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"Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum." ~Graycie Harmon

All About Cozies
Writing Mysteries


What Is A Cozy Mystery?

Two Styles of Mystery Writing: Cozy and Hard-Boiled

Subtle Writing Techniques of the Mystery Writer

Mystery Writing: Incorporating Various Non-Legal Professions

Writing the Denouement for Mystery Stories

How to Write a Mystery Story

How to Write Mystery Novels

Article Archives

Talking About Detective Fiction - P.D. James
Talking About Detective Fiction
P.D. James

The Sherlock Holmes Handbook - Ransom Riggs
The Sherlock Holmes Handbook
Ransom Riggs

Jumped, Fell or Pushed? - Stephen A. Koehler
Jumped, Fell or Pushed?
Stephen A. Koehler

Dame Agatha's Shorts - Elena Santangelo
Dame Agatha's Shorts
Elena Santangelo

How To Write Killer HIstorical Mysteries - Kathy Lynn Emerson
How To Write Killer
HIstorical Mysteries
Kathy Lynn Emerson

Mystery Women Vol. 2 - Colleen Barnett
Mystery Women Vol. 2
Colleen Barnett

Never Suck a Dead Man's Hand - Dana Kollman
Never Suck a Dead Man's Hand
Dana Kollman

The Essential Mystery Lists - Roger M. Sobin
The Essential Mystery Lists
Roger M. Sobin

Forensics and Fiction - P. D. Lyle
Forensics and Fiction
P. D. Lyle

Girl Sleuth - Melanie Rehak
Girl Sleuth
Melanie Rehak

Robert B. Parker Companion - Dean James
Robert B. Parker Companion
Dean James

Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel - Hallie Ephron
Writing and Selling
Your Mystery Novel
Hallie Ephron

How to Write a Damn Good Mystery - James N. Frey
How to Write a
Damn Good Mystery
James N. Frey

Negotiating with the Dead - Margaret Atwood
Negotiating with the Dead
Margaret Atwood

Writing Mysteries - Sue Grafton
Writing Mysteries
Sue Grafton

The Encyclopedia of Murder and Mystery - Bruce F. Murphy
The Encyclopedia
of Murder and Mystery
Bruce F. Murphy

Women of Mystery - Martha DuBose
Women of Mystery
Martha DuBose

100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century - IMBA
100 Favorite Mysteries
of the Century

Howdunit Police Procedure & Investigations - Lee Lofland
Howdunit Police Procedure
& Investigation
Lee Lofland

How to Write Killer Fiction Carolyn Wheat
How to Write Killer Fiction
Carolyn Wheat

Writing the Private Eye Novel - Robert J. Randisi
Writing the Private Eye Novel
Robert J. Randisi

Amateur Detectives - Elaine Raco Chase
Amateur Detectives
Elaine Raco Chase

Books About
Books For
Mystery Writers

What Is A Cozy Mystery?
Victoria L. Webb ©2009 -2012

There are some very good articles describing what a Cozy Mystery is, but I have my own opinion of what I look for in a Cozy Mystery Series.

To start with, I would describe a Cozy Mystery as "safe".

You can pretty much know you aren't going to have a lot of graphic description of the murder scene in a Cozy Mystery. The victim is going to be shot, stabbed, strangled, etc...but you aren't going to have to read any graphic gory details of the crime.

Another word I would use to describe a Cozy Mystery is "familiar".

As you read the first book in a Cozy Mystery Series, the characters become your "friends". Their likes/dislikes, their personalities, their friends/relationships and their surroundings become familiar to you. And the great thing is they stay exactly the same in each Cozy after that. They may go on trips at some point in one of the Cozies or even get married, but everything else stays the same. So you can be pretty certain when you pick up the next Cozy in the series, it will be like going next door and catching up on what's been going on in your friend's life.

In most Cozy Mysteries, there's usually a long-time love interest.

In a lot of the Cozy Mystery Series, the love-interest is a professional crime-solver and they usually are instrumental in helping the main character figure out some of the clues. Sometimes the main character ends up marrying the love interest somewhere in the 4th or 5th Cozy of the series. And sometimes they don't marry; just keeping the relationship as a secondary theme throughout the whole Cozy series. Regardless of whether they marry or not, the sexual implications are there, but the details are kept private. Afterall, these are mysteries, not romance novels.

Last, but not least, I would describe a Cozy Mystery as "fun".

There are a lot of seriously funny parts in most Cozy Mysteries, mostly because the main character isn't a professional crime-solver; just one of those overly curious people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and can't walk away from a good Mystery without trying to figure it out. (Of course, they also seem to have people dropping dead on their living room floors or from eating something they prepared for a catering gig!) Regardless of how they end up involved in the Mystery, the results can be LOL funny as they stumble through the evidence and suspects, trying to find the murderer!

If you want to read a good Mystery before you go to sleep at night and DON'T want to feel the need to get up and put five more bolts on your doors or bars on your windows...check out all of the Cozy Mysteries listed here at Mystery - Cozy . com.

The only thing you'll have to fear is not being able to put them down so you can go to sleep!

This article was written by Victoria L. Webb ©2009 - 2012
Designer and writer of
Co-Owner of the Website Design Company:

Two Styles of Mystery Writing: Cozy and Hard-boiled

Cozy novels do not have graphic violence, and little or no sexual content and abusive language. Society is "viewed as orderly and controlled, and the crime is a failure of the society to function correctly" (Niebuhr 7). In this type of novel, right and wrong are clearly defined, and the murder is considered to be an aberration, not something that is seen on a daily basis.

The detective in these novels is usually an amateur, although there are exceptions such as Agatha Christie's Superintendent Battle of the CID. And the murder victim tends to have some inherent moral flaw that leads to his or her death. This doesn't mean that the murder victim must be a monster. Take, for example, the character of Mrs. Argyle in Christie's Ordeal by Innocence. She was a wonderfully kind woman who turned her home into a safe haven for children during World War II. After the war ended, she adopted five of the children. She loved and cared for her adopted sons and daughters very much and did everthing she could for them.

Everyone spoke highly of her...but she ended up murdered. Her moral flaw - she was too arrogant in believing she knew the best for everyone around her. She was never cruel to anyone, at least outwardly, but she made her entire family dependent upon her...financially and emotionally. They all felt imprisoned by Mrs. Argyle, and so she died.

In cozy mysteries, there are no innocent victims. In one way or another, the murdered person contributed to his or her own death. It might be nothing more than a lack of judgment in trusting the wrong person, but there must be some kind of character flaw.

For that reason, children should not be used as victims...usually. As with any rule, there are exceptions. If you do use a child as a victim, make sure it is not brutal and it'd help if the child could not be thought of as "innocent." An example is Marlene, in the novel Hallow'en Party. Marlene, at the tender age of fourteen, was already an established blackmailer.

At the conclusion of cozy mysteries, the murderer is brought to justice and society returns to its orderly and controlled ways.

In hard-boiled novels, the detective is a professional, working for some law enforcement agency. The action is fast-paced, and includes graphic violence, sexual content, and adult language. This type of world is "a society where everything is suspect, including established institutions and the people who work for them - even the legal forces" (Niebuhr 7).

The detective-protagonist in these novels can be morally ambivalent, and can include characters whose actions are driven by circumstances out of their control. Morality is not black and white in the hard-boiled world, and justice isn't an inevitable expectation in these novels.

The setting of your novel has much to do with what type of mystery your readers will expect. For hard-boiled novels large, metropolitan cities are usual. It would be incongruous to set a cozy in someplace like Miami, for example.

Cozy mysteries tend to be placed in a small, restricted society. Even if set in some large city, such as New York, you should make it obvious that the perpetrator of the crime could only have been committed by a few individuals, say, guests at a posh dinner party.

Refences from: Make Mine a Mystery: A Reader's Guide to Mystery and Detective Fiction by Gary Warren Niebuhr

Submitted by:
Mary Arnold
Mary Arnold holds a B.A. in literature and history. She is an author on http://www.Writing.Com/ which is a site for Fiction Writing.

Her writing portfolio may be viewed at

Subtle Writing Techniques of the Mystery Writer

Here is the first of five articles taken from my lecture series, "Subtle Writing Techniques Used in Creating a Successful Mystery Novel." This series is designed to explain the working methods of the mystery/suspense writer, offering insight and understanding into the technical process of writing.

Reading a good mystery novel is a lot like horseback riding. At times you're cautiously slow walking; sometimes you're head-bobbling-wobbling trotting; while other times you're whooshing along on a take-your-breath-away gallop. This variety of pace is a key element that contributes to the thrill and excitement of the ride. Another is fear. (What if I fall off the damn horse?)

In keeping with this same image, mystery writing becomes somewhat like laying out a course for the rider. The author must include an array of terrains to make the ride interesting and somewhat challenging. There has to be grassy hills to climb and soft, sloping landscapes to descend. There must be twists and turns and tree laden paths as well as long, smooth straight-aways for blazing gallops.

To accomplish all this, writers use an assortment of subtle and not-so-subtle techniques that will enhance their story-telling and add the necessary oomph required for a successful mystery/suspense yarn. From the many subtle techniques available, I consider these five to be amongst the highest on the importance scale.

1) Characters Speak to the Reader: This is easy when the story is written in the first person, but what about novels written in the third person? Can a protagonist speak directly to the reader if the tale is narrated? You bet they can. How? By using what I call, peripheral speech.

In the same way as it's possible for us to see objects within a 90 degree radius when staring straight ahead, so too can a character in a novel speak to the reader while speaking to other characters. Let me illustrate. In Dying For Deception, my protagonist, Detective William Gillette, heads up a task force assigned to thwart a serial killer who's been murdering women with red hair. On page 23, he addresses a group of officers on his team who he's meeting for the first time. Pay special attention to the technique I've just described.

"You donít know me-not yet anyway-but I expect we'll get to know each other pretty well while this investigation is going on. For starters, I'd like to let you in on a little secret and tell you a little something about myself. You see, I'm a persistent bastard when it comes to murderers. I won't let this guy continue for very long. In fact, I'm prepared to do just about anything to bring him in. Anything! I will not rest, I will not compromise and I will not concede until our end has been accomplished."

I hope, with this small illustration, you can get a sense of what I mean. Gillette is talking to his team, but he's also revealing himself to you, the reader, so that you'll want to follow him and help solve the crime. There are other examples of this technique employed in Dying For Deception. Why not try looking for them.

Submitted by:
Gerard F Bianco
Gerard Bianco is the author of the mystery novel, Dying For Deception. He was born and raised in Broolyn, New York. Smoky pool halls, Irish bars, and Italian social clubs are some of the local hangouts that have influenced his writing. In addition to being an author, he is also an accomplished artist, jewelry designer and manufacturer. Visit his website,
Sign up for his free Mystery Newsletter at

Mystery Writing: Incorporating Various Non-Legal Professions:

The mysteries of the "Golden Age" featured amateur detectives who became embroiled in solving crimes accidentally, meaning they just happened to be 'on the spot' at the time the crime occurred.

In modern mystery novels, however, there seems to be a trend towards making the protagonist/amateur detective become involved with the mystery through his or her profession or hobby. One of my favorites of this type is Vicky Bliss, an assistant curator of the Munich National Museum in the series penned by Elizabeth Peters. Vicky's adventures revolve around missing antiquities or stolen art.

Recently, I began reading The Blue Rose: An English Garden Mystery by Anthony Eglin. In this novel, two amateur gardeners experience crime and mayhem when they discover blue roses growing in the garden of the home they'd just purchased.

I believe, very strongly, that one should study the current market of one's chosen genre to learn what is being published because, naturally, those are the novels that are being purchased. And it seems to me these types of novels are in much more demand than the usual "house party" mystery novels, in which the motives are purely personal.

Luckily for us, any type of profession or hobby can be used as the plot for a mystery. Below are a few suggestions.

1) A stockbroker uncovers an insider trading plot.

2) An English professor learns of a missing "Tale" written by Chaucer.

3) A fashion designer stumbles upon a gang of knock-off artists, when it's revealed her Gucci bag is a fake.

4) A homemaker finds out unscrupulous people will do anything to obtain her great-grandmother's recipes.

5) An amateur genealogist discovers an infamous branch on a family tree that someone will go to great lengths to conceal.

I appreciate these types of novels, rather than ones starring professional detectives, because they help me to imagine that ordinary people, like myself, can still achieve a little mystery and adventure in their lives.

Submitted by:
Mary Arnold
Mary Arnold holds a B.A. in literature and history. She is an author on http://www.Writing.Com/ which is a site for Fiction Writing.
Her writing portfolio may be viewed at

Writing the Denouement for Mystery Stories

I've read many mystery novels in which the writer left out the denouement, but, in my opinion, a mystery without one is seriously lacking. Admittedly, I grew up reading Hercule Poirot, in which he always demanded to gather up all the suspects so he could demonstrate his brilliance in deducing the meaning of all the perplexing clues and fingering the murderer. Poirot's motive for such demonstrations may have been egotistical, but there's no doubt he had a flair for the dramatic. And stories without the classic denouement leave me feeling cheated.

Tips on writing denouements

1) Include all the major characters/suspects

2) Make sure that the physical surroundings of the meeting place are inducive to comfort. Put the suspects at ease and the murderer will more likely act irrationally when he or she is accused.

3) Have the protagonist/detective start his or her narrative at the beginning and work to the end, explaining all the confusing details along the way.

4) Point out the motives each suspect had for doing away with the victim. It's always a good idea to have at least two or three other people who gained something from the removal of the victim.

5) Don't let your protagonist/detective do all the talking. In general, it is his or her narrative, but inserting an occasional question or comment from someone else will keep the reader aware that others are there also. It's also good to mention their reactions to the elucidation of the mystery.

Written by:
Mary Arnold
Mary Arnold holds a B.A. in literature and history. She is an author on http://www.Writing.Com/ which is a site for Fiction Writing.
Her writing portfolio may be viewed at

How to Write a Mystery Story

Have you ever wanted to write a good mystery story, but you didn't know where to start? These steps should help you build the basic framework you need to write a good mystery story, if you're willing to take the time.

Read some mystery stories in the genre you want to write in. Some good stories are Sherlock Holmes, those written by Agatha Christie, and the short mysteries written by Isaac Asimov.

Start paying attention to details--conversations, normal, everyday events--and try to think of a plot developed along those lines. Brainstorm.

Think of some good main characters. You don't need a lot of characters--sometimes just two or three works well. Try to develop distinct personalities.

Write out the plot of your story. If you have more than one plot at first, don't worry about it. Choose one you like the best and go with it. You can put the others aside for later.

Write the first draft. Don't try to get everything right the first time. The first draft is just to get all of your thoughts in an orderly place and put some structure into your mystery.

Edit the first draft. If you want, you can have someone else read the draft and give you ideas.

Write the second draft, and this time, be sure to get someone else to read it. Consider the advice that your 'test reader(s') give. Consider if it will work well with your story, or if it's good advice or not.

Keep writing and editing until you think your work is polished and just fine the way it is.

There are a lot of different mystery styles. Going with a 'stereotypical' mystery plot isn't such a bad thing. It's not so much the type of plot you use, but how you use it. There are the 'locked room' mysteries, 'unidentifiable poison' mysteries, and 'impossible clue' mysteries. Work with whatever you like, or invent a whole new plot.

The ending must "snap." A long explanation of causes and effects is to be preceded by the "Eureka!" moment every time. Otherwise, it would be boring. Always surprise the reader, who is trying to solve the mystery before you reveal it.

Don't worry if it takes a long time to edit your story until it's just right. Don't forget to take breaks in between editing and writing to give your brain a rest, and to develop the plot further in your mind.

Try to make your characters realistic; some good advice is to base the characters a bit on characters from real life. They don't have to be exact copies of your friends and family, in fact, they can be the exact opposite. Just be sure to be consistent with your characters.

Don't worry if someone is a little harsh in their criticism. Don't take things personally if someone doesn't like a main point of your mystery. You don't have to change the story if you don't want to. But try to get as much criticism as possible. Tell people to be perfectly honest and steel yourself. Don't take yourself too seriously.

Have fun. Don't try to write just because you 'have' to. It's all right to put a story down for a couple of days or weeks, just as long as you get it done.

You don't have to publish your story if you don't want to--you can just file it for your own enjoyment. But if you do want to publish it, be sure to research the options (unless you're writing for a specific thing, like a school paper or mystery magazine). It's also a good idea to research the publication you choose to make sure you know what style they publish, etc.

How to Write Mystery Novels

Mystery stories have been spooking children and adults alike for many years! Haunted houses, crimes,'s all mystery in the end! If you've always been into mystery, you might be considering writing a mystery novel yourself. This can take time and a lot of effort though! So think about your schedule before you buckle down to write!

Decide what kind of mystery you'll be writing. This means think about whether this is a ghost story or a crime novel, a creepy haunted house or a murder scene. This is going to be the biggest decision to make for the duration of your novel.

Start roughing out your cast of characters. These characters are the meat and potatoes of your novel. You will need a protagonist, an antagonist, sub-characters, and a background for each one! How many details you include will depend on how many times that character appears in the story. If the guy behind the grocery store counter is only noticed once, don't detail him out too much. Give a description and maybe a name. But if he's your main charater, include details right down to if they drink coffee and when!

A good template to use is:
Name, Age, Height, Weight, Role in Story, Eye color, Hair color, Skin tone, Habits, Identifying feature, Past, Present, Future, and Theme Song.

Begin to rough out a plot, if you want, base it around your characters. Or, base your characters around your plot. A strong plot has a beggining, middle, and end. The beggining should be an introduction to future events and the life of your character. The middle should be the problem your character must face and should include a high point where an important decision must be made, and the end should be a cool down that wraps up loose ends and leaves readers hungry for your next great work!

If you get stuck on finding a plot, read some of your favorite mystery novels to get ideas. Also, keep your eyes and ears open for new ideas and topics to write about.

Use a system of ten scenes to map out your plot. Write each scene seperately and connect them with pages in between. Scene one should be an opening scene. Two through four should be complications, and five should be point of no return complication. Six through ten should be soulutions and wrap ups.

Plant some clues! Whether you're writing crime or ghost stories, you need clues as to what is actually happening. in crime novels, they should be very subtle, like a cigerrette butt at the crime scene, or a misplaced item that can't easily be moved. In a ghost story, they should be shocking, like the sudden dissapearance of a person in the dark or a ghostly hand on one's shoulder. Read some real life accounts of crime scenes to find out what the little things are that give people away.

Write a FD, aka First Draft. It doesn't have to be perfect, it has to be the bones of your story. You can go back and add some flesh and skin later but for now, let's focus on the bones! Let the writing come easily, don't filter it. Just start writing your ideas down.

Go back and edit. Look over your work and rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite until your head hurts and your wrist cramps up at least twice! Make it the best you can make it, and be prepared for the next step, publishing.

Send it to be published. Be prepared for a no! not everyone gets their first mystery novel published! It takes time and effort. Try again and after four "No" responses, make some changes and try again.

Take your time and don't rush through it! Some of the best novels take a year to write at least!

Set a time each day aside for just writing, not surfing the web or checking email, writing.

Take a look at my other "passion".

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