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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Cozying Up to POV

Gina recently posted a question that we thought might be a good topic for a blog article. So, I’ll be answering her question in more detail than she probably wanted, just to make sure I cover the topic. (I’m not usually a big talker in person, but give me a keyboard, and I can blabber with the best of them.)

Here is Gina’s question:

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.

No official rules that I know of. (Like I haven't found a book out there that lists the Ten Authoritative Rules for Writing a Cozy and Don't You Dare Break Them or You're a Failure.) But I think that many traditional cozy mysteries are in a single, first person POV. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that most traditional cozies have only one or two POVs. (Someone might argue with me, and that's okay. In addition, I've noticed that, like clothes, writing styles change ever so slightly throughout the years.)

If you think about Agatha Christie or the American cozy writer, Diane Mott Davidson, both write in a single POV. Sherlock Holmes mysteries are told through Dr. Watson. At the library recently, I came across another cozy mystery writer named Sarah Graves (secular). Hers are first person, too, but she began one of her books in the POV of the victim who was dead by the end of the prologue—obviously there were no more scenes in that POV. I’ve noticed other variations, as well. Veronica Heley often writes short scenes in the anonymous bad guy’s POV. I think that might be a trend now, as I've seen it in others, too. Some of the cozies that Heartsong will be publishing have two POVs, and the authors have done a great job incorporating the second POV without losing the cozy flavor.

The risk you take adding more POVs (particularly if the second POV is the romantic interest) is that the book might sound more like a suspense or a romantic suspense. So, if you’re aiming for the cozy flavor, you need to watch for that.

My Heartsong Presents: Mysteries cozies are the traditional, single, first person POV. (Like Gina, I do also write other suspense genres.) I like the voice of first person for my cozies and the simplicity of just one POV. Keeps me from slipping into the suspense mode. But simplicity doesn’t translate into easy. When I write books with two or more POVs, I can flip from person to person to reveal everything I want revealed. In my cozies, everything has to be revealed through one person’s eyes. The challenge is to avoid being BORING and droning on and on about details that don’t matter a hill of beans to the outcome of the story. Everything I write has to have a good reason to be in the book and has to advance the plot. If my character goes to the grocery store, that’s a good place to run into someone who is either a suspect or a bearer of clues. If my character is doing the dishes, she’s also mulling over clues and perhaps reaches another conclusion.

I also make sure there are other subplots that add additional conflict for my character, but I try to make that conflict tie into the mystery. In other words, everything must advance the plot.

And if you’re aiming for HP Mysteries, remember there needs to be a romantic thread. That doesn’t have to involve the main character (can be a secondary character) but a romantic thread needs to be there.

So, those are my thoughts about POV. Please feel free to ask us more questions. We like questions.


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