The Crime Fiction Lab

w/ R.W.R. McDonald, Katherine Kovacic and guests

Crime Fiction, not only spans genres and age groups, its protagonists can range from hardboiled to cosy, professional to amateur, and from the innocent to the guilty. Since the Golden Age of crime writing, the genre has remained hugely popular, featuring in bestseller lists and often making the leap to movie and television screens.

5 x Wednesday nights  – 6.30–8.30pm

21 April – 19 May 2021

$ 620/ $ 527 alumni


This is a past course.

This five-week course dives into the elements of Crime Fiction; Discussing the sub-genres and rules, exploring the various types protagonists and the ways crime stories can be told. Each week class exercises will help develop these elements in your own writing, whether you have a work in progress, or the glimmer of a story idea. We will interrogate your suspects, examine your clues, attend your crime scenes and apprehend your criminal.

This course includes the appearance of several guest writers Craig Sisterson, Sarah Bailey and Chris Hammer. At the end of this course, the tutors will provide direct feedback on a piece of work.


Writers you'll be working with:

R.W.R. McDonald

R.W.R. McDonald (Rob) is an award winning author. His debut novel, The Nancys won Best First Novel in the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Awards, as well as being a finalist in the Best Novel category.  It was shortlisted for Best First Novel in the 2020 Ned Kelly Awards, and Highly Commended for an Unpublished Manuscript in…

Katherine Kovacic

Katherine Kovacic is a Melbourne-based writer, art historian and former veterinarian. Her debut novel, The Portrait of Molly Dean, was shortlisted for the 2019 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction, and is the first of three books in the Alex Clayton art mystery series. Her first true crime book, The Schoolgirl Strangler, will be…

Chris Hammer

Chris Hammer is the author of two non-fiction books and three crime fiction novels. His non-fiction works , The River and The Coast were published in 2010 and 2012 and constitute a blend of travel writing and narrative non-fiction. Chris’ debut crime fiction novel, Scrublands, was published by Allen & Unwin in 2018, and is a worldwide best seller. It won…

Craig Sisterson

Craig Sisterson is the author of the non-fiction crime book, Southern Cross Crime. Craig is a features writer and crime fiction expert from New Zealand who writes for newspapers and magazines in several countries. In recent years he’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at festivals…

Sarah Bailey

Sarah Bailey is an author and advertising executive. Sarah’s debut novel, The Dark Lake, was published by Allen & Unwin in 2017, and is a best seller in Australia, the USA and Canada. It won both the 2018 Davitt Award for Best Crime Debut and the 2018 Ned Kelly award for Best First Crime. There are two…

Course outline

Session 1: Wednesday 21 April. Introductory Session, Main Character and Rules: 

  • Introductions, course outline and goals.
  • Who is your main character: from small details to the big picture.
  • Outline of the crime fiction genre and sub-genres.

Session 2: Wednesday 28 April. Victim, Villain and the Supporting Cast. Means, Opportunity and Motive:

  • Who is your first victim? Crime fiction victim portrayal.
  • Who is your villain? Means, Opportunity and Motive.
  • Your supporting cast; suspects, lies and alibis.

Session 3: Wednesday 5 May. Guest tutor, Craig Sisterson, Setting and Narrative Drive:

  • Where are the bodies buried? Setting as a character and local environment.
  • Clues, red herrings and narrative drive. How do you keep readers turning the pages?

Session 4: Wednesday 12 May. Guest tutors, Sarah Bailey and Chris Hammer, and Plotting:

  • Plot and structure.
  • Police procedurals, journalism in crime fiction, and ask a crime writer Q&A.

Session 5: Wednesday 19 May. Research. 

  • Researching, associations and competitions.
  • Where to from here? Class discussion on taking your story forward.

Praise for this course

“Katherine and Rob were great . We also had a very engaged group and also amazing chances to speak with current Australian Authors.” Participant, 2021

‘Loved this course so much, I’m so sad it is finished. Looking forward to keeping in contact with fellow students now to keep supporting each other toward finishing our books.” Participant. 2021

“Great course with new ideas to shape the WIP. Supportive and honest presenters. Lots covered.” Participant, 2020

“I think that Rob and Katherine were excellent. They are engaging and thoughtful with their answers and injected just the right amount of humour.” Participant, 2020

“It has given me confidence in my writing and where to go next. It offered me advice and opened my mind to certain things that I had not yet considered or tried.” Participant, 2020

How to Book

This is a past course.