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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've just started the writing of my first Cozy mystery which will be under a pen name. I have mapped out most of the Tropes for a mystery and worked those into my outline, however before I get too far into it I was wanting to identify specific cozy mystery tropes.

I have read the book 'Writing The Cozy Mystery' by Nancy Cohen which was great and highly recommended.

So I was wondering if members here are aware of any other resources that might prove to be helpful specifically for Cozies?

One burning question I have, and would greatly appreciate feedback on, is my outline for the new mystery in the new series see's the murder taking place in chapter 6. The other chapters are all world building and character introduction. Is chapter 6 of about 21 too far in or okay for Cozies? In a regular mystery I would have it in chapter 1 but I suspect cozies may be a little different.

Would greatly appreciate your thoughts, ideas and suggestions
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
ElizaDee said:
I had a stack of recent, trad published cozies sitting by my desk so I thought I'd check for you.

1. Body appears in Chapter One, on page 14 of 288 (but this one was odd, because the body was briefly discovered, then disappeared, the police didn't believe it ever existed, and it didn't reappear until page 70).

2. Body first mentioned in Chapter Four, on page 38 of 293.

3. Death first mentioned in Chapter Five, on page 38 of 318.

4. Body in Chapter Four, page 18 of 279.

5. Body on page 64 of 312 (book uses dates instead of traditional chapters, so it's nine days in but some entries are shorter than typical chapters).

In these examples, the murder is first discovered or mentioned anywhere between 5% and 20% of the way through the book, with an average of about 11%. It's a small sample size, but the pattern is consistent with my first inclination, which was to say "the discovery of the body in a murder mystery is usually the inciting event, which takes place around the 1/8 mark."
Fascinating ... thanks for taking the time. Yes I was sure I had read some Christie mysteries in the past were the inciting incident took place some way into the story.

Based on the other feedback above though it did get me thinking and I have come up with a cunning plan (over lunch) to introduce a second victim right on page one
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
daringnovelist said:
Modern "cozy" mysteries are a subgenre of what used to be called Cozy and is now called "traditional." If you break a rule, you can just start calling it traditional mystery.

Basically, publishers became hardened into certain formulas, and the audience came to expect those formulas -- but there is a larger audience that likes things a little looser. (It's just that that audience is harder to promote to.)

IMHO, if you want to delay the body in a cozy, you can do it. And you can even please the hard-wired cozy readers who want things to happen in step with the formula... but you have to be sure that there is some driving, page-turning element that happens at least by page one. You have to have something for the amateur sleuth to be investigating, and it has to feel like it's central to the story, and is a puzzle, and is important.

Now, if you are writing for the slightly wider cozy audience, you have more leeway. Agatha Christie fans (and Dorothy Sayers and fans of all the "Golden Age" writers) are fine with a slower pace if you are giving them a rich world, and they feel you are setting up the suspects and story, etc. You can, sometimes, delay the murder to very late in the book.

A while ago I wrote a blog post about how to delay finding a body in a cozy (and also why I think it's important not to rush it). I think I included a few techniques in it. The main one that comes to mind is what I call the "Jaws" method. If you MUST have a quiet setup before the crime enters the lives of the characters, give us a teaser scene at the beginning so we know where it's going. Just like in Jaws, where we see a shark attack before the characters are aware of it.

Edit to add: here's the blog post, Delaying the Body in a Cozy

Camille
Thanks so much Camille. That is great information and clarified a few things for me. So greatly appreciate your help.
I think when I used the word Cozy in my mind I was thinking along the lines of Christie where there was a build to the inciting incident.

I definitely feel that the six chapter lead in is important to my overall story and that there is enough of a hook to pull the reader through. Fingers crossed anyway.

Will go and read your blog post. Again thanks
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
artan said:
The body didn't show up until the 5 chapter on my third novel. I couldn't move it up because of the set-up. I've seen cozies where the body doesn't even show up until halfway through the book (although I'm usually bored by then).
Thanks for that artan. Yes I have tried to play around with the set up in my story and deleted a chapter. So my body will be showing up in chapter 5 as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
joyceharmon said:
I actually prefer the mysteries that delay the murder, and introduce you to the victim before he/she is The Body. And the cozy genre allows it, so long as you keep the reader's interest otherwise. Most cozies that are series have the sleuth (usually an amateur) and the sleuth's wacky friends and relations, so that can keep things percolating while you're waiting for the corpse to show up. I've continued to follow some series when the murders and the solution to the mysteries were really kinda lame, because the continuing saga of the sleuth's life and the wacky friends kept my interest. But intricate mystery solutions and a boring cast of characters, not so much.
Thanks Joyce. Yes agreed the key will be to keep the readers interest in the build up. I have introduced a mystery with a twist in the first page to ensure it happens which is related to the murder in chapter 5 so hopefully that will work. Defintely think if the characters and their relationships is strong it will carry the reader through
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
jec said:
Cozies give you a little more latitude to have the body show up later. I always think it's more interesting to see the amateur sleuth interact with the soon to be dearly departed before they actually depart. Delaying the murder gives you an opportunity to plant potential clues regarding motive and potentially show why the sleuth would choose to investigate that particular murderer. Cozies are as much about the relationships between the characters as they are about the murders.
Glad to read your comment " I always think it's more interesting to see the amateur sleuth interact with the soon to be dearly departed before they actually depart" as that is how my story unfolds. So thanks
 

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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
Lou Harpr said:
Ngaio Marsh books take a long time to get to the murder but it never bothers me because I enjoy the writing, but contemporary custom is to introduce the murder early on. Maybe you could introduce another crime/mystery at the start to engage the readers and work your way up to the real case.
Thanks Lou ... thats excatly what I have done after reading yours and others comments.
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
daringnovelist said:
Originally, most of the classic mystery writers were considered "cozy" writers. It was simply an insult hurled at them by writers of hard-boiled fiction. And it included anything not gritty. There is a generation gap now surrounding the Cozy -- those who started in on cozy books from before the mystery publishing crash of the 1990s, and those who started reading them after. It's very upsetting for those of use who love old cozies -- and yes, they are cozy, and clean and comfortable books, about murder -- for the category to narrow so much it excludes every single one of the top writers in our field.

But you are right that what is being published today -- and the audience that looks for those books -- is much narrower and more strict, and I think that any writer who wants to write a cozy should be aware of that. If your book is exactly like the previous generation's cozy mysteries, then it probably should be called "traditional" even though it is actually cozy in tone and subject matter.

However, I do think that the genre is broadening out again. It was always the very most popular genre of all, and the one with the widest variety of subgenres, but it got slammed by a series of forces in publishing. (I wrote about this in a blog post "The Murder of the Mystery Genre.")

It seems that the general audience is coming back, and that means that restrictions are going to go out the window -- but new ones will form.

Camille
You have a wonderful knowledge of the genre Camille. Thanks for sharing it.

My understanding of a cosy it that they typically:

- The protagonist is an amateur sleuth, usually a female who is reluctant to get involved but does anyway.
- The protagonist is often assisted by a sidekick
- Is set in a familiar place such as an English village. Same location used in each story in series so it become familiar
- A regular set of characters who are the friends, family and locals of the setting.
- A Murder occurs though not described in detail and not focused on police procedures
- The victim is typically someone that lots of people wanted dead so anyone could have done it
- Clues and red herrings are threaded throughout allowing the protagonist (and astute reader) to piece it together
- The authorities investigating are typically incompetent in some manner and miss vital clues or jump to the wrong conclusions.
- Protagonist solves the mystery after a twist in the story line
- There is a reveal scene at the end where Protagonist identifies the killer who is usually the least suspected
- Graphic violence, sex scenes and bad language are virtually non existent
- Characters and their relationships that develop during the story are the real key to holding readers interests.

Anything I have missed?

I guess the key things in my mind that make it a cosy and not just a traditional mystery is the confined setting, the nature of the protagonist, and the toned down nature of the story by comparison to a hard boilded.

Just my thoughts. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #27 ·
Ann in Arlington said:
For me, a cozy is pretty light, as you say. Poirot is NOT Cozy; Miss Marple is sometimes. The actual 'kill' is never described. Tommy and Tuppence were actually closer to a modern cozy.

The investigator has to be an amateur -- who is probably a big headache for the local law in that they keep meddling because they think the professional investigators are ignoring critical clues and/or not competent.

There's often some semblance of a romance, but that's not to say that it IS a Romance.

Investigators are almost always female, often single, and usually have a regular activity that means that it's not completely unbelievable that she keeps tripping over dead bodies. :) I'm thinking a series when I say that -- think Jessica Fletcher of Murder She Wrote who lives in the murder capital of Maine. :D

There are popular cozy series where the sleuth runs a bookshop, a bakery, an antique/used clothing shop, is a realtor, or delivery person. But there is also a series that features a chef as the amateur detective. He works with a female professional detective. Which is a nice twist. :)

The amateur's specialized knowledge is often critical to the solution.

She (usually a she, as I said, so I'm sticking with that pronoun) may also have a sidekick. One or the other one is often single and looking . . . which is where the hint of romance often comes in. She may have a close friend or relative who is a more professional sort of investigator -- who spends most of the book telling her to stay out of it.

It's usually set in a small town, or in a very specific neighborhood of a larger city. Everyone knows everyone. Always suspect the strangers, but sometimes the killer is someone they've known all their lives or closely related.

The body doesn't have to show up RIGHT away, but there ought to be something weird that happens in the first chapter . . . maybe a mysterious something going missing or a break in or something like that.

Red Herrings are perfectly appropriate, but the reader must be able to figure it out based on clues provided.

The denouement is usually triggered by the main sleuth getting herself into trouble/putting herself in danger either on purpose or accidentally. But please, PLEASE, PLEASE don't make her too stupid to live! ::)
That is a wonderful summary thanks Ann. Echoes a lot of what I listed in my post at the same time as yours. You have some great thoughts here which I am going to factor in to the story line of my book so thank you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #37 ·
Thanks everyone for your responses. They have been great to read. Apologies also for the delay in getting back here to this thread.
Well I am happy to report that I finished my first cozy novel 'Murder At Ash Castle' and published it under the pen name Jessica Moore.

Thought I should go with a pen name as I have not seen many cozies written by males.

The murder ended up in the fifth chapter and I think it works well. Overall I was very happy with the result given it was my first novel and I really still learning what I am doing. Thanks again everyone for your input and taking the time to share your thoughts, ideas and experiences.
 
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