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4-Week Online The Art of Suspense, Starts November 2, 2020
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4-Week Online The Art of Suspense, Starts November 2, 2020

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Begins Monday, November 2, 2020


Taught by award-winning novelist Ryan David Jahn (read his story "All This Distant Beauty" in The Best American Mystery Stories 2020), The Art of Suspense is a class not only for those interested in writing thrillers or suspense novels, but for any writer who wants to keep readers turning pages.

In addition to exploring the fundamentals of fiction, from dialogue and foreshadowing to plot and point of view, we will delve into how to use those tools to build suspense into our fiction, whether we’re writing an international spy novel or literary short stories.

We’ll do this by examining both shorter texts and through an in-depth exploration and discussion of how Jim Thompson builds suspense in his novel The Getaway, so we can apply the same techniques to our own fiction. Finally, each writer will have one opportunity to workshop either the first chapters of a novel-in-progress or a short story (up to 5,000 words).

The Getaway by Jim Thompson is required. Links to supplemental texts will be provided during the class.


Week One:  Character; Point of view 

Week Two:  Surprise vs. Suspense; Withholding information; A ticking clock 

Week Three:  Stakes; Complications; Increased pressure 

Week Four:  Cliffhangers; Braiding Narrative Threads Together; Resolutions


This class is entirely asynchronous with weekly deadlines and there is plenty of interaction with Ryan and your peers within Wet Ink, our dedicated online classroom. Craft materials, lectures, reading assignments, and writing prompts are all available through the online classroom. Students also post work and provide and receive feedback within the online classroom environment. You can get the work done as you see fit week-to-week, so it is perfect for any schedule. There are discussion questions each week inspired by the assigned readings and topics in the lecture notes. Students are encouraged to take these wherever is most compelling and/or useful for them. Each writer will have one opportunity to workshop either the first chapters of a novel-in-progress or a short story (up to 5,000 words), receiving detailed feedback from their peers as well as Ryan; follow-up questions and conversations often occur. Ryan engages with these discussions throughout the week.

  • Instructor: Ryan David Jahn

  • Class size limited to 10 writers

  • Starts November 2nd, 2020 - November 30th (will skip the week of Thanksgiving)

  • Course is fully ONLINE; students can work according to their own schedule within weekly deadlines. Once you have enrolled the instructor will send you a link to our online classroom, provided via Wet Ink.

Instructor Ryan David Jahn grew up in Arizona, Texas, and California. He published his first novel, Acts of Violence, which went on to win the prestigious Crime Writers' Association John Creasey Dagger, in 2009. He has since published six others, including The Dispatcher, which was named by the Financial Times as one of the top ten crime novels of the year, The Last Tomorrow, and The Breakout. His story "All This Distant Beauty" was recently selected for inclusion in The Best American Mystery Stories for 2020. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with his wife, Jessica, and two daughters, Francine and Matilda.

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