How to create an outline for a cosy mystery.
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.
Happy writing everyone! 🙂
#creativity #writing #writerslife #cosymystery #stellawindermerethecaseofthepolishsailor