Crime Writing Class

Week One

Seth Harwood published on

Books you’ll need: 

Best American Mystery Stories of the Century

Scribbler Anthology of Short Stories

Stephen King, On Writing


Audio from Crime Class:



Audio from Intermediate: (Links to an external site.)


Reading assignments for Week One:

  1. Thumb through The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century looking at the range of opening strategies used its the authors. Choose one or two openings that especially grabbed you to share during next week's class. We’ll be talking about openings and how/why certain ones work for us. 
  2. Frank Conroy "The Writers' Workshop” attached below. .
  3. Read “The Hermit’s Story” in the Scribner book. Rick Bass

Write a three sentence response on your impressions, thoughts, takeaways for 2 and 3. 


Writing Assignment for Week One:

Do some spying, preferably on people you don’t know. Try to do this discreetly and in public. It might work best standing in line, riding public transportation, in a waiting room, or some other idea along those lines. [If you don’t see yourself ending up in any of these during the week, drop by your local hospital emergency room. Twenty minutes in the waiting room there and you’re sure to get some dialogue gold.]

The assignment: do your best to write down exactly what people say as they talk. Follow both sides of a conversation for five or ten minutes, writing it all down or taking enough notes that you can transcribe it later when you’re at home.

Notice how people put their words together, listen, and when they speak. Do they respond to each other directly? Do your best to transcribe what you hear exactly as they say it. Try to follow at least a page of discussion.

Things to think about: What does this teach you about how people talk? How can you apply this to your own dialogue/scenes? Notice how recognizing patterns of diction can help you avoid using dialect and misspellings to characterize particular patterns of speech.


Guideline: these shouldn't be longer than 500 words.

You may do this in the style of

Person 1:  ....... 

Person 2: .......

and on like that. No need to add dialogue tags, motions, bodies, etc. Do tell us the setting briefly as you start.

Have fun! We'll be sharing some of these in class next week.


Attachment: CONROY

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