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Course Description

How do they do it?

Are you eager to pen the next big thriller? Why not pick the brain of a hardened mystery writer? In this exciting workshop you will learn the tools of the trade from an expert: learn how to devise a riveting and well-paced plot, how to create suspense, how to write convincing dialogue and how to craft searing images that will awaken your readers’ imaginations and keep them turning the page. Students will read and discuss a variety of examples from the mystery genre. Each participant will also be given the opportunity to workshop pages from his or her manuscript.

Writing Mystery will help students develop the skills necessary for writing effective mystery, thriller, and crime fiction by focusing on techniques for creating suspense, atmosphere, character development, tension building, and plot mapping. We will read classic mystery stories, and track the development of the genre over time, through the dark and macabre, the hard-boiled and action-packed, to the current forensic and techno-punk crime novels made famous by Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series. We will also discuss the future of thriller writing as it pertains to contemporary publishing trends. As a class, we will workshop the students’ own mystery fiction and discuss the importance and/or effectiveness of various genre tropes, such as red herrings, cliff hangers, twist endings, etc, as well as the prevalence of “sex” and “death” in the genre as a whole.

Learning Outcomes

  • Examine and discuss the genre of mystery fiction from both a technical and literary perspective
  • Trace the course of the mystery genre over time, and observe how it has adapted according to social, historical, and literary trends
  • Practice various writing techniques through weekly exercises and workshops
  • Create a portfolio of writing that includes a collection of mystery stories, or a mystery novel in progress
  • Examine what mystery fiction offers that sets it apart from fiction in general; in other words, address the following questions: Why write mystery? Why read mystery? 

Course Topics

  • Origins of The Mystery Genre
  • Classic Detectives
  • Agatha Christie, Courtrooms and Women Writers
  • Noir, Hard-Boiled and Pulp Fiction
  • Highsmith and Hitchcock
  • Horror, Thrills and Genre Spills
  • The Scandinavian and European Explosion
  • A Canadian Perspective and the Future of Mystery Writing

Additional Requirements

This course is open to everyone and there are no prerequisites. This course counts as an elective credit towards the Creative Writing Certificate.


Assessment Item Weight
Workshops and Participation 50%
Weekly Writing Assignments 20%
Final Portfolio 30%
Total 100%

Please note that the course assessment is subject to change.

Sponsoring Partner

Applies Towards the Following Certificates

Technical Requirements

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*Course details are subject to change.


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