New Class!

Crossing the Line: Using Crime to Construct Strong Stories

Saturday, June 27th, 10:00am-5:00pm
Remote (Live Zoom Meetings)
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Level: For Everyone
Adult (18+)
This class is full

Today, the old police tape barrier between literary and crime writing no longer holds. Alice Munro, William Trevor, and Louise Erdrich have used crime as the spine of acclaimed stories and novels. Michael Chabon, Richard Price, and Thomas Pynchon have made the police procedural and hardboiled detective forms their own. In their bestselling books, Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins have revived twisty domestic suspense, while Ian Rankin and Louise Penny explore psychological complexity and corruption on both sides of the law. And noir anthologies feature writers of all backgrounds telling dark tales of contemporary life. This new crime wave marks the resurgence of an essential truth: storytelling has always looked at crime, as far back as the Bible and Oedipus Rex, and the tension and drive of transgression can power narratives from flash to full-length books.

This one-day workshop will combine lecture, examples, and a series of developmental exercises aimed at getting you started on at least one story. We’ll look at the techniques of mystery and suspense, including the relationship of tension and point of view, the construction of secrets, and the placement of clues and surprises. We’ll look at how how building the “scene of the crime” lets you construct the reader’s journey across boundaries of class, race, gender, occupation, and other divisions. We’ll see how the “rules” of a genre are established and change, ways writers put new spins on tradition, and the relationship between justice and resolution. You’ll also receive information about markets, particularly the range of current magazines interested in work from literary to neo-pulp.  Note: while examples will center on fiction, this workshop and the exercises are also applicable to nonfiction, and methods of research will be touched on.

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Lynne Barrett
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Previous Students Say

  • "Generative"
  • "Inundated with Great Info"


  • In-Class Writing
  • Lecture
  • In-Class Reading
  • Class Discussion


  • The Novel
  • Short Fiction

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