Mystery & Horror Writing, Week Twelve

This week’s theme is “Haunted Tech.” We will be discussing:

This is our last class with a workshop/discussion component. Rosemont College is on Easter break next week, and then we’ll be back on the 28th for our final day of class, for which we’ll be doing a group reading/party. The semester has just flown by! I can’t believe we’re almost done.

Mystery & Horror Writing, Week Eleven

This week’s theme is “Murder in the Mansion.” We have a shortened class because of the Rosemont College MFA Reading Series (more on that at the end), so today we’ll be talking about:

  • Agatha Christie’s novella “Three Blind Mice.”
  • An excerpt from “The Locked-Room Lecture,” which is a nonfiction lecture about the locked-room trope in mysteries, delivered by a fictional character in John Dickson Carr’s The Hollow Man.

We’ll be discussing the pleasures and pitfalls of murder-in-the-mansion style stories, and what makes them so delicious and compelling.

Only two more classes after this! It’s hard to believe the semester is winding down so quickly. Next week is the final week of lecture/workshop/discussion/readings. The theme is “Haunted Tech.” We will be reading:

Also, tonight is this semester’s last installment of the Rosemont College MFA Reading Series, which will be held in the Main Building on Rosemont’s campus at 7:30 PM. I will be reading alongside Helen Klein Ross, author of Making It, A Novel of Madison Avenue, alumnus Ben Heins, and MFA students Vernita Hall, Matthew McKiernan, and Jane McNeil. If you’re in the Philly area, come watch!

Mystery & Horror Writing, Week Ten

Didn’t get to this post yesterday, but the theme of that class was “Revenge.” We discussed:

  • M.R. James’ “Casting the Runes” (from Casting the Runes and Other Ghost Stories)
  • Dan Chaon’s “The Bees” (from McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales)
  • Stephen King’s “Dolan’s Cadillac” (from Nightmares & Dreamscapes)

We talked about revenge stories and what makes them so powerful, focusing on the various elements of the stories (POV, how revenge is attained, character complexity, etc.). We also discussed fairness, justice, and narrative satisfaction.

Next week’s theme is “Murder in the Mansion.” We have a somewhat abbreviated class next week because of the Rosemont College MFA Reading Series, so we’ll be talking about:

  • Agatha Christie’s novella “Three Blind Mice.”
  • An excerpt from “The Locked-Room Lecture,” which is a nonfiction lecture about the locked-room trope in mysteries, delivered by a fictional character in John Dickson Carr’s The Hollow Man.

Mystery & Horror Writing, Week Nine

This week’s theme is “Detectives & Noir.” We will be discussing:

I am particularly excited about discussing the Chandler essay, which is a really provocative piece of literary criticism wherein Chandler takes on his entire genre. I don’t agree with all of his points, but anyone who writes any sort of genre fiction should give it a read–his ideas are worth mulling over.

Next week’s theme is “Revenge.” We will be reading:

  • M.R. James’ “Casting the Runes”
  • Dan Chaon’s “The Bees”
  • Stephen King’s “Dolan’s Cadillac”

Mystery & Horror Writing, Week Eight

This week’s theme is “The Criminal.” We will be discussing:

  • Agatha Christie’s “Witness for the Prosecution”
  • Patricia Highsmith’s “The Heroine” (from Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, ed. Sarah Weinman)
  • Nedra Tyre’s “A Nice Place to Stay” (from Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, ed. Sarah Weinman)

We will also be sharing our urban legend adaptations and discussing how we chose to write them, their similarities, and their differences. We will also be pairing up and interviewing each other as our protagonists, in order to better understand our characters.

Next week’s theme is “Detectives & Noir.” We will be reading:

  • Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”
  • Stephen King’s “Umney’s Last Case” (from Nightmares & Dreamscapes)
  • G.K. Chesterton’s “In Defense of Detective Stories”
  • Raymond Chandler’s “The Simple Art of Murder”

Mystery & Horror Writing, Weeks Six & Seven

My blog posts are a bit behind because of last week’s snow; today we’re doing three workshops and all of the readings from “Haunted Houses” and “Myth and Legend.” We’ll be discussing last week’s assignments:

  • Bennett Sims’ “House-Sitting” (from Tin House)
  • Adam L.G. Nevill’s “Where Angels Come In” (from Hauntings, ed. Ellen Datlow)
  • Julio Cortázar’s “House Taken Over” (from Bestiario)
  • An excerpt from H.P. Lovecraft’s essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature”

As well as this week’s stories:

  • Neil Gaiman’s “Snow, Glass, Apples” (from The Secret History of Fantasy, ed. Peter S. Beagle)
  • Sabina Murray’s “The Sisters” (from xoOrpheus, ed. Kate Bernheimer)

I will also be giving a brief lecture on structure and endings, in addition to our talk about what makes a good haunted house story. We will also discuss adapting fairy tales and myths, and doing an activity where we rework some urban legends from Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories series. We will also be doing “character interviews” with each other, exploring the unwritten aspects of our protagonist’s personalities.

Next week, the theme is “The Criminal.” We will be reading:

  • Agatha Christie’s “Witness for the Prosecution”
  • Patricia Highsmith’s “The Heroine” (from Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, ed. Sarah Weinman)
  • Nedra Tyre’s “A Nice Place to Stay” (from Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, ed. Sarah Weinman)

Mystery & Horror Writing, Week Five

This week, our theme is “The Horror of the Real.” We are reading:

  • Thomas Glave’s “The Torturer’s Wife” (from The Torturer’s Wife)
  • Joyce Carol Oates’ “Aiding and Abetting” (from I Am No One You Know)
  • Shirley Jackson’s “Louisa, Please Come Home” (from Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives)

We will be discussing horror/mystery/suspense that utilizes realist elements, and doing a writing exercise where students will push past the existing ending of “Aiding and Abetting.”

Next week’s theme is “Haunted Houses.” We will be reading:

  • Bennett Sims’ “House-Sitting” (from Tin House)
  • Adam L.G. Nevill’s “Where Angels Come In” (from Hauntings)
  • Julio Cortázar’s “House Taken Over” (from Bestiario)
  • An excerpt from H.P. Lovecraft’s essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature”