Beginning Your Mystery Novel
Tana French, Kate Atkinson, and Gillian Flynn are part of an explosion of new mystery novelists who are stretching the strict conventions of this long-beloved genre to make timely, original books. If you’ve ever daydreamed about joining them, this may be the class for you.
In a 1948 issue of Harper’s, the poet W.H. Auden confessed his deep addiction to reading detective stories and then, as part of an argument that detective novels were not art, he outlined their five elements: the milieu, the victim, the murderer, the suspects, and the detectives. In this course, we’ll tackle one of Auden’s five elements each day to lay the foundation for your own mystery novel, and to simultaneously consider where and how you might complicate the mystery formula to make it uniquely your own. Students should be prepared for daily writing assignments and feedback sessions, and will leave the course with new material for their novel projects, advice from peers, and notes from the instructor about further possibilities for craft and structure. Each student will receive an email at the end of the course, reviewing their accomplishment and considering next steps.
Maria Hummel is the author of three novels—Still Lives, Motherland and Wilderness Run—and the poetry collection House and Fire, winner of the 2013 APR/Honickman First Book Prize. She is a former Wallace Stegner Fellow, Bread Loaf Fellow, and the winner of a Pushcart Prize. Her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have appeared numerous magazines, including Poetry, New England Review, Narrative, The Sun, and The Believer. She has taught at Stanford University and Colorado College, and is currently at the University of Vermont.