Writing the Cozy Mystery – a book review

A few days ago one of my favorite cozy writers, Nancy J. Cohen posted on Facebook that her new book Writing the Cozy Mystery was available in Kindle for all of 99 cents.  I bought it immediately, and I just verified that is still on sale for 99 cents.writing the cozy

I’ve been reading a lot of different mysteries for some time, that are referred to as Cozy Mysteries or just cozies.  I was reminded about a few interesting characters from my never published post 2012 novel, that I thought would be interesting and fun enough to have a novel of their own instead of being in a sidekick role (excerpt below). I wondered:

1.     Could I write a Cozy?

2.     Is it hard work?

3.     Is there some kind of formula?

The answers are yes, yes and yes. The book does not disappoint. I feel as if I’ve been gifted with a precise step by step road map to writing a good first draft.  I’m actually cutting and pasting some sections into a word document to give me direction in outlining my first ever foray into Cozy writing.  NOTE: To cut and paste, you’ll need Kindle for PC (it’s free).

Some information in the book will be just a refresher for most writers, but I found the lists and hints helpful to have in front of me, so I could answer the questions for each character.  It’s important to know your characters as intimately as you know good friends: their likes and dislikes, environment, job, dreams, fears, friends, past. Most of this won’t go into the book, but informs the actions, reactions, and interactions of your characters making them come alive for the reader.

Cohen uses a 3 ring notebook and a storyboard. 

1.  On the notebook she says:

“The Plotting Notebook is another means by which you can keep track of all the elements. You’ll need a notebook for each separate title with colored tab dividers.”

2.  On the Storyboard she says:

“For a quick visual reference, I use a Storyboard or plotting chart. Divide a large white poster board into twenty blocks, or however many chapters will appear in your novel. Then write down all the story incidents or plot points that come to mind on sticky notes. Put these around the board in some sort of order. This gives you a general guideline for writing the synopsis.

There is a software that is similar to her block system, but I’d rather work with a notebook, poster board and post-its as she suggests. That way it’s in front of me while I write.

I’ll be blogging about the experience from time to time beginning with my this post.

 Character study:

Character Back Story – Detective James Jeffries
Tomorrow was graduation.

He remembered how his Mother worried; he could tell the way she paced when she thought he wasn’t watching.  She’d yell at Dad when he talked about it too. “No, absolutely not.  It isn’t bad enough I worry if you’ll come back every day when you leave for work, you want me to worry about my only son, too.  He should be a lawyer or a doctor or a writer.  Lord knows he has enough imagination to be a writer.  His school counselor said so.”

James hated it when they argued.  He’d just turn the volume up on one his dad’s old viewer as he watched Sam Cade, Detective for Hire for the hundredth time.  He’d pretend he was Sam Cade – super detective.  “Yes, some day.  Well, Sam Cade started in law enforcement, and then went private.  And all the women fall for him and the regular law enforcers envy him.  Yea, that’s what I’ll do.  First, I’ll follow Dad’s path, but I won’t settle for just that; no sir, not me.  I’ll get all the training I can get from the pros and then I’ll do what Sam Cade did.  James Harden, private detective.  Well, maybe I can change my name.  James seems so, so ordinary.”

He remembered when he and his Dad used to talk long into the night on their weekly hike up into the mountains.  He told James his fears and his aspirations, “I know that no matter what happens I’ve lived a good life.  Boy, that’s all that’s truly important.  Whatever you do in life, do it because you really want to, and do it really well.  If you marry, marry for love and because of things and in spite of things.  Your mom’s a good woman and when she met me, I was in law enforcement and she hated it.  But I loved her in spite of that and she me too.  Do you understand?  I mean, you can talk yourself out of a lot of things just because you’re afraid.  Don’t let fear ever stand in the way of doing what you love and loving people who may not love all the things you do.”

James wished he had written it all down, now.  But sometimes, he lay back on a dark night on the side of a trail and let his mind drift back to those times and he could hear the distant voice echoed in his ear.  “Follow your dreams, boy.  Only a fool is never afraid, and only a coward lets fear stand in the way of what’s right for him.”

James thought.  Thanks Dad, I’ll make you proud.  I’m doing it Dad.  I’ll be the youngest detective ever on the force.