How to Write a Cozy Mystery

Masterclass defines a cozy mystery as a story that “embodies the key components of classic mystery novels—suspense, misdirection, intrigue, and some degree of criminality—while eschewing the graphic violence and profanity that is often embedded in pulpier mysteries.” It has become a popular sub-genre of many crime novels, and if you’re looking to write a more family-friendly mystery it’s the perfect way to go.

A sleuth

The “detective” should be a normal person doing normal things when the crime interrupts their life. They should be likable, friendly, and completely unexperienced.

Although cozy mystery crimes typically aren’t very brutal, the sleuth should still have trouble solving it and should prioritize it. Maybe it happened to someone they care about or it happened directly to them. Whatever the case may be, make sure they have a good reason for getting involved!

A cozy setting

Cozy mysteries normally take place in small towns. These can be very fun to write, especially if you dive into the town’s culture and population, but you might also want to branch out.

A cozy mystery could take place even in a city (if you make it cozy enough), a single house, a store, a school, etc.

Ultimately, it’s up to you, but make sure it’s warm and homey.

A cozy mystery

As mentioned earlier, cozy mysteries are more family-friendly than regular crime/mystery novels.

Don’t include a brutal murder or some horrific crime. Instead, focus on more personal and generally harmless crimes. Maybe two feuding bakers constantly sabotage each other’s bakeries.

If you really want to include a murder, write it “off-stage,” where the sleuth hears about it or knows about it without actually experiencing it.

Red herrings and clues

This is the fun part about cozy mysteries! They often include many puzzles and clues, so make sure to write in red herrings, perplexing clues, and a lot of misdirection.

At the end of the novel or story, the reader should finally be able to piece things together—they shouldn’t be able to suspect the ending from page 1.

Additional Resources

How to write a cozy mystery (linked in article above):

Writing a cozy mystery:

5 tips on how to write a cunning but cozy mystery novel:

Dos and Don’ts of writing cozy mysteries:

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