Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Anatomy of a Cozy Mystery by Bernadette Steele

A cozy murder mystery is a story that features an amateur sleuth and that takes place in a narrow setting such as a house, building or small community. When I was a child, I discovered the cozy murder mystery by watching the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries on television. I have always enjoyed murder mystery books, movies and television shows of any kind but my favorite has always been the cozy murder mystery featuring an amateur sleuth because I could always relate to the character, and I was able to imagine myself in a similar situation.
Because some people in the literary world look down on the cozy mystery because it is the type of book that will never win a Pulitzer Prize, the level of detail and skill required to write a cozy is not appreciated.

Although there is no official format for a cozy mystery, there are several best practices that can be gleaned from past works, and they are:

· Decide on the title of your cozy mystery

A great title will compel readers to pick up your book. It will also provide you with direction during the writing process. It is easier to become attached to something that has an identity. Thus, when your cozy mystery has a title, it will become a living and breathing entity for you.

· Know the ending of your cozy mystery and who committed the crime

Knowing the ending and the culprit at the beginning will help you to develop the plot and the characters.

· Define your clues and where they will be placed in the story
· Decide what information will be foreshadowed, will serve as red herrings and constitute clues.
· Create a sleuth that is:
1. An amateur and not a professional crime solver
2. Has an interesting occupation
3. Has the ability to travel widely and meet a variety of people
4. Gets involved in complicated personal relationships
5. Humanized with faults that are socially acceptable and that she needs to struggle with internally

· Develop a plot that:

1. Contains a well-designed plot that presents an intellectual puzzle for the reader and that provides the answer at the end of the book
2. Has the sleuth uncover the criminal through the emotional or intellectual examination of the scene, suspects and clues
3. Takes place close to home or within a confined community in which the victim, suspects and sleuth all know one another
4. Discreetly depicts violence
5. Discreetly depicts sex in romantic entanglements
· Create supporting characters who are:
1. Motivated by human traits of greed, jealously or revenge
2. Eccentric, exasperating or entertaining

A cozy is not about murder but rather it is an examination of human frailty presented as a brain stimulating puzzle where in the end the main character and justice prevail.

You can visit Bernadette at her website to learn more about her and her writing.

1 comment:

Bernadette Steele said...


I would like to thank the host of StoryCrafters for being a stop on my virtual book tour.

Also, I would like invite readers to post comments or to ask questions. I will checking the site throughout the month.

Bernadette Steele