10 Best Things About Writing Cozy Mysteries

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by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

I like reading many different kinds of books. Everything from biographies to literary fiction and classic literature interests me.

But for writing, I’ve been sticking with cozy mysteries. There are a few reasons for that.  For one, I’m pretty well branded as a cozy mystery writer and that’s what readers are looking for and expecting from me. For another, it takes a whole lot more effort and research for me to switch to another genre (although I’ve done that…once.)

The biggest reason, though, is that writing cozy mysteries is so much fun.

Here are the 10 best things about writing cozy mysteries:

The sleuths: Tired of the clichéd alcoholic police detective? No worries. The cozy sleuth is a gifted amateur who shouldn’t be weighed down with addictions.

The sidekicks: Sidekicks in cozies are everything the sleuth isn’t. This affords some great opportunities for insight and even some conflict for the sleuth.

The closed setting:  Cozies are frequently set in closed settings–small towns or small sections of bigger towns (a barbeque restaurant in Memphis).  The suspects all know each other and the victim and are limited in number.

The reader age range: Because these books are G-rated, I’ve had some readers say that they’ve read them with their grandchildren.

The lack of research:  You want to get forensic and ballistic research right. It has to be believable and it takes time to make sure that it works.  In a cozy, the mystery is set up like a puzzle. There is very little, if any, research required.

The tidying up: The process of restoring order to the story world is incredibly satisfying.

The humor:  The light humor in cozies provides a nice relief to the seriousness of murder.  This is usually provided with situational humor.

The subplots:  The subplots are fun to write and show a different dimension to the characters. You can have subplots that arc over the course of the series or that wrap up with each book.   You can even have subplots that tie into the main murder plot in interesting twists.

The small-town motives:  Motives never involve international intrigue or organized crime. Instead, they could focus on something as small (and relatable) as feuds with neighbors. The process of writing the motives is very cathartic.

The readers:  Cozy readers love the mysteries.  They love the almost interactive process of solving the mystery with the sleuth. And they’re incredibly responsive–they answer email newsletters, they comment on Facebook, and they send emails. They also give great clues as to what they like…and don’t like (which can be even more helpful)…about your series.

Those are my favorite things about writing cozies.  How about you? What makes your genre satisfying to write?  Want to give cozies a go?  ;)

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23 thoughts on “10 Best Things About Writing Cozy Mysteries

  1. You’ve found your comfort zone. I know some say you should break out of your comfort zone and write something different, but why? I like writing space opera. It’s a little like your cozy mysteries. Not a ton of research, it’s light and PG rated… It’s what I enjoy.

  2. I spun a cozy series off of my more traditional mystery series and I love it. You’re right, there’s so much more latitude to tell a story that revolves around relationships and rivalries and not ballistics and forensics.

  3. I love reading cozy mysteries. And it’s good that you found your niche!!! Congrats and best wishes.

  4. All the reasons you list is why I love to read cozy mysteries (and watch them on TV – there’s a cute one now about a baker who’s an amateur sleuth). I like the predictability and that I’m not going to be shocked by something horrible or be exposed to excessive violence.

    1. Karen, which show is that about a baker? I’m always looking for new mystery series to try! ;)

  5. Cozy mysteries have very devoted fans. I don’t blame you for wanting to please your fan base. I’ve written in several different genres and while I love writing fiction, I probably do non-fiction better.

  6. All those reasons sound good to me–and were among the reasons I wanted to write cozies when I started writing mysteries. But something different came out, for better or worse. I still have the occasional daydream of a cozy spec-fic mystery series, though–proving that if there’s a rabbit hole anywhere, I’m sure to find it and jump in. ;)

  7. While my mysteries are “cozy” in terms of off-stage violence, no psychos, an amateur sleuth, and a small-town setting (a college is a small town), the historical nature of what I write makes it very time-intensive for research and editing. I’ve got a contemporary cozy in mind to explore next (after the historical one I’m working on), and I’m sure hoping I can write it faster and with less angst than my other mysteries, LOL. We’ll see!

    I’m so happy that you have found your niche, Elizabeth! And what a fan base you have. That’s awesome!

    1. I bet the contemporary ones will be soooo much quicker for you. What’s more, if you write them in a fairly timeless way (I rarely mention technology, or if I do, I don’t describe it much), then the books stay up-to-date and don’t need tweaking later on.

  8. I thought I’d branch out and write something a little more hard core once upon a time. Realized it just wasn’t me. I have a hard enough time putting my characters in danger because I always want to save everyone and fix everything (like in real life) and it SO goes against the grain. LOL. #writerproblems

  9. This comes at just the right time. I’ve been debating writing a less cozy mystery. Not sure I want to tackle it. Thanks for your insight. By the way, you can read my post on 10 Things I Do When I Should be Writing on my website Lisabthomas.com. This is one of them!

    1. In some ways, writing a non-cozy was creatively recharging…but it was also a huge time suck and didn’t pay off financially! I think I’ll stick with cozies for a (long) while.

      Love your post! Procrastination is part of the writing day. :)

  10. Hi Elizabeth – yes you’ve found your niche and your readers love what you offer them in the various series – makes sense to stick with what you’re happy with and find easy – then there’s more time for the other research … from which we benefit – thank you.

    I just enjoy writing about the sort of things others don’t write about … something educational, historical and ‘edutainment’ oriented.

    Cheers to you – Hilary

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