An immersive dive to unlock the mysteries of writing a mystery.
Your Instructor: Noah Dorsey (author, screenwriter of Escape Room)
Where: Online — Available everywhere!
When: November 7, 2023 - December 5, 2023
Have you ever read a mystery novel and guessed what happened to the missing victim after the first 50 pages? Have you figured out who the killer was just after the reveal of a couple clues? Did you guess where the secret document was hidden almost right away? You might be immensely clever or the author of the story perhaps didn’t quite pull off what most mystery writers strive for: the element of discovery and surprise.
Writing an effective and compelling mystery is immensely difficult, primarily because of the effortless complexity that the best mysteries tend to have. The best of the genre engages the reader with a confounding dilemma, seemingly with no clear path to finding a resolution, then expertly unveiling clues and bits of evidence that slowly build toward the big reveal. And doing it all in a realistic, grounded and wholly believable way. By utilizing literary devices, carefully planning and strategizing the way the narrative is told, a writer can find clever ways to deceive and surprise the reader without cluing them into the mystery’s solution before it is ultimately exposed. Learning how to effectively unfold the narrative of a mystery is a skill. A writer must subtly reveal enough clues to keep the story on track, but not enough for the reader to figure it all out until the end. Not only that, but they must progressively disclose the mystery in a way that is believable and doesn’t distract the reader so much that it takes them out of the story. If the reader no longer believes that the story makes sense, then they won’t care how the mystery wraps up.
Those who dive into this class will learn methods of how to prepare for writing their mystery to ensure that they have all the pieces in place for a compelling story. Each week will contain a short lecture, handouts, suggested readings, and writing assignments that will be critiqued by classmates and your instructor. Discussion is avidly encouraged as it is the best way to uncover a writer’s blind spots.
UNFOLDING THE MYSTERY is taught by Noah Dorsey, a writer, director and producer stationed in Los Angeles. He is the writer of the horror flick, ESCAPE ROOM, released by Lionsgate and Voltage pictures. He was part of the creation of two comic book series, NONHUMANS by Image Comics and SAINT CHAOS by eR Studios, and a mystery novel called BLACKOUT. He holds a Master’s degree in Creative Writing and has been instructing passionate writers of all generations for over a decade. He loves the process of creation and fully believes that any destination isn’t possible unless the journey is fully embraced.
What This Class Covers
Week One: What Makes A Great Mystery?
A great mystery is a story of discovery and surprise. In order to achieve this a writer should always be aware of the method of perspective and structure of the narrative. In this initial class we’ll discuss the most effective ways for telling a mystery story and how it should unfold. Exploring the tropes of the genre and how they are best utilized. Most importantly, the participants will create a premise for their mysteries, and begin to build upon the ways that premise can unfold into a great story.
Week Two: Clues, Evidence and Breadcrumbs
This is when participants will dive into the nitty-grittiness of the work. By creating all the details of the story first before the writing even begins is essential for creating an effective mystery. In this class, Noah will outline a technique he uses for most of his written work that includes complex story points that need to fit together neatly and organically.
Week Three: Misdirection
What would a good mystery be without throwing the reader off the scent? This literary device is a great way to keep the reader engaged and is a staple in most of the best mystery stories. But when and how do you use misdirection? What makes a good turn of misdirection? Can you use it too little? Too often? Not only are these questions explored, but also the dreaded idea of constructing an entire mystery story as a misdirect and scrambling to piece together an unbelievable climax in which the clues never mattered, which always leaves the reader feeling cheated.
Week Four: Pacing, Structure and Narrative Must Work Hand-In-Hand
In the final week, all the class participants should have a firm grasp on how to structure an effective and believable mystery using a premise they have created. With these important details, they will have the bones of a great and compelling story. Now comes the work of ensuring that those details are put to good use. In this class we will discuss how these clues, pieces of evidence, and even the tiniest of breadcrumbs, must build on one another to keep the narrative’s pacing fluid and incremental. The aim is to create a mystery in which the reader will dive in and never want to put it down.
Goals Of This Class
- Exploring mystery tropes, the associated literary devices, and how they should be molded to fit the kind of mystery being told.
- How to structure a mystery narrative so that all the puzzle pieces are in place, then the story will fall into place around it.
- Developing a sense of when and how to use literary devices like misdirection to elevate the mystery narrative and heighten the engagement of the reader.
- How to move forward with a mystery story to ensure that all this work can be utilized in the most effective way, unfolding the clues in an organic and believable manner, so as not to distract the reader.
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.