What Is a Cozy Mystery?

I laughed so hard at this meme. Cozy mysteries are quirky in a lot of ways and that’s something to keep in mind if you are going to write one.

Quirky Characters

Since many writers start with their characters, that’s where I’ll start with this post. The main character in a cozy mystery is often not the quirkiest character but this person will often have a quirk of some kind.

In some cozy mysteries, this quirk is a talent or skill. I’ve read books where a character casts spells, at first accidentally, by cooking for people. Another character sees ghosts that no one else, but her cat, can see. Yet another character reads the emotions of others by touch. Flavia de Luce may live in the early modern period but she knows all about poisons.

Many cozy characters have quirky professions. I’ve read books with book binders, spinners, and more. What your character will not be is a crime-fighting professional. Cozy characters are not private eyes or police officers.

Quirky Settings

Cozy mysteries often have quirky settings. A character may live in a decaying manor house. My friend lent me a book set in a town where every business is pet friendly, welcoming residents, tourists, and their dogs and cats. Vivien Chien’s Noodle Shop Mysteries all feature to some extent a mall with Asian American themed businesses from restaurants, to bookstores, and a video shop.

The cozy setting isn’t going to be as quirky as its characters, but the setting will be specific and details. Small business owners abound in the world of the cozy mystery. Big box stores are suspiciously absent.

Additional Quirks

To be a true cozy, there are other quirks your book will have to have. The murder, or other crime, takes place off-screen. Characters may find a body but they do not see a murder take place. That is just too dark for a cozy.

Crime isn’t the only thing that takes place off-screen. There is no sex and no swearing. A cozy is straight up PG.

And that’s okay with me.

–SueBE