Key to Mystery: Methods for Building Stories
This workshop will focus on learning techniques used in mystery stories and how those can be deployed in our stories and novels. Mystery stories use many of the same basic blocks of literary fiction, and then accentuate and emphasize some elements to generate powerful effects that can rivet the reader to the page. We will consider how writers such as Mary Gaitskill, Hugh Sheehy, George Pelecanos, Richard Price, and Emily St. John Mandel have used the narrative tropes of mystery to build convincing and powerful stories. Moving from the basics of plot and character, we will consider how these stories build suspense, withhold and dispense information, and use tone to keep the reader engaged. Each student will draft and workshop a complete short story, and then begin the revision process, with guidance from the instructor. At the end of the course you will receive a detailed written response to your work with ideas for moving forward.
Nathan Oates's collection of stories, The Empty House, won the 2012 Spokane Prize. His stories have appeared in The Missouri Review, The Antioch Review, the Alaska Quarterly Review, Copper Nickel, Crazyhorse, and elsewhere. His stories have been anthologized in The Best American Mystery Stories (2008 & 2012), as well as in Forty Stories. He is an associate professor of English at Seton Hall University and lives in Brooklyn, New York with his family.