5 Unbreakable Rules Of Cozy Mysteries (And How To Bend Them)

From Frolic:

Every genre has its conventions and rules. Romances need a Happy Ever After. Historical fiction has to be accurate to the era. A YA protagonist is a teenager.

And then there are cozies.

Cozy mysteries fall under the larger suspense and mystery umbrella, and what sets them apart are several unbreakable rules that exist to keep cozy mysteries light and accessible. When you pick up a cozy, you know exactly what you’re going to get—a delightful romp, with a side of murder. These are fun books with quirky characters in quaint towns you can share with your mother-in-law.

Cozies appeal to a wide audience, and as that audience grows, some of these hard-and-fast rules are becoming hard-and-fast suggestions. Cozy authors are pushing the boundaries, which opens the doors for writers like me. I write quirky, unconventional, character-driven cozy mysteries. Emphasis on “unconventional.” Because while the rules of cozies are unbreakable, they can be surprisingly flexible.

RULE #1: Although cozies revolve around a murder, all violence—including the central death(s)—has zero blood or gore. For example, in Laurie Cass’s Checking Out Crime, a dead body is barely glimpsed on a dark, lonely road. Cozies shouldn’t subject readers to a gory description of a murder scene, which is ironic considering how many classes on blood splatter patterns, body decomp, and other forensic sciences I took to complete my Criminology degree. But people don’t read cozies for graphic details. In fact, the death in most cozies takes place “off screen”. Here’s the first place I start to bend the rules. Killer Content‘s main character, Odessa Dean, witnesses the murder on an actual screen, a cell phone screen, as the victim’s death is caught in a proposal video gone viral. The death is bloodless, at least from the reader’s point of view, so the rule is bent but not broken.

RULE #2: No “adult” situations—particularly no cursing and NO sex. Cozies can include romance, but it isn’t a central top and there are never explicit romance scenes. To be completely honest, this is one of the many reasons I love writing cozies. I can’t write a kissing scene that isn’t cringeworthy. Over the course of the Brooklyn Murder Mysteries, characters have relationships, but I never describe what goes on behind closed doors. Some recent cozies, including Mia P. Manansala’s Arsenic and Adobo, almost straddle the line between rom-com and cozy while others have no romance at all. None of the characters in my books are going to drop an F-bomb, but they do talk, text, and post in modern language. Traditionally, cozies also steer clear of political or controversial topics, but recently, writers are weaving serious social issues into diverse stories.

RULE #3: In cozies, the main character is not law enforcement, is normally female, and is often in her forties or over. Many cozies start with a life-changing event that causes the heroine to move from a big city to a small town (more on that later!) which can range from needing to take over the family business from an aging parent to starting over after a divorce. Odessa, in comparison is only twenty-three at the beginning of the Brooklyn Murder Mysteries when she moves from a tiny town in Louisiana to New York City. She joins other fantastic millennial cozy sleuths as Mia P. Manansala’s Lila Macapagal in the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery Series and Abby Collette’s Bronwyn Crewse in the Ice Cream Parlor Mysteries.

Link to the rest at Frolic

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