Building Your Cozy Mystery
Assessing adult learning often reveals spiky profiles where learners are remarkably proficient in one skill, yet surprisingly deficient in another.
A student can be perfect in addition but totally unable to subtract. And the missing skill makes it hard to absorb new knowledge and move forward.
Without all the building blocks in place, without a solid foundation, new learning slips through the cracks. And students suffer frustration and failure.
So with writing. Without a solid framework, any piece of writing–be it an email campaign or a cozy novel–stands maybe a ninety percent chance of failure.
Your building blocks
No matter whether you are writing fact or fiction, the six building blocks you need to engage readers are : who? what? where? when? why? and how?
The question you choose as the most important will affect the whole story.
In your cozy mystery, the reader traditionally wants to know whodunnit. Other forms of the novel may focus more on the what or why. As the author, you can vary the importance of each of these questions in shaping your story.
Before you even start writing a word, you will start thinking about/ living with:
The characters. You need to consider appearance, age, background, and what they want from life. There will be one goal they can admit to and another they have yet to find and realize. You need to know everything about them. The reader does not.
For our cozy, the murder is most probably the inciting incident that sets in motion the chain of events. Remember in a cozy, the murder is low key. It happens off-stage. The amateur detective is absorbed by the puzzle not the horrors of the act itself.
Collect varying settings. Some writers change setting for each scene to hold reader interest. And remember that the setting will affect the characters and their actions and reactions too. Scandi drama is most often dark because the country spends so long in darkness and that affects the spirit and mood of the characters.
Think of books you love and really consider the importance of the setting. It’s not just the walk in the park that the lovers take, it’s how the ambiance affects them.
You must have a timeline. It’s important for making sure your events fit chronologically and it can also be a way of checking on your character arcs, ensuring that characters change and grow spiritually in a reasonable time frame.
This is the psychological motivation of your characters. It can be the most important part of the puzzle or not. But it must be there.
This needs impeccable research. Readers hate feeling cheated and really want to know how things are done. Difficult to find a new “how” but it is possible.
Which of the six would you consider most important for a successful cozy mystery?
Take the weekend to mull over your building blocks. Make notes. Draft a general outline. Let me know what you manage to do in the comments. To find them, click the comments tag at the top of the post. Really looking forward to hearing from all you cozy mystery buffs and writers out there. 🙂