Online Class: Mystery Writing

This course is perfect for those who have an interest in either Creative Writing or the Mystery Genre. If you love to write and want to move into this popular genre, or you love to read a great mystery and have often thought you could do it, this course is for you.

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Course Description

This course is perfect for those who have an interest in either Creative Writing or the Mystery Genre. If you love to write and want to move into this popular genre, or you love to read a great mystery and have often thought you could do it, this course is for you.

Taking you through the processes of creating your Mystery Novel, this course begins by looking at the mystery genre itself and examining this type of writing attribute. We'll then move on to helping you become inspired and motivated as you get started. We'll also focus on some of the important elements of a good mystery--the setting, the characters, the plot, etc.--and help you to become familiar with all the tools the mystery writer uses to create multi-layered, addictive mystery fiction that a reader just cannot put down.

Our innovative writing exercises will get your creative juices flowing by bringing out the writer in you and sparking new ideas. Additionally, there are questions after each lesson which will allow you to recap what you have learned and test your knowledge.

The entire course is designed to offer you great information in a way that will get you thinking about your own mystery and personal writing practices. Whatever your age, experience or level of ability, this course constantly challenges and informs you so that your writing can't fail to improve and you will learn how to stay motivated and inspired through the entire writing process.
For new, aspiring writers--become the mystery writer you have always wanted to be! And for seasoned writers looking to expand their horizons--we'll help strengthen your writing abilities with this very informative course. 

Course Motivation

A mystery is a story in which something is hidden from one or more characters. Mystery and Detective fiction are interchangeable terms, with detective fiction referring more commonly to murder mysteries. The most popular Mystery or Detective story sold worldwide is arguably the 'whodunit' in which a crime, usually a murder, is committed and characters struggle to solve the mystery and gain some kind of recompense by punishing the perpetrator of the crime.

Thinking About Mystery

Answer the following questions to get you thinking about mystery and the implications the term holds for you personally:

1. What mysteries can you think of? Think about classic stories, modern novels, movies, television shows, and dramas. Make a note of all that you can think of.

2. What elements are common to all these mysteries? Think about:

a. What is the mystery? Is it a crime, a murder perhaps?

b. Who is trying to solve the mystery, and what are they like? Are they a professional or an amateur? Do they have a vested interest in solving it -- for example, money or revenge?

c. When is the crime or mystery brought to light, and when is it solved?

3. How predictable was the outcome of the stories? How did the predictability affect your enjoyment of the mystery? Was there anything you would have done differently?

This exercise should help you identify your own appreciation of the mystery genre. What works for you as a lover of mysteries will work for other lovers of the genre, so remember to follow your instincts.

Noting similarities between characters and stories is useful for two reasons:

1. As a writer, you need to know your genre so you can write for it or challenge its boundaries.

2. The second reason is to note trends in mysteries you encounter so you never duplicate typical storylines in a way that will make them predictable for your reader. Knowing what to expect means you know how to surprise your reader, and surprise is an important part of any mystery.

Challenging Your Genre

Knowing what makes a good mystery is a matter of reading. Reading mysteries and making your own notes on how and why they are effective is the best practice for writing your own mystery. In the modern mystery market, there is a huge demand for mysteries of all kinds, those that conform to the typical mystery protocol, and those that veer off the beaten track. Whichever of these options appeals to you, it is essential that you are familiar with the genre before you challenge it.

Challenging the genre can be done in a number of ways. Remember, if you remove the mystery elements, it won't be a mystery anymore, therefore the puzzle, crime, or murder has to remain. Elements you can play around with are those of character and narrative, perhaps challenging the stereotype of the "detective" or telling the story from an unusual viewpoint.


A sub-genre is a genre within a genre. Mysteries have a number of story "types" that you may wish to consider. These are often blended together and the edges are commonly blurred as mystery writers become increasingly reluctant to be bound by the conventions or rules of their particular sub-genre. Here a number of common sub-genres of the Mystery:

  • 'Hard-Boiled" – These are usually noted for their gritty realism. They tend to have more graphic representations of violence and sex and are more likely to deal with disturbing or shocking crimes. These are tough stories that aren't necessarily for the faint-hearted.
  • "Cozies" – These are almost always set in small towns or villages. They have a gentler, more genteel tone and the characters tend to be particularly likable. The crime that has to be solved in a cozy mystery is usually bloodless, or at least without graphic description.
  • "Historical" – Obviously these are mysteries set in the past. These stories require a lot of research into the historical era they are set in, as while their readers are prepared to accept that the mystery may not have actually happened, the detail of the setting must be correct; anachronisms will seriously impair the quality of the writing and isolate the reader.
  • "Private Eye" – These are simple detective mysteries where the solver of the mystery is a licensed private investigator. Often these mysteries are complex and rely on the amazing talent and insight of the sleuth to solve them.
  • "Procedural" – Sometimes called "Police Procedural" mystery stories, these are mysteries that focus on the procedure and activity of the police who are solving the crime. These include details of investigations, police protocol etc. Similar to this is the forensic detective story.
  • "Didactic" – Didactic is a way of describing mysteries that aim to inform or teach the reader about a particular arena, for example, a mystery that is set in a particular professional world.
  • "Amateur" – Opposite in many ways to the "private eye" sub-genre, this type of mystery is solved by a character who is not from the detective or police field. Often the sleuth is another type of professional from a different field completely.
  • Completely Online
  • Self-Paced
  • Printable Lessons
  • Full HD Video  
  • 6 Months to Complete
  • 24/7 Availability
  • Start Anytime
  • PC & Mac Compatible
  • Android & iOS Friendly
  • Accredited CEUs
Universal Class is an IACET Accredited Provider

Course Lessons

Average Lesson Rating:
4.6 / 5 Stars (Average Rating)
"Extraordinarily Helpful"
(1,988 votes)

Lesson 1: The Mystery Genre

This lesson looks at what makes a story a mystery and defines the crucial elements of this genre. 27 Total Points
  • Lesson 1 Video
  • Lesson discussions: Reasons for Taking this Course
  • Complete Assignment: An Introduction
  • Complete: Lesson 1 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 1: The Mystery Genre

Lesson 2: Starting Out

This lesson aims to look at how you can find and collect ideas that inspire you, moving on to give practical advice on getting that pen to paper for the first time -- planning, plotting, and brainstorming. 27 Total Points
  • Lesson 2 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 2 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 2: Starting Out

Lesson 3: Research

This lesson gives practical tips on where to find your research and how to write about real-life mysteries. 27 Total Points
  • Lesson 3 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 3 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 3: Research

Lesson 4: Storytelling -- Plot and Sub-Plot

This lesson gives practical advice on how to develop a plot that works. 25 Total Points
  • Lesson 4 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 4 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 4: Storytelling; Plot & Sub-plot

Lesson 5: Storytelling -- Characters

This lesson shows how characters can be developed and getting to know your characters so they can be well-rounded and three-dimensional. 23 Total Points
  • Lesson 5 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 5 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 5: Storytelling; Character

Lesson 6: Storytelling -- The Narrative

This lesson gives advice, not on how a mystery should be narrated, but on what a writer's options are in terms of telling the story. 24 Total Points
  • Lesson 6 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 6 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 6: Storytelling; Narrative

Lesson 7: Mysterious Elements - The Red Herring

A red herring misleads the reader, takes them on a wild goose chase. It is a staple of the mystery genre. 24 Total Points
  • Lesson 7 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 7 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 7: Mysterious Elements; The Red Herring

Lesson 8: Mysterious Elements - Violence and Murder

This lesson looks at how a writer can avoid isolating the reader by taking things too far. Additional lesson topics: How to Create Tension Through Misdirection 22 Total Points
  • Lesson 8 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 8 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 8: Mysterious Elements; Violence and Murder

Lesson 9: Mysterious Elements - Suspense

Suspense is how a writer keeps the reader reading their mystery. To achieve that un-put-downable effect, it is essential that you get the pace of the story just right, so the reader is kept involved and interested. 25 Total Points
  • Lesson 9 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 9 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 9: Mysterious Elements; Suspense

Lesson 10: Mysterious Elements - Realism

This lesson aims to help writers convey a sense of the real world by helping them identify and banish any unrealistic, overly contrived elements in their mystery. 25 Total Points
  • Lesson 10 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 10 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 10: Mysterious Elements; Realism

Lesson 11: Mysterious Elements - Revelation

It is difficult to decide, and every story is different, but this lesson offers some great advice on how to resolve the mystery and satisfy your readers. 25 Total Points
  • Lesson 11 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 11 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 11: Mysterious Elements; Revelation

Lesson 12: Redrafting a Mystery

This lesson gives professional advice on redrafting, editing, and maintaining the mystery for writers of mysteries. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 12 Video
  • Assessment: Lesson 12: Redrafting a Mystery

Lesson 13: Overcoming Mystery Writer's Block

Overcoming writer's block can be a nightmare for any writer of fiction, but this lesson offers practical, useful advice for the writer of mysteries who may be lacking in motivation or inspiration. 40 Total Points
  • Lesson 13 Video
  • Lesson discussions: Final Course Poll - Your Opinion; Program Evaluation Follow-up Survey (End of Course); Course Comments
  • Complete: Lesson 13A Assignment
  • Complete: Lesson 13B Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 13: Overcoming Mystery Writer's Block
Total Course Points

Learning Outcomes

By successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
  • Describe the mystery genre.
  • Conduct research.
  • Describe storytelling essentials--plot and sub-plot.
  • Define characters.
  • Define the narrative.
  • Define the red herring.
  • Summarize violence and murder.
  • Create suspense.
  • Demonstrate methods for creating realism.
  • Demonstrate techniques for the final revelation.
  • Show how to redraft a mystery.
  • Summarize methods for overcoming mystery writer's block.
  • Demonstrate mastery of lesson content at levels of 70% or higher.

Additional Course Information

Online CEU Certificate
  • Document Your Lifelong Learning Achievements
  • Earn an Official Certificate Documenting Course Hours and CEUs
  • Verify Your Certificate with a Unique Serial Number Online
  • View and Share Your Certificate Online or Download/Print as PDF
  • Display Your Certificate on Your Resume and Promote Your Achievements Using Social Media
Document Your CEUs on Your Resume
Course Title: Mystery Writing
Course Number: 9770556
Lessons Rating: 4.6 / 5 Stars (1,988 votes)
Languages: English - United States, Canada and other English speaking countries
Availability: This course is online and available in all 50 states including: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, and Washington.
Last Updated: March 2022
Course Type: Self-Paced, Online Class
CEU Value: 0.9 IACET CEUs (Continuing Education Units)
CE Accreditation: Universal Class, Inc. has been accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).
Grading Policy: Earn a final grade of 70% or higher to receive an online/downloadable CEU Certification documenting CEUs earned.
Assessment Method: Lesson assignments and review exams
Instructor: Dana Kristan
Syllabus: View Syllabus
Course Fee: $95.00 U.S. dollars

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Student Testimonials

  • "My instructor is a great teacher. I learn a lot. The feedback is helpful. The exams and assignments. They test my knowledge. I love completing it." -- Deserae H.
  • "I really enjoyed this course. The lessons were well written and gave practical advice and useful exercises to improve one's writing. I learned so much more than I had expected going in to it!" -- Reagan F.
  • "A wonderful experience." -- Lenora F.
  • "It was challenging, but very educational." -- Hubert G.
  • "The explanation on the parts of the actual mystery story were very helpful. The instructor was superb." -- Anita K.
  • "Instructor and course were excellent. Hope to take more courses with this instructor." -- Kyle B.
  • "I found the overall experience to be excellent. The almost instant response of the instructor to questions, to assignments, and to exams was very helpful, as were her suggestions." -- Vincent H.
  • "Ms. Merritt is an excellent instructor. She is very helpful and encouraging." -- Donna N.
  • "Each aspect was helpful, I liked doing the bits of writing for the course. Stimulating and interesting." -- Joan H.
  • "All of it was helpful. All of it was helpful." -- Cherie T.
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