Writing Psychological Thrillers


This enduringly popular genre continues to captivate – and sell. Why do we think this is? What is it about the fusion between a psychological novel and a thriller that can create such compelling, and often unsettling novels? What techniques do authors use to produce a successful one? 

Over the course of ten weeks, we will offer some answers to these questions and examine the mechanics of the genre alongside the elements of fiction which comprise it. There will be plenty of opportunity to workshop novels in progress and the course is aimed at those wishing to develop their psychological novel, as well as those wishing to begin one.

There are no set texts but we will focus on, although not be limited to, works written by and about women: 

  • Rebecca (1938), Daphne Du Maurier
  • The Talented Mr Ripley (1955), Patricia Highsmith
  • The Secret History (1992), Donna Tartt
  • Alias Grace (1996), Margaret Atwood
  • Notes on a Scandel (2003), Zoe Heller
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin (2003), Lionel Shriver
  • The Little Stranger (2009), Sarah Water

Programme details

Courses starts: 25 Sep 2023

Week 1: Introductions and history

Week 2: The genre and sub-genres

Week 3: Narrators: Finding your voice

Week 4: Plot and place 

Week 5: Themes

Week 6: Characterisation 

Week 7: Dialogue and silence

Week 8: Suspense and tension 

Week 9: Beginnings and endings

Week 10: Editing and the publishing process


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £269.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Daisy McNally

Daisy completed her PhD in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University in 2021.  She is also a graduate of the Bath Spa MA in Creative Writing and wrote her debut novel I See Through You (2018) during that time.  The option for the film and TV rights were bought in 2020 and a mini-series has recently been written. She is currently working on a new novel, and teaching on the Undergraduate Diploma for Creative Writing at Oxford.

Course aims

To provide students with insight into the major aspects of the psychological novel, and an increased confidence in their own ability to write one.

Course objectives:

  • To recognise the main constituents of a psychological novel.
  • To apply the techniques in their own writing by which these constituents may be mastered.
  • To encourage students to read and think more critically about the psychological novel.

Teaching methods

Sessions will take the form of guided seminars, with student input and interaction. Each week will involve textual reading and analysis. There will be the opportunity for students to read their work aloud and to give and receive feedback.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

  • have an enhanced knowledge and understanding of the psychological novel;
  • demonstrate at least some aspects of technical ability in their own writing;
  • have developed a greater ability to read texts critically.

Assessment methods

At the end of the course students will write a 1500 word piece (self-contained or part of a larger work). This can be creative or critical and the title discussed with the tutor if applicable.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an enrolment form (Word) or enrolment form (Pdf).

Level and demands

Little or no previous experience necessary.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)