4.75 out of 5
247 reviews on Udemy

The Ultimate Mystery Writing Course for Kids

Write Your Own Mystery with Steve Reifman, National Board Certified Teacher and Award-Winning Children's Mystery Author
Steve Reifman
1,232 students enrolled
English [Auto]
Course Goal: By the end of the course, students will be able to write a satisfying, suspenseful mystery that will keep readers guessing and on the edge of their seats.
Course Objectives: By the end of the course, students will learn:
• the elements of a mystery story
• how to pick the right type of crime for their mystery
• how to develop a well-rounded, interesting main character
•  how to collect story ideas and try them out
•  a variety of ways in which characters can change throughout a story
•  how to write a character "Back Story"
•  how to describe the culprit and the circumstances surrounding the crime
•  how to develop a list of suspects and give them powerful motives
•  how to rule out suspects until only the culprit remains
•  how to "hide" clues so readers have to work hard to find them
•  how to incorporate alibis, witnesses, red herrings, and investigation strategies into their mystery
• how to create a setting that adds an important dimension to the story
•  how to use a tool called a "Story Mountain" to organize their ideas logically
•  how to plan their chapters before beginning the drafting process
•  how to progress through the stages of drafting, revising, editing, and publishing
• how to reflect on their work at the end of the writing process to promote future improvement

This course is designed for children 8-12 years of age who are interested in writing their own mysteries. National Board Certified elementary school teacher and award-winning author Steve Reifman will take young writers step-by-step from the beginning of the writing process to the end and help them craft stories that keep readers guessing and on the edge of their seats! It doesn’t matter whether students are already seasoned mystery writers or brand new to the genre. This course promises to take young writers to the next level.

In the easy-to-follow videos and detailed handouts that comprise this course, Steve skillfully combines the wisdom accumulated throughout his 19 years as an educator with numerous examples from his book Chase Against Time to teach students about crimes, crime solvers, suspects, motives, clues, witnesses, alibis, red herrings, and all the other elements that make mysteries so much fun to read and write.

What’s even better, students can learn at their own pace. While the course's twenty-nine videos focus on the same knowledge and skills that one might find in a more traditional 4-6 week writing class, the structure of this course enables students to work on their mysteries anytime, anywhere. Students can watch and pause the videos whenever they wish, re-watch videos as necessary, and complete the course as their schedule permits.

In addition to teaching the knowledge and skills required to help children write their own mysteries, Steve focuses on higher purposes. He wants children to experience the same thrill of writing a mystery adventure that he had when he wrote Chase Against Time and its sequels. He also promotes valuable writing habits such as perseverance, pride, and paying attention to detail. Furthermore, he wants children to develop a passion for reading and writing, and he leads the course with these larger objectives in mind.

In this video I provide an introduction to the course. The course is divided into four section with each section consisting of 6-8 lessons. During this overview I mention that certain lessons are essential to the mystery writing process and other lessons are designed to offer enrichment, provide an extra challenge, and create a more complete writing experience. It is my hope that students will choose to watch all the videos, but I understand if children who are new to the genre or who are limited in the amount of time they are able to commit to this endeavor watch only the essential videos.

Getting Started

What is a Mystery?
In this video students will learn the elements that distinguish mysteries from other types of fiction stories.
What is the Crime?
Students begin planning their mystery in this lesson by thinking about the type of crime they want to have as the centerpiece of their story. I recommend that when choosing a crime, young writers select one that is fixable and and focuses on something important.
Who is the Crime Solver?
The next step in the planning process is to choose the person who is going to attempt to solve the crime. Students will learn that crime solvers can be children or adults, and they can be professionals, who solve mysteries for a living, or amateurs, who solve crimes because of a personal connection to the case.
Collecting Seeds
Once students determine the crime and the crime solver, they then brainstorm seeds (story ideas) that place the crime and crime solver in a larger context. In this lesson students are asked to think of at least 4-5 seeds.
Trying Out Your Seeds
In this lesson students will learn how to "try out" their seed ideas to see which one will be the best choice for their mystery. Students will try out 3-4 seeds. When trying out an idea, students don't write the whole story; they write approximately a page to see whether or not the idea shows strong promise.
Making the Choice
After trying out 3-4 of their seeds, students will pick their favorite one. The idea that students pick will be the focus for the rest of this project.

Bringing the Characters to Life

Three-Dimensional Bone Structure
In Section 2 students focus on the characters in their mystery. In this lesson students focus on the crime solver and will bring this character to life using a helpful tool called the "Three-Dimensional Bone Structure." This tool helps young writers create characters that are interesting and well-rounded. The tool helps writers describe their character's physical appearance, family background, and personality characteristics.
Character Change
In most great stories, characters are different at the end than they were at the beginning. They become wiser, better, or more mature because of their experiences. In short, they change. This lesson helps students determine how their characters will change throughout their story.
Character "Back Story"
In this lesson students will create a "Back Story" for their crime solver. A Back Story helps writers get to know their characters on a deeper level and explains how the characters' past led them to become the people they are today.
Who Did It?
After bringing to life their mystery's crime solver, students will bring to life the culprit, the person guilty of committing the crime. In this lesson students will decide who did it, explain why, and think through other important details of the crime.
List of Suspects
In order to keep readers guessing and on the edge of their seats, mystery writers need to have other believable suspects in their stories. In this lesson students will bring to life 3-5 other people, besides the culprit, who could have committed the crime.
After identifying a list of suspects in the previous lesson, students will give each suspect a powerful motive. A motive is the reason why somebody would have committed the crime. Readers will only accept a suspect as believable when (s)he has a powerful motive to commit the crime, such as jealousy, anger, or greed.
This lesson builds on the previous two lessons. When writing a mystery, it is not enough to give each suspect a motive. Writers must also have strong evidence connecting each suspect to the crime. Without evidence, readers will not be convinced that a suspect committed the crime. In this lesson students will think of clues that connect their suspects to the crime.
Ruling Out Suspects
Once mystery writers have established a set of believable suspects, they then begin the process of ruling them out until only one suspect remains - the culprit. In this lesson students will learn how to rule out suspects in a variety of ways.

Adding Other Mystery Elements

Hiding Clues
In Section 3 I introduce several elements that make mysteries so much fun to read and write. In this lesson students will learn ways to "hide" their clues so that they are not so obvious, and readers have to work hard to find the clues in the story.
In a mystery an alibi is a suspect's explanation of why (s)he could not have committed the crime. In this lesson students will learn different types of alibis that suspects give, and then they will plan how they want to use alibis in their stories.
Witnesses are people who see or hear something directly connected to the crime. Students will learn how, in a mystery story, some witnesses are honest and accurate, others are honest and inaccurate, and still others are dishonest. After learning about these differences, students will decide how they want to incorporate witnesses into their story.
Red Herrings
A red herring is a false clue that mystery writers put into their stories on purpose to mislead and misdirect their readers, either to make innocent suspects appear guilty or the culprit appear innocent. In this lesson students will see examples of red herrings from Chase Against Time and then determine how they may want to incorporate red herrings into their mystery.
Investigation Strategies
During a mystery investigation the crime solver usually talks to the different suspects in an attempt to determine if they are guilty. In this lesson students will learn various ways in which their crime solver may want to approach each suspect.
The setting refers to the time and place of a story. In this lesson students will learn how to choose a setting that adds drama and suspense to their mystery. Students will also learn how to describe their setting using vivid sensory details.

Putting it All Together into a Story

Story Mountain
In Section 4 students take all the ideas they generated in the previous three sections and put them together into a cohesive story. In this lesson students use a terrific tool called a Story Mountain to organize their ideas logically. A Story Mountain also helps students arrange their ideas so that the excitement, drama, and suspense build from the beginning of the story to the end.
Chapter Plans

In this lesson students use the information from their Story Mountain to create detailed plans for each of their mystery's chapters. Students will learn use the template I provide to write simple, easy-to-use chapter plans that will be used during the next stage, drafting.

Using the plans they created in the previous lesson, students begin writing their actual chapters. In this Drafting stage students write their story from beginning to end. In this lesson students will learn some important points that they will want to consider as they begin this stage.
Someone once said, "The essence of writing is re-writing." In this lesson students will learn about the importance of revising their work in order to improve the quality of their words and ideas. In addition, students will learn some specific areas on which they will want to focus during this stage. Both independent and peer revising strategies will be described.
Using the Editing Checklist provided, students will edit their story and try to correct any mistakes involving capitalization, punctuation, dialogue, indenting, and spelling. Students are welcome to use any editing approach that they know and find helpful. If this stage tends to be difficult for them, students are encouraged to try the "Four-Color Editing Approach" that I describe. This approach breaks down the complex task of editing into a series of smaller, more manageable steps.
Using one or more of the suggestions presented in this lesson, students will publish their story. Publishing involves preparing one's work so it is ready to be seen by an audience. Students may want to publish by hand or use a computer.
Reflecting & Celebrating
Once students are finished with the publishing stage, they are ready to move to this final lesson, which involves two separate tasks. First, using the sheet of questions provided in the handouts, students will reflect on this entire process. Reflecting on their work helps children get to know themselves as writers, better understand their strengths and weaknesses, and encourages them to think about how they might want to improve their writing in the future. Second, students are encouraged to celebrate this wonderful achievement with family and friends.
In this lesson I wrap up the course by reviewing the major concepts students learned. I conclude by letting them know that there is one more person who really wants to read their mystery.
You can view and review the lecture materials indefinitely, like an on-demand channel.
Definitely! If you have an internet connection, courses on Udemy are available on any device at any time. If you don't have an internet connection, some instructors also let their students download course lectures. That's up to the instructor though, so make sure you get on their good side!
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3 hours on-demand video
Full lifetime access
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Certificate of Completion
The Ultimate Mystery Writing Course for Kids
$29.98 $22


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