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How to Write a Cozy Mystery (5 Simple Steps)

POSTED ON Aug 1, 2023

Hannah Lee Kidder

Written by Hannah Lee Kidder

Home > Blog > Fiction, Writing > How to Write a Cozy Mystery (5 Simple Steps)

One of the hottest subgenres of mystery is the cozy mystery. Readers love escapism, and cozy mysteries are the perfect book for that: with their comfortable settings, light and easy prose, and engaging stories. With mystery novels being one of the highest-selling genres on Amazon, its high time for you to learn how to write a cozy mystery of your own.

In this article, we will talk about what makes a cozy mystery, some popular examples of the subgenre, and our top tips for how to write a cozy mystery that sells.

Ready to get started?


What is a cozy mystery?

To learn how to write cozy mysteries, you first need to understand what they are!

So, what is a cozy mystery? Well, it's a light, enjoyable, very PG/PG-13 mystery romp.

The main character of a cozy mystery is typically a female sleuth, so this book genre is mostly read by intelligent female readers who love an entertaining, comfortable, and engaging read. But of course, a cozy mystery can be enjoyed by anyone!

Woman Comfortably Sitting On A Cozy Chair While Reading A Cozy Mystery Book In Front Of A Cozy Fireplace

Cozy mystery books are typically set in a small, idyllic place—small town, cozy cottage, quiet seaside resort… The comfortable atmosphere provides the “cozy” feeling of the story, and placing it in a small setting makes sleuthing much easier for our protagonist. The main character is usually a bright, observant person with many positive character traits.

Cozy mysteries by nature are not violent or gruesome. No blood, no torture, no grieving over murder victims here. Violent crimes will happen off-screen, to characters we do not know. The story will focus more on character development and relationships than it will on high action or exciting scenes, as you’ll often find in other subgenres of mystery books.

Now that you have a basic understanding of this mystery subgenre, let's look at some fabulous examples.

Examples of cozy mysteries

Here are some cozy mystery books to use as inspiration when learning how to write a cozy mystery:

Book Cover Of Dial A For Aunties By Jesse Sutanto

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto

“When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body. Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate, especially when it is inadvertently shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding.

Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working at an island resort on the California coastline. It's the biggest job yet for the family wedding business—”Don't leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!”—and nothing, not even an unsavory corpse, will get in the way of her auntie's perfect buttercream flowers.”

Cover Of Murder In G Major By Alexia Gordon

Murder in G Major by Alexia Gordon

“With few other options, African-American classical musician Gethsemane Brown accepts a less-than-ideal position turning a group of rowdy schoolboys into an award-winning orchestra. Stranded without luggage or money in the Irish countryside, she figures any job is better than none. The perk? Housesitting a lovely cliffside cottage. The catch? The ghost of the cottage's murdered owner haunts the place. Falsely accused of killing his wife (and himself), he begs Gethsemane to clear his name so he can rest in peace.”

Cover Of Arsenic And Adobo

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

“When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She's tasked with saving her Tita Rosie's failing restaurant, and she has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case.”

Cover Of Magic, Lies, And Deadly Pies

Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies by Misha Popp

“The first time Daisy Ellery killed a man with a pie, it was an accident. Now, it’s her calling. Daisy bakes sweet vengeance into her pastries, which she and her dog Zoe deliver to the men who’ve done dirty deeds to the town’s women. But if she can’t solve the one crime that’s not of her own baking, she’ll be out of the pie pan and into the oven.”

Cover Of Death Before Dessert

Death Before Dessert by A.E. Radley

“When she finds herself between jobs and out of her rented accommodation, Clara Harrington decides to take a break and stay with her beloved, yet eccentric aunt in the sleepy village of Picklemarsh, England. Clara’s hope for peace and quiet is shattered when, on her first night at Chadwick Lodge, the local town councilor is murdered, falling face down into his dessert.”

Hungry for more? Check out a more extensive list of cozy mystery recommendations!

Once you have inspiration, it's time to learn how to write a cozy mystery of your own.

Cozy Mystery Writing Essentials: A Steaming Mug Of Tea, A Vintage Typewriter On A Rustic Desk, And A Manuscript

How to write a cozy mystery in 5 steps

Here are some tips to get you rolling on how to write a cozy mystery successfully:

1. Understand the genre

The first step in learning how to write a cozy mystery is gaining a comprehensive understanding of the genre.

Like any niche of writing, readers have certain expectations. As an example, traditional romance readers will flip their absolute lid if a book marketed to them as a romance novel doesn’t end with a Happily Ever After.

Some book genres serve a specific purpose, and while there are no “rules” to writing, you do risk alienating your readership if you make certain promises (like listing your book in a specific genre), and don’t deliver on those promises.

That’s why it’s important to understand the expectations, common tropes, and no-nos of the genre you choose to write.

2. Nail the atmosphere

The atmosphere of your cozy mystery is the most important part! When learning how to write a cozy mystery, you should think up setting that is warm and inviting. If it isn’t, the book simply is not a cozy mystery.

Even your syntax and verbiage can affect the comfort of your reader. In general, opt for accessible language, a to-the-point sentence structure, and easy readability. Cozy mysteries are meant to be quick, fun reads—don’t make your readers think too hard to understand the writing! They should be trying to figure out whodunnit and having a good time.

Photo Of A Small Town Surrounded By Mountains Where A Cozy Mystery Could Be Set

3. Don’t neglect the mystery

While it’s a fun and comfy story, it is still a mystery! Lead your readers along with clues that will enable at least a portion of your readers to be able to guess the outcome.

When learning how to write a cozy mystery, don’t forget that you should drop in a few red herrings to throw readers off the trail and make your story more exciting.

4. Avoid graphic imagery

Like we mentioned above, cozy mysteries are not graphic. Violence, gore, and sex don’t have a place on-page when learning how to write a cozy mystery. Instead, allude to violence off-page, and employ fade-to-blacks if you need to insert a sex scene.

You should also avoid gratuitous cursing, drug use, and other elements that may be considered inappropriate for a general audience.

Friendly, Quirky, And Lovable Cast Of Female Characters In A Cozy Mystery Setting

5. Build a friendly, intimate cast of characters

When learning how to write cozy mysteries, you should create a cast of characters who are friendly, quirky, and lovable. Any characters who fall victim to murder or violence should be established as unlikable, bad people (as that will alleviate the grief and shock of a murder).

Using a small setting in the story provides an intimacy and closeness between the characters, and that feeling will transfer to the reader—giving them that “cozy” feeling.

There are plenty of other tips for how to write cozy mysteries that you can get from guides on how to write a mystery series generally. That being said, not all those tips will apply. Make sure to refer back to this list of tips for how to write a cozy mystery (and disregard tips that don't agree with these five points).

Related:

Ready to write and publish your cozy mystery?

At SelfPublishing.com, we have all the resources you need to learn how to write a cozy mystery successfully. You can browse our free template, take our online courses, or reach out to our team of experts for help with editing or publishing your work.

Ready to get started? Joint our free training course to learn more about how to write a cozy mystery and self-publish it all on your own.


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