Sunday afternoon and I ‘m studying for a uni assignment for my masters degree. The unit, a research theory unit, has taken me out of my comfort zone…and it is meant to! My thesis, you see, is about the witchcraft craze that took over Europe in the 16th -17th centuries that involved thousands of women persecuted, tortured and killed for witchcraft, but I’m learning so much more….
Broadly speaking , I’m studying the effects of the witch phenomena on future generations that encompasses the perception of womens mental illness, sexuality and madness, in what was phrased as ‘hysteria.’
As you can tell by my brainstorming poster, I’m researching and reading esteemed writers like Focault, Freud, Marx, and feminist literary critics such as Julie Kristeva, Judith Butler and Elaine Showalter. My studies have taken me to understand the rise in mental asylums after the events of what feminists call ‘The Burning Times’ in women’s history.
Pivotal to this is a book I ‘ve yet to read but have it on my ever-growing list : The Witch in History by Diane Purkiss, which takes a polemic look into the phenomena of witchcraft and what it means for women today.
Heavy stuff you may say, but the topic of the witch continues to fascinate me, and I always have my loyal terrier Billy by my side!
There aren’t enough credible female villains. They are usually overshadowed by their male counterparts. Think: The White Witch (Narnia), Veruca Salt (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Annie Wilkes (Misery), Abigail (The Crucible) then realise that there needs to be more!
So, here’s a quick guide to creating a bad-ass female character that your readers will not forget in a hurry:
Villains need POSITIVE traits too – make sure you include these (Think: Annie Wilks who loved collecting, or the White Witch who loved handing out Turkish Delight!)
Remember that a Villain that has a positive trait makes the reader CONNECT with them, to EMPHASISE with their back story, making them fully formed as characters
Study other Villains, and that means read, read, and read! Try to turn a WELL-KNOWN male hero into a female villain – there are endless possibilities!
A psychopathic Villain is so cliched – make them have a PERSONALITY disorder instead
Give you Villain CORE VALUES, and stick to them! They need to have INTEGRITY in their beliefs that make them more believable (This is where a back story helps: why are they bad in the first place?)
To sum it up, they need to have:
– Your villain needs to do exactly what they say they will! So, if your wicked fairy queen says she will turn your hero to stone – let her! It adds ACTION, allowing your hero to extract themselves out of it (or can even produce another hero!)
– Play on the real-life fears readers have about females being meek, mild, sensitive and loving, and go the OPPOSITE to that. Make them devious and powerful, cunning but charming, intellectual but crazy!
– Villains need to challenge heroes. If they are experts at something, then play on it. Your heroes will have a hard time defeating them. This produces conflict between protagonist and antagonist thus driving the PLOT.
I’m writing the second book in the Stella Windemere murder mystery series, with ideas, plotlines and character formations for at least the next two books. It’ll be called Stella Windermere: The case of the drowned man, and will be out Christmas, 2018. Exciting times!
The first book Stella Windermere: The case of the Polish sailor is available on my author page, was written in my home town in south Wales and was the original idea for the creation of the book, and the series that will follow.
But what makes a good cosy mystery? What elements of the story need to be adhered to, for your plot to flow, and for your characters to become fully formed people that readers want to read about, again and again?
Here are some tips that I’ve learnt along the way. Some writers like to follow this method, while other writers like to ‘go with the flow,’ and see what happens when they start their story.
I’m a bit of both. I like to have the ideas, plots, characters, setting in my head, then start to write, for I find too much rigidity stunts creativity:
At what stage in the book, should the body turn up?
A cosy mystery should have a body show up at least 20-25 pages into the book. Too much procrastination at the start tends to be boring for your reader, and publishers like it that way too. Like any good PG Woodhouse or Agatha Christie, your readers like to start unravelling the puzzle straight away.
What weapon of choice?
A cosy mystery is not a thriller. There doesn’t need to be a lot of gore or descriptions of gore, or even much forensics going on. A simple, stabbing, strangulation, drowning or even a fall downstairs (pushed, naturally) is enough in a cosy mystery genre.
Should there be swearing in the cosy mystery?
Believe it or not, a lot of readers don’t like swear words in a cosy mystery. They like to sit back and enjoy the puzzling murder/s without having to deal with a blasphemous word on every page. Its all about the illusion, not the reality, the escapism, not the gore.
This is the main structure of your book and needs to flow well and have a hint of a puzzle that makes the reader think. So, you must have a couple of red herrings, such as an obvious ‘bad’ character that could be the murderer, mixed up with a quaint ‘good’ character that has hidden murderous depths; that’ll be your ‘twist.’ It changes with each story you write, and can be changed up, but these elements help a plot run along.
Should there be humour in your cosy mystery?
Yes. Humour is what makes a cosy mystery so unique, because you have a serious element (a murder) coupled with an amateur sleuth/bumbling detective element (with their own unique traits, humour, hobbies, and you can go wild here!) that adds to the setting and plotline, so it becomes humorous, as an escape from reality for your reader. Its can be subtle, or more obvious, but the light-hearted element needs to be there.
So there you go! With these elements in place, there should be some elements that will flow, some that may need working on, but with story prompts and outlines, a cosy mystery can be created.
Just a quick its- the- weekend-coming- up- post- to share with you this cake!
I had coffee and cheesecake in my favorite coffee shop, and my daughter ordered this cake. It was as delicious to taste as it was to look at!
I’ve had a pretty creative week. I gave myself a writing goal, to get motivated in my next cozy mystery; Stella Windermere: The case of the Drowned Man. I’m planning on releasing it before Christmas 2018, so had a writing goal if 1,000 words a day. Since Sunday I’ve written over 8,000 words so very pleased.
I can now enjoy the weekend, and continue the plotlines….!
Most Common Writing Mistakes: Weak Character Voice
Voice. That tantalizingly nebulous word is flung around so often in writing critiques and agent demands that writers sometimes get to where we almost hate the sound of it. Every author is supposed to cultivate a unique voice. But, even more than that, we’re also supposed to create a unique character voice for every one of our players.
But how do we do that? Well, we start by creating unique character personalities—and, if we’re lucky, character voice will just flow right out of those vibrant personalities. Sounds good, all right. So let’s say you’ve created that super-duper, unique character. He’s a wise-guy kid who’s headed for the European theater in World War II. His voice is thick in your head, and his personality seems to be bubbling right out onto the page.
Do you love blogging? Why not think about turning it into a career? Whether you’re looking to freelance full-time or adopt a side hustle – becoming a freelance blogger could be a great way for you to make money while indulging your passions. It’s not always an easy gig, but if you play your cards right, it could open some wonderful new doors for you.
The Irish writer Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), is one of the themes on my Masters this week, and I’m reading his play The Importance of Being Earnest, which I’m loving and studying the complexity of the man behind the writer.
It’s a play about keeping true to ones own Self even in diversity. The theme of Self-Identity is very much in vogue at the moment, with the female empowerment movement #MeToo, and the numerous TV shows that depict Heroes/Heroines and their search/quest/journey for fulfillment, both externally and as an innate part of our own psyche.
Its been a busy week so far, and I have a study group booked for the weekend, which I’m looking forward to. Online study is very flexible and suits my lifestyle but it can be difficult to motivate yourself to study. Sharing ideas and thoughts keeps study lively! 🙌
We spent the weekend up in Brisbane last week, which is rapidly becoming my new go – to place.
They had a Food and Wine Festival on, with the chefs from the TV show Masterchef Australia, as well as Miguel the chef from another Aussie TV show, the Living Room. The Southbank area of Brisbane is looking so cool now- they’ve managed to create an easy style entertainment area for families and couples alike, that’s way better than how it looked before the floods of 2012.
It was so busy up there, but we managed to find a quiet corner and have a drink and paella.
On the writing front, I’m busy editing my new book The Zealand Girl, plus writing a murder mystery, the second one of the Stella Windermere series which I love writing.
I’ve also started back at uni, and have a few writing projects to create, which I’ll be sharing.