I’ve mentioned my recent obsession with cozy mysteries in previous posts. If you’re not sure what a cozy mystery is, think Murder, She Wrote and those infamous Hallmark mystery movies but in book form. According to MasterClass, cozy mysteries consist of three main elements:
- An amateur detective – An average person that gets mixed up in a whole lot of murders and other crimes. They often have a hobby like knitting, cooking, or gardening, among a million other possibilities.
- The setting is a small (cozy!) town – Sometimes the town is the narrator’s hometown. The setting may also be a New England bed and breakfast, a beach town resort, etc.
- The horror is kept to a minimum – Yes, someone will likely get stabbed, poisoned, or murdered by other means. But the violent shenanigans happen “off-page” and the more graphic details are left to the reader’s imagination.
I think sometimes the cozy mystery genre (unfairly) gets a bad rap simply due to the fact that its readers tend to be 1) female and, according to this Sisters in Crime report, 2) almost 70% of mystery buyers are over 45 years old. (Sisters in Crime is an international organization of mystery/crime/thriller writers). While I do identify as female, I’m currently (only?) 31 and have loved a good mystery since I was a teenager. So I encourage everyone to ignore the elitism that so often pervades the book world and just enjoy relaxing with a cozy mystery every now and then!
There are so many perks to the genre. Personally, I love:
- The camp. It is so fun to read a book when its author doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Why should an author not have tongue-in-cheek mystery trope references, playing into genre expectations and finding a way to make them their own?
- The lightness. Real life crime happens all the time to people we know: friends, family, and even our ourselves. I appreciate a break from real life once in a while as a form of self-care. Cozy mysteries are a perfect blend of intrigue and light emotions that keeps the reader’s spirits up.
- The small town atmosphere. Who doesn’t love Stars Hollow, the quaint town where the Gilmore Girls live? Cozy mysteries are always set in a place where people know each other, the townspeople are charismatic, and the shop owners seem to be living their dreams selling coffee, flowers, and chocolates. Every once in a while, it’s nice to read about a town that pays its workers a livable wage and doesn’t crush employees’ souls.
A few weeks ago, I was driving with Alex around our own small town and had the idea that I wanted to write a cozy mystery of my own. How fun would it be to use our own local shops as inspiration? With friends and family as the basis for characters? Why not?!
Since my revelation, poor Alex has had to listen to me come up with a laundry list of alliterative titles and over-the-top character names as I’ve brainstormed. Cozy mysteries always have remarkably spirited names like:
- Resorting to Murder: Holidays Mysteries (by Martin Edwards)
- A Deadly Inside Scoop: An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery (by Abby Collette)
- Farm to Trouble: Farm to Tables Mysteries (by Amanda Flower)
Why disappoint? Give the readers what they want (And that’s camp. Lots of camp!).
I am the type of writer that enjoys some form of structure while planning out texts. For that reason, I bought How to Write a Cozy Mystery by Nina Harrington. It has plenty of detailed scene advice and helpful plotting guidance. I definitely recommend it as a supplement for anyone starting their own cozy mystery novel.
I’m still in the preliminary stages of writing and have a lot of work to do, but I’m off to a great start. I’ve been having a lot of fun planning out the story and figuring out how to spoof my friends within it.
My Rocketbook has been a wonderful resource during this process, since I can handwrite notes but still upload them digitally and convert to typed text when necessary.
Quite honestly, it’s been enjoyable to work on something utterly creative for myself in addition to just freelancing for others. I’m working to create more of this creativity-work balance in my life.
I plan to keep the updates coming as my cozy mystery progresses, so be on the lookout!
What are your thoughts on the cozy mystery genre? Too ridiculous for your liking? Is reading about murder and mayhem in a small town right up your alley? Feel free to leave a comment!