“When writing a cozy, how far do you push the boundaries?” by Tonya Kappes

When writing a cozy, how far do you push the boundaries? And why is it important to scale back on the violence, unlike many mystery novels.


Cozy mystery novels by standard definition is a mystery where there is no blood, guts, gore with a hint of romance with an amateur sleuth, in a small town, that happens upon the murder/crime and takes it upon themselves to solve the mystery.

That is exactly up my alley to read because I like to go to bed and actually sleep at night. Unlike some of the thriller novels I’ve read before.

I found that I didn’t need to add the actual murder or crime with all the graphic details for the reader. Instead, I’ve found that using the surroundings and good description of the amateur sleuth finding the victim adds to the eerie tension of the murder/crime, drawing the reader into the mystery.

In a cozy mystery, I make the victim a character the reader has become fond of, making the reader sympathetic to why it’s important for the amateur sleuth to solve the murder to give the victim their justice.

The closest, without turning off the cozy mystery reader, that I’ve come to pushing the boundaries is really in the romance element of the sleuth. A romance isn’t uncommon in a cozy, but it’s not front and center, most times not even part of the secondary plot. Most times the amateur sleuth might get a wink or two from a love interest, but in my cozies, I’ve had them go on dates and actually have a relationship that lead to marriage.

This is not common in a cozy and sometimes turns the reader off, but I’ve found that written in a subtle way by bringing the reader along with them, the cozy reader has been able to love the couple as much as I’ve loved writing the romance.

Along the way, the reader gets to know the amateur sleuth and really feels like the sleuth could be their friend in real life. The small town the mystery is located becomes as much of a characters as the human characters. The reader is invested in the town and the citizens that live there. This is more important to the cozy reader than reading the violence.

In a cozy mystery there’s just enough anticipation, build up, and relationships to keep the reader striving to figure out the red herrings and keep them reaching for another cozy.

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