie Love, Wake the Undertaker, Lamentation, and the upcoming December Boys, as well as editor of Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Stories Based on the Songs of Bruce Springsteen.
And he'll show you how to take the mystery out of writing mystery, by sharing proven strategies for success—focusing on causality, tension and relevance. This class will include lectures, assignments to be critiqued by your instructor and your peers, and plenty of opportunities for Q&A along the way.
What This Class Covers
Assignment: If you have a working draft, you'll create a summary, or you'll outline your idea. You'll use this to create the first few scenes for submission to the class. You'll discuss key concepts like setting, motivation, skills and relationships to see how you can use these to connect your scenes with a 'so' and not an 'and'.
Lecture: Using the movie Kiss Kiss Bang Bang as a reference point, you'll talk about a secret that almost all mysteries use. You'll look at subplots and love stories and how your scenes connect.
Assignment: Submit the first ten pages of your WIP. Do other options exist to tell this story? There's no right or wrong way, but the idea is to look at your work from other angles and consider new approaches.
Lecture: How could major works be improved? How do the masters like Chandler and Westlake achieve perfection? You'll deconstruct existing stories to see how they work and what you would change about them. You'll apply the lessons from weeks one and two to see how you can backtrack through your story and tighten up the narrative.
Assignment: You'll rework your submission with those ideas in mind. Which scenes do you keep? Which do you eliminate? By now you should be able to see where you should start planting the clues.
Lecture: This is where you get practical. How do you sell this stuff? Writing is an interplay between audience and author and there are tricks to make your work stand out.
Assignment: You'll go over your reworked submission to make sure it's as good as it can get.
Goals Of This Class
- Learn how to bring together structure, pacing and motivation to create a narrative with a clear endpoint.
- Assess the strategies for getting words down on the page so you can start to answer the key questions about your story.
- Apply the techniques other writers use to your own work and learn how to create a connected, casual narrative.
- Look at the options for selling your work and how to create a relationship between audience and author.
LitReactor offers a unique approach to a writing education: You study what you want, when you want, at your own pace. We bring in veteran authors and industry professionals to host classes covering a wide range of topics in an online environment that’s interactive and flexible. You get detailed feedback on your work and take part in discussions in a judgement-free zone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or an experienced writer, our workshops are about working together to achieve your writing goals.
Where do classes take place?
Entirely online. So, anywhere you have Internet access.
Are there certain times when the whole class needs to "meet" online?
Nope. Our students come from all over the globe. Everything is posted online and accessible 24/7. (We do occasionally schedule phone chats, but try to reach a consensus on timing.)
What does a typical class consist of?
It varies, but nearly all our classes include weekly lectures, homework assignments, peer reviews, critiques from instructors, and discussion forums.
How much experience do you need to take a class?
Beginner or pro, everyone is welcome. We encourage all skill levels.
Got more questions? Click here for an extended FAQ.
And click here to explore a sample class that shows our layout and features.