Crime Writing Class

Week 10 Audio

Seth Harwood published on







This semester - wk 2: (Links to an external site.)




By this point in the class, you should have your hands full with the following: a) reading your peers' work for workshop, responding to it, marking your copy.

b) working on your own piece for workshop--revising, drafting

c) if you've already gone up for workshop, you should be digesting the feedback you received and working to incorporate it into your revision, even as you work further on your story and making it longer.

Turn in your comments on this week's workshop submissions to me.


Writing Assignment:

Your assignment this week is to raise the tension in one of your scenes by “Beehiving” your characters. Here’s what I mean: Imagine that you have a giant beehive surrounded by buzzing bees. Put your characters next to it, even inside it! How does it feel to imagine that? Tense!

Do you fear for them? Imagine that you were inside a giant beehive. Bees are buzzing all around you! What happens as you stay there longer and longer? A) you have a better chance of getting stung—a lot—and B) you get more and more nervous if you haven’t gotten stung.

We can think of the tension felt by readers in a similar fashion. Imagine your protagonist is riding an elevator with the book’s killer. If your guy gets off on 1, that’s the end of the scene. No big deal. But what if he’s going to floor 67 and there’s an express from the 20th floor to the 60th with no stops! What then?

Hopefully you see where I’m going with this. Readers can feel greater and greater tension if you keep character "in the beehive" longer. This brings readers closer to the action, gets them turning pages, excited even! 

One of the big mistakes we often make in key scenes is to move out of them too quickly. If we keep them going longer, it raises the tension not only for that scene, but for the larger work overall. What do you see/what happens if you make the scene go even longer than you thought it should? If you extend it, what appears as the best place to cut it back?

I often find students surprised to see that readers want more, love when these scenes go longer. Try it!

Your goal for this week is to take a scene of tension in your story and raise the stakes by extending it. Keep your characters in this bad/awkward/scary place for longer than you already had. Slow down and stretch it out for another 250 words. 

Your goal: to slow down and push the scene longer.  

If you don’t already have a scene that fits the bill for this exercise, think of the most tense situation you've written so far and extend this. Keep it going longer than you'd usually choose to.

Note: I want you to keep this week's extensions to the 250 word limit, so recap for me what you've already written in scene and then dive it to write just the new material.


Optional: if you'd prefer to turn in a new 250 words of your ongoing workshop piece, feel free to do that instead.





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