Has anyone out there in Crimespace taught a crime writing workshop before? I'm running my first one next week and although I've taught a few writing workshops (of the 'Starting your first novel' variety) I haven't done a specific crime one. I'm kind of making it up as I go along, but if anyone has any tips for stuff I should cover, or crime-related writing exercises that you're willing to share, they would be much appreciated. And on the topic, has anyone noticed that a lot of participants in writing workshops don't actually want to write anything? Cheers, Leigh x

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Check out Joe Konrath's website. Has some great stuff along these lines.

http://www.jakonrath.com/tips.html


And a short-course in mystery writing from Gillian Roberts is online at:

http://www.gillianroberts.com/writing.html


Plus a few more, courtesy of our friends at Google, and the actual authors they direct us to.

http://teacher.scholastic.com/writewit/mystery/
http://www.writing-world.com/mystery/index.shtml
http://www.suite101.com/course.cfm/18390/lessons
http://www.katewhite.com/content/mystery.asp
Thanks for that Doug, I'll check those websites out. It's a short workshop, only three or so hours, so I guess it'll be mainly an overview. The usual plot, character, setting, dialogue stuff but slanted toward the crime side of things. I can't just stand up there and talk for three hours (although I know a lot of writers who can!) so I want exercises for the people to do. I've tried giving people straight writing exercises in the past, but they seem to prefer things where they can play around and not actually write. Filling in character questionnaires, making graphs of plots etc. Marele Day gave me a good exercise - give them crime-related newspaper headlines and get them to make up a story behind it. Shane Maloney suggested bringing in examples of crime writing that highlights plot, setting, voice etc and getting them to figure out why that particular piece works, which is also a good idea. There's a lot of call for crime writing workshops these days so I'd like to have one devised and ready to go!
To me, I would emphasize the first page. Even the first paragraph. A mystery is just that---
mysterious. Grab the reader, tip them upside down, shake the change outta their pockets.
If they fail in page one---tell them to write in a different genre.'

Course, I'm never accurate...
I have done several exercises with groups of writers and non-writers about creating a plot for a mystery. For example, I have split audience into small groups and had each group come up with a plot in 15 minutes or so, using an outline similar to the following. To speed things up, I gave a scenario, including a dead body and a few clues. Some of the results were a riot.

MYSTERY PLOT

LOCATION
TIME PERIOD
MURDER
VICTIM
WEAPON OR MURDER METHOD
SUSPECTS
MEANS, MOTIVE, OPPORTUNITY
DETECTIVE
CLUES
RED HERRINGS
ALIBIS

• You need to have a location and a time period.
• You need to have a murder. Or someone has to think that there’s been a murder.
• If you have a murder, you have a victim. In some cases the victim may be virtual—one whose body can’t be found.
• You need to have either a weapon or other murder method.
• You need to have a number of suspects and let the reader know enough about each suspect so that she has reason to suspect each one—means, motive and opportunity. The suspects should be introduced fairly early in the story. Agatha Christie’s favorite trick was to have all the suspects trapped in one place: in a house during a snowstorm, on a boat on the Nile or on a train like the Orient Express.
• You need to have a detective. The detective can be a police officer, a private detective or a civilian.
• You need to have clues. Readers want to work with the protagonist to solve the murder so you have to provide them with clues. Of course, some of the clues may be red herrings, but that’s okay too.
• You need to arrange alibis for your suspects. Even your killer may appear to have an alibi, which later turns out to be false.
Wow, thanks so much for all the advice everyone! I'm heading off to Broken Hill now and the workshop's on Saturday so I'll let you know how I went when I get back. I'm quite excited about it now that I have all these new exercises, especially love the one where they make up the mystery plot. Who knowa, might even learn something myself!
x

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