By Trista Herring Baughman
Frost-covered windowpanes, a warm snuggly blanket in my favorite sitting spot, and a steaming cup of cocoa can only mean one thing (at least for this article’s purpose)–Winter is here!–and that always puts me in a cozy mystery mood.
I love cozy mysteries: Murder She Wrote (the books and TV series!), Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot Mysteries, and Sarah Winston’s Garage Sale Mystery Series, etc. There are so many good ones out there.
I often see the advice, “Write the book you want to read.” Since I love cozy mysteries, maybe that isn’t a bad idea. So, in this article, I’ll share the research I’ve begun on writing one.
The setting is an essential element of any story. Your setting will need to be, well, cozy. (Am I using that word a lot?) Your setting is part of your hook. Think about comfy places that you like to frequent. Your home, the library, a coffee shop or bakery, a small town where everyone knows everyone else–these are all good places to begin. Give your setting a few quirks to make it endearing to your readers. Any old time period will do, but if it’s not your time period, do your research.
You’ll want to choose a protagonist that people would generally dismiss as a crime-solver–an older male, a woman, an amateur sleuth of some sort. Throw in a hobby or occupation that will give them the right connections and resources, then add a pinch of charming peculiarities.
While all stories need this, this is a mystery, so you’ll need a theft or murder. Most cozy mysteries keep violence, cursing, and sex off-stage to keep them light and comical.
They will assist your main character in piecing together the clues. You want each supporting character to be likable, but you don’t want them to overshadow your main character.
(This is optional, but who doesn’t love a furry sidekick?)
Three to five is a good number, depending on the length of your book. If you use too many your story may be hard to follow.
You don’t want these to be too obvious. Keep your readers guessing. You’ll also need…
These are clues or suspects that purposefully mislead your readers. You can’t have them solving the case too early!
I love a good plot twist. Just when your readers think they have the whole thing figured out, BAM! New direction. There are a few types of plot twists. I won’t get into that, but I will briefly discuss the rules.
This is your falling action. Wrap up all the loose ends and throw in that happy ending!
Combine all ingredients.
Shake, not stir.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this recipe, dear reader. I’ll be testing it out soon. Don’t be afraid to make it your own. 🙂
Trista Herring Baughman is a blogger and Children’s writer. She is also the Managing Editor of Writing from the Peak (PPW’s blog) and Managing Editor of Mississippi Folklore, a collaborative collection of Mississippi folklore and legends in a weekly blog. Her books, The Magic Telescope, Halloween Night and Other Poems, and Zombiesaurs (which she co-illustrated with her sons), can be found at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Trista on her website.