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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Finding the Victim

While working on the proposal for book three in my cozy mystery series, I hit a snag. For some reason, the scenario of "offing" my victim didn't seem to work. The red herrings swam, the motives sang, but the howdunit bothered me. Plus, my victim was so...nice. I liked her. Didn't really want to see her go, because Dr. Barkha Mukherjee lent something special to Greenburg, Tennessee.

Then I realized something that turned the whole book idea on its head. Instead of killing Dr. M, I'd let her live. She will become one of the number one suspects. This also makes life very complicated for Dr. M. I'm looking forward to seeing how Andi Hartley helps clear her name.

Choosing your victim is probably one of the most single important choices you'll have to decide on when writing your book. Is it a cozy mystery? Frequently, a cozy mystery features a victim that nobody likes, that nearly everyone in the immediate area wanted to see dead (or at least they weren't overly grief-stricken with the news, or perhaps even relieved). This widens your suspect field. Or is your book a nail-biting suspense? In a suspense, we know the bodies can pile up, and anyone's fair game. There's more of an innocent victim, cat-and-mouse flair to a suspense. Not always, though...

I hesitate to use the terms "always" when differentiating between the cozy mystery and suspense, so I use general terms here. For every suggestion or "rule" I mention, there's probably an exception. But often we suspense readers can't help but let that element drift into our cozies. Which is what happened to me, while kicking around my idea for book three. If you're targeting a particular market, it's important to keep in mind the type of book you're writing. Cozy? Suspense? Romantic suspense? Suspense thriller? Trying to make your story fit a genre/subgenre can give you a fit.

So if you're struggling with your story coming together, take a moment and step back. Do you have the real victim? Shuffle characters around and cast them in different roles and see what happens.


Blogger Ron Estrada said...

Some authors I've spoken with are a bit perturped at the distinction between "cozy" and other mysteries. There's a huge gray area. Some "cozies" have a bit of suspense, a little romance, etc. Sue Henry is a good example. Her mysteries do have an element of suspense, but not the kind of nail-biting stuff that we expect from other "hard-boiled" PI mysteries. There's room to play with. There's a market for just about every variation of the theme.

11:14 AM  
Blogger L. Harris said...

I agree that there is a lot of room in this genre. The key is to know your market and what publishers want!

1:40 PM  
Blogger Gina said...

I'm plotting book one of my cozy mystery and wondered if there was a "rule" as to how many POVs there are in a "cozy?"

I was planning on writing in first person, but then wondered if I should be in any other POVs. I'm used to writing suspense and this is my first attempt at a cozy.

3:11 PM  

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