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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Cozy Mystery vs. Suspense

For my blog time, I thought I'd share with you a bit about what makes a cozy mystery. Not only are alot of writers writing them, there are alot of readers are reading them which makes it great for sales. But for the writer, I've found that there is often alot of confusion as to what makes a cozy mystery. I'm currently teaching a class on line for American Christian Fiction Writers and here's what we came up with this past week.

Defining the Cozy mystery:

• A cozy mystery is a puzzle to be solved by the h/h and may revolve around any crime, not necessarily a murder victim, though a murder victim is common.
• A cozy mystery is often filled with humor
• A cozy focuses more on the hero/heroine solving the crime.
• A cozy is one in which the problem solving is done by someone other than the police. An amateur detective where the h/h does the sleuthing.
• A cozy is a puzzle where the answer is hidden until the end with a lot of red herrings along the way. (To add to this Barbour Publishing says, “Avoid surprising the reader. On the whole, readers do not enjoy when information is withheld. If the Protagonist leaves out an afternoon in which they engage in important activities that allow them to solve the crime, waiting to reveal this until the end is unfair to the readers. Readers like to participate in the solving and deserve to be included in the process.”)
• Cozy main characters need to be ordinary people, not professional crime solvers, and have some reason that compels them to try to solve the crime. It helps if they are nosy, but also they should have some connection to either the deceased or the main suspect or something of that nature, that puts them in the middle of it when ordinarily they would let the police handle it.
• A cozy is a whodunit murder mystery with a continuing cast of primarily nice friends and neighbors in a small town setting, one of whom is the amateur sleuth who accidentally gets involved in solving the mystery.
• In both genres, the sleuth is an amateur. The murder generally takes place off-stage. This eliminates the visual blood and gore that often is part of a regular mystery and/or suspense.
• The reader has to distinguish between real clues and red herrings, and the heroine solves the problem/crime by the end of the story.
• Cozy mysteries are fun with settings in unusual places with characters who have personalities that make them somewhat "nosy"
• Cozy mysteries are set in small communities either village type settings or within a community of people with the same interests i.e. retirees, gardeners etc. (Closed setting)
• Not gruesome or morbid.
• The characters are always interested in what's going on around them and know their neighbors. Has more of a human element such as basic emotions rather than evilness.
• In a cozy, good always wins out in these gentle mysteries that tease the brain and comfort the soul’.

Defining Suspense:

• Suspense involves a character in peril and has more of an element of danger.
• A romantic suspense is typically darker than a cozy.
• Suspense has an antagonist who is "out to get" either the hero or heroine and is the one creating the problems. The antagonist is usually a "dark" character who may or may not be known until the very end.
• Romantic suspense focuses as much (or nearly as much) on the developing romance between the hero and heroine as it does on the suspense plot line which may or may not involve murder but where the plots twists and turns eventually threaten the heroine's life (the damsel in distress part).
• The suspense plot line focuses more on disarming the danger than solving a puzzle.
• Suspense is just that. Keeps you on the edge of the seat. Crime is gruesome and involved and the main character may be dragged into it rather than be just curious. More graphic descriptions.

Barbour has a great basic definition of the two genres. “A Mystery is set up as a maze to be navigated by the protagonist or solver. A Suspense is best represented as a coil that tightens in around the protagonist. A simplified generalization would be to say in a mystery, the protagonist is on the offensive-actively searching and solving, while a suspense puts the protagonist on the defensive-running and evading the villain as time runs out.”

So, if your trying your hand at a cozy mystery right now, stay tuned for more great insights into the cozy mystery!




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