Writing Crime Fiction

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.

8 x Wednesday nights  – 6.30–8.30pm

27 April – 22 June 2022

$ 990/ $ 841.50 alumni


This is a past course.

This eight-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 guest writers Craig Sisterson, Chris Hammer and Malla Nunn. 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  It was shortlisted for Best First Novel in the 2020 Ned Kelly Awards, and Highly Commended for an Unpublished Manuscript in the 2017…

Katherine Kovacic

Katherine Kovacic is the award-winning author of the Alex Clayton art mysteries, historical true crime, The Schoolgirl Strangler, and TV tie-in, Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries, Just Murdered. Katherine’s latest book, Seven Sisters, was published by HarperCollins in January 2023. When she’s not writing crime – or thinking about it – Katherine works in the…

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…

Malla Nunn

Malla Nunn is the author of four internationally published Emmanuel Cooper crime novels. A Beautiful Place to Die, Let the Dead Lie, Blessed Are the Dead and Present Darkness have, between them, received two Edgar Award nominations, a Davitt Award and two Antony Award nominations. The series is currently being developed for television by Goalpost pictures. Malla’s debut…

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…

Course outline

Session 1: Wednesday 27 April. Introductory Session, Sub Genre, Rules, Means, Opportunity and Motive:

· Introductions, course outline and goals.
· Outline of the crime fiction genre and sub-genres.
· Means, Opportunity and Motive

Session 2: Wednesday 4 May. Main Character:

· Who is your crime fighter, or are they the criminal? Main character: from small details to the big picture.
· Point of view.

Session 3: Wednesday 11 May. Victim, Villain and the Supporting Cast:

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

Session 4: Wednesday 18 May. Guest tutor, Craig Sisterson and Setting:

· Where are the bodies buried? Setting as a character and local environment.


Session 5: Wednesday 1 June. Plotting and Structure:

· Plot and structure.
· Narrative drive. How do you keep readers turning the pages?

Session 6: Wednesday 8 June. Guest tutor Chris Hammer:

· Clues, red herrings and types of evidence.
· Police procedurals, journalism in crime fiction, and ask a crime writer Q&A.

Session 7: Wednesday 15 June. Research:

· Researching
· Forensic science and crime scene investigation tips.
· Authenticity and specifics. Know your gun!

Session 8: Wednesday 22 June. Where to From Here?

· Where to from here? Associations and competitions.
· Class discussion on taking your story forward.

Praise for this course

“I cannot emphasise enough how inspiring and helpful getting to hang out with a bunch of writers each week is. The concepts are really helpful and those 10 minute writing exercises really punch above their weight as far as getting productive ideas on paper go.” Emma Sachsse, 2022

“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.” 2021

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


How to Book

This is a past course.