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Wednesday, July 19, 2006


If you been following my posts, we've already looked at characters and setting, but what are the dynamics of plotting a cozy mystery? I’ll share with you the outline I use when writing a cozy mystery that will in turn help you organize your own cast of characters and turn your protagonist into a sleuthing sensation.

No matter how you write, a cozy will take a bit of planning ahead of time. This outline is like a character sheet with a twist. Notice that every suspect has a secret, a link to the crime, and a motive. This adds layers to your story and helps turn your story into a puzzle to solve. I’ve used snippets from my own series below to show you how it works and get you started, but you will want to write as much detail throughout here as you can.

When you get to your clues, here’s a good point from Barbour. “Create clues that point to one or more Suspects. Include Red Herring Clues. Organize in such a way that the Solver is led down a certain paths in the maze that redirect her back toward the RA.”


STORY SUMMARY: Pricilla Crumb’s guest list has just turned into a suspect list. . .for murder. Pricilla Crumb, superb cook and articulate hostess, plans an informal buffet for her son, but the dinner party turns to chaos when a guest is found dead after sampling one of her salmon-filled tartlets. Pricilla’s determination to save her reputation and find out the truth begins her unofficial career as a novice detective.

• Pricilla Crumb- heroine (I, II, III)
• Penelope- Pricilla’s cat (I,II,III)
• Nathan Crumb- Pricilla’s son (I,II,III)
• Etc.

(note: this list is important when you are writing a series, thus the reason for the numbers showing which books they appear in.)

SPIRITUAL THEME: “How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 36:7

MYSTERY: CHARLES WOODRUFF is found dead in Pricilla Crumb’s son’s hunting lodge. At first, Pricilla is convinced that her appetizer was the reason for his untimely demise, but it soon becomes evident that fowl play was involved. When her son is taken in for questioning, Pricilla is determined to save the reputation of both her son and his lodge.

PROTAGONIST: Pricilla Crumb is a cross between PBS’s Hyacinth Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances and Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote. Determined to discover the truth, this unconventional busybody follows one lead after another, dishing up laughter and suspense along the way.

REAL ANTAGONIST (RA) AND MOTIVE: I’m not telling who mine is, but you need to know who this person is. LOL


• VICTIM: Charles Woodruff is a cutthroat business man who is liked by few people. . .

• (RA):

• SUSPECT ONE: Clare Woodruff

1. SECRET: Had an affair with one of the suspects. . .

2. LINK TO THE CRIME: Found him with the body, had opportunity. . .

3. MOTIVE: For financial reasons, her husband will not divorce her, but there’s another man in the picture. . .





CLUES: Make your list of clues that you will use throughout the story here.

RED HERRINGS: Write in your list of red herrings here. These will come from the innocent suspects and their motives, secrets, etc.

SOLVING THE CASE: How are you going to wrap up the case with a bit of a twist?

So, have fun and remember we are running a contest to win a free critique on a chapter, so leave a comment and let us know if you are interested!



Blogger Martha W. Rogers said...

Great outline. I'm working on a mystery and really need some feedback on it, so the critique would be great. I love reading mysteries and want to try my hand at one. Y'all are doing a wonderful job with this site.
Martha Rogers

7:39 AM  
Blogger Ron Estrada said...

I like this outline, too. I can't seem to get into a detailed step sheet, though some sort of outline is necessary for a mystery. I tend to find other possible suspects as a write, but they're easily added to the sheet.

Yes to what Martha said! Great job here. We'll see if we can get more interest up. I included your link on my blog.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Marion Kelley Bullock said...

I'm really interested in your site and plan to keep studying it. I enjoy reading mysteries and I want to learn better how to write them.

11:04 AM  

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