Within this sub-genre of crime fiction is the cosy mystery. As a reader, the cosy mystery invites the crime and detective to solve an infamous crime but leaves out the blood and guts, bad language and sex. It supplies a happy ending. So a cosy mystery crime novel may be thought of as ‘Light Crime.’ However, has no lesser climax that the others in this genre. This sub-genre was made popular by Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and the murderer’s town of Midsomer. It is often set in middle-class small towns.
A new and upcoming crime writer, like myself, could convincingly write a cosy mystery, without too much prior knowledge of forensics, pathology or any other science.
To write a thoroughly convincing novel, you would have to look carefully at the puzzle that the detective must solve. If it is too apparent, then the reader will be tired easily. However, if it is too far-fetched and absurd, then the reader will make a not never to read any more of your work.
Many poisons are used in various situations as you don’t leave a bullet or need a gun. Different traces are evident from the collection of the chemical and its uses.
1. Belladonna – The name means ‘pretty woman’, but this poison is genuinely a devil in disguise. Its use is to relieve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. But the smallest dose can also be fatal. It is a plant that is about five feet tall and ingesting any part of the plant will result in dilated eye pupils, blurred vision and sometimes blindness. If left untreated, then death will follow quickly.
2. Strychnine – This is also known as Nux Vomica. It also produces seeds that provide some of the most dramatic and painful symptoms. The symptoms are violent convulsions, a rise in blood pressure, difficulty in breathing, a slow heart rate followed by paralysis of the airways that results in death. This chemical is also used to alleviate indigestion, increase appetite and treat constipation.
3. Henbane – This is a dangerous killer that is sometimes known as ‘the devil’s eyes’ It has been used in black magic and witchcraft and is said to look and smell of death. Merely smelling the toxic leaves causes symptoms of dizziness, stupor, insanity, dry mouth, dilated pupils in the eyes, delirium leading to a coma and then death. Medical uses include treatment of rheumatic aches and pains.
4. Hemlock – A dirty and unattractive plant that has spotted dirty-red stems that smells of urine. The symptoms of ingestion can result in paralysis, the collapse of the respiratory muscles and death. This chemical is not used for current medical purposes, although it was used in the treatment of rabies.
On your sleuth’s obscure and deep past:
While your sleuth has a mysterious and profound past, this raises the stakes. Every time out, your sleuth not only determines the crime but they also take an individual journey that includes a lot of struggle so they can get it right this time around.
There are many sleuths with emotional impediments such as:
Columbo – Oh the famous and very loveable Columbo; the best homicide detective there ever was. The only problem was he did not like hospitals, flying in a plane or sailing on small boats. He was forgetful with the location of his pen. This meant that with all these disadvantages, he was just an average guy like me or you. Most people could relate to the problems he had and therefore connect. It is this connection that makes a protagonist likeable.
As I have already said, I am on the 100 days to a First Draft. This gives me deadlines and word counts to meet each Friday. The writers are in groups of ten, as there are actually over 150 writers on the course.
Every Friday I submit a chapter with a word count between 2,500 and 7,500 words. So, on the 19th of June, I should have at least 65,000 words and completed my first draft. The course also adds critiques, so as I submit my chapter, I also have to read chapters by three other writers and critique them.
Critiquing 4,500-word chapters is not easy. Not only do you have to read them but you have to understand and give judgment on what you have learned. The Write Practice would like use to use a sandwich critique. This is where we first comment on something that we prefer and is good. Second, we mention on the constructive criticism. Then thirdly we end with a good comment on what we enjoyed.
This approach does put critiquing in a suggestive comment approach and not the, ‘It’s alright.” club.
It’s simple to avoid giving this kind of feedback for a lot of reasons. It can be incredibly time-consuming. This morning at 9 am I started to critique three separate chapters from three different people. Each chapter was around four thousand words long. I had not only to read but understand and interpret the chapter. After that, I had to find two things I liked so that I could sandwich the constructive critique between them. It can also be challenging to provide a robust feedback to a writer you don’t know very well or at all. It would be easier just to say, “Great story!” but that is not helpful, in any way at all. When you give feedback to an author, you help them develop and learn more about what styles and interactions help information to be passed on to the reader.
I enjoy this part. I do have a folder with pictures of people I found on the web. It’s like getting to know a good friend. Once you have your primary characters, give them an A4 sheet of paper each. Write down everything about them. I have a questionnaire on their details.
Their name, appearance, personality, relationships, friends, motivations, the past, present, goals, significant events in their lives, where they live, their religion, culture, family, etc.
Just get to know them. You do need back stories of what happened to them before the time of your novel. I love doing that with the characters I create, and I get to know them very well.
These are the characters that are important to your story, but not as important as your primary characters. Write up about a paragraph for each of them. This is to give you an idea of their attitude, personality, back story and motives, as I also have photos of these people.
These are the characters that only appear once or twice and are never heard from again. Now, although they are tertiary characters, all of them are still significant, and you should stay in touch with what happened before the story. Note down all of their names on a piece of paper and their purpose, so you don’t forget them. Again, I keep photos and outlines of every character in Scrivener.
So, I’ve always loved the spy or crime genre.
I prefer reading mostly fiction.
That’s fine but, I didn’t spend much time reading non-fiction subjects outside my personal comfort zone.
Now, reading an easy book is okay for somebody whose career doesn’t involve moving around words and ideas, but it’s poison for the new and want-to-be author.
Here’s the truth of the situation:
When becoming an author, then reading and research on the subject area is part of your role.
You must spend time reading outside of your comfort zone, reading the work of authors you admire and the books of authors you detest.
You must take notes, write down and learn to arrange your ideas before you start your book.
Once you start a novel, I just lept into it and was a pantser. I got to about 14,000 words and sat back and thought, “Oh, what happens next?”
Also, after writing just one sentence, I looked at it and edited away. It is so hard to read some text and find the grammatical or word errors and not correct the text.
The first sentence in a novel is more critical than it appears. What is the author’s intention when a reader starts a book of a few hundred pages?
I intend to create a reader that starts to use their imagination and brings up questions that arise when the subject of the story takes them into areas that intrigue them. I’m writing in first person narration and found a few opening sentences that are remembered worldwide:
“I’m pretty much fucked.” – The Martian by Andy Weir.
“Call me Ishmael.” – Moby Dick by Herman Melville.
“I am an invisible man.” – Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.
A first sentence should give the reader an insight as to what is going to come within the story and a few questions.
What is Your Target Audience?
Without your target audience, you cannot market and sell your book to specific readers. For a significant amount of the time writers consider that they can target a broad group of the population. This is not precisely correct. The genre you want to write has many sub-genre groups. The best way to attract your target audience is to focus on the medium between the broad and narrow.
A way to find this audience is to ask yourself these questions:
* For who am I writing the novel?
* How old are they?
* What gender are they?
* Where do they live?
* What is their financial situation?
* How much education have they obtained?
* What films do they like?
* What tv series do they watch?
A tip: Don’t be afraid of a small target audience. The audience that meet all these questions are the people that are going to be 100% devoted to you and your novels if you do your research correctly.
Next week begins the 100 days course that should help me produce my first draft. The WritePractice is helping me.
My novel did start its way by pantsing. I got to about 14000 words and lost my way. It was at this time I sat back and thought I should outline, and do some research into the subject areas within my story.
Firstly I did a Creative writing course on Udemy and found out my English was fairly bad. That needed some work and practice. My comma splices were plentiful but that got corrected by sentence diagrams which I learned through the English Grammar Revolution.
As my intended protagonist was a private investigator; I did a foundation course on being a private investigator by Rockwell Private Investigators.
Being sure my P.I. was going to encounter dead bodies; I did a Forensic Science and Profiling course, that was very interesting and cheap as I got it from GroupOn.
While all this was going on, I researched what was favourable about Shakespeare and why his work is still popular after four hundred years. I came across the rhythm of English and the Iambic pentameter, that was used by William Shakespeare, the master of the Iam.
I also looked at memorable characters in movies and tv and why they were so accepted. For instance; Basil Fawlty, the worst, hateful owner of a hotel in history, but he was admired so much, why?