I have something to confess. Cozy mysteries are not my natural choice to read. I like vintage pulp novels with hard-boiled types who live in Los Angeles in the 1940s. There has to be “frails” and “gats” and plenty more slang of the era. Or I will read endless piles of true crime books. The old, old story of the spouse who becomes worth more dead than alive and then disappears never fails to interest.
“Cozies” are certainly the opposite of the hard boiled, with their intimate, lifelong community settings and their light and lively touch. I think of them as fictional world in which people tactfully go off-stage to be murdered and comically fussy old ladies are the rule rather than the exception.
A couple of months ago, having finished at last the 153,000 word draft of a cowboy novel, I recognized that plotting is my weak spot. Because mystery novels demand the tightest plotting and planning, I decided to write one as a lesson. Cozy mysteries’ domesticity is close to my present lifestyle. Although I have lived in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, my present home is rural and I wanted material that was around me.
If you’ve been following the blog, you know that I’ve been having a hard time. In fact, I’ve quit twice and then been lured back by stubbornness and the knowledge that cozies have a lot to teach me. They require good characterization as well as tight plots. Even if I fail at the mystery part, I will grow from the task of building a world.
Here is where the forty books appeared. Looking online for the cheapest way to get a deal of cozies to study, I found an Ebay auction of forty cozies for $40.00. Yes, I bid and won, and they are lined up on a shelf in my basement.
One by one, I am reading them and about thirty are left. A few I’ve thrown across the room against the wall. A few more have been trudged through like an assignment. Others are adequate, and many are fun in one way or another. I’m not going to detail which are which because all of them please someone, and what I am doing is looking for my style by critiquing the style of others.
I also am taking notes on the best ones to see how authors plant good and bad clues, move from chapter to chapter, present the killer and then deflect suspicion, all the clever techniques that make up an absorbing cozy mystery.
It’s worth the effort. I am slowly moving forward with the plot of my cozy and I feel the style that I want is becoming clearer to me. So if you don’t have a free shelf in the basement, go to the public library and read, read, read.
My next post in this blog will share a free software that I am using for plotting and review another that I paid a deal of money to buy. Both have their strengths and weaknesses; the one you like best will depend upon your creative style.