I don’t know about you, but I love cozy mysteries. Actually, I’m guessing you must like them at least a little bit if you’re here, because this post is about writing them. As a ghostwriter, I’ve written a ridiculous amount of them. (I do plan to do some other posts about cozies, so stay tuned!) One of the interesting challenges is coming up with various clues that will lead the main character (as well as the reader, of course) to the actual killer. You’ve gotta have a few red herrings in there as well, so that means more clues!
The problem is that most cozy mysteries aren’t about actual detectives or crime scene investigators. We’re talking about small town people with normal jobs and hobbies. Your ‘detective’ might be someone whose specialty is chasing strays at an animal shelter instead of chasing down killers. This means that most of your crime scene clues can’t require a forensic lab to be followed. Sure, you might have a police officer who fills in a detail here and there, but otherwise you need hints that the everyday layperson can follow.
Here are a few to consider:
- a single earring
- a receipt
- part of a label from a prescription bottle
- a fast food wrapper
- a key (there are lots of opportunities for where the key might go)
- a shopping list (is the handwriting important? or the contents?)
- a distinctive item of clothing
- a strand of hair
- the imprint of a ring, or the bruise left by one
- a broken shard from a piece of pottery or a vase
- a puzzle piece that doesn’t match a puzzle
- dirt or mud from someone’s shoes
- part of a costume (feathers, glitter, etc)
- a charm from a charm bracelet
- something written on a person’s hand
- a thread from a garment
- a book left behind on a bench
- beads from a dress
- a notepad with the imprint of what was written on the previous sheet (revealed by rubbing a crayon or pencil on a seemingly blank page)
- a secret drawer in a dresser or des
These are just the tip of the iceberg. There are also plenty of clues that might not be physical at all, like when your character witnesses and argument between two people or one side of a phone call. What clues would you add to this list?
Be sure to check out my Writers’ Resources page for more posts like this. Thanks!
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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois. She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University. Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside Detective. Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous. Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world. You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.