Category Archives: Writing Exercises

Crime Scene Clues for Cozy Mysteries

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?)
  • paint
  • ink
  • 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 DetectiveHer 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.

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Filed under cozy mystery, worldbuilding, writers resources, Writing Exercises

Writing Exercise – Titles

Writing Exercise #2: Come up with as many titles as you can. You don’t have to know the story behind them (although that can be a fun extension of this idea), but just find some phrases that you think would make great book titles.

  • Not Here, Not Now
  • Like Falling Asleep
  • You Said You Would
  • Let Me Down (I like the duality here of disappointment and physically being put down…could be interesting.)
  • Vibrations of Panic (Poem or band name? You decide.)
  • Parts of Speech
  • Balance
  • Tuesday, 10 a.m.
  • Never Born, Simply Was
  • Do No Harm
  • Dark Threads (I really like this one.)
  • Aren’t You Glad You Let Me Go?
  • You, Too

brain exercising

Work that creativity muscle!

I think another aspect of this exercise could be to list titles of current works by other authors that you absolutely love. These could be book titles, but also the titles of chapters, albums, or poems. The point is to find phrases that you love and see where your creativity goes from there. You may end up with a new story idea, or you may find something that will help out with a piece you’re working on.

What are your favorite titles? Let me know in the comments!

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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 Keeping and The Graveside Detective. Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous. Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world. You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Writing Exercise: Business Names – Florist and Butcher Shop

I have to admit that I haven’t always been crazy about writing exercises.  I’ve had times when I thought they were nothing but a waste of time.  (Then again, I thought that about prewriting for a long time, and I was so wrong.)  I’ve discovered lately that I’ve been doing all sorts of writing exercises even when I don’t really think about it, so I figured I might as well make it official.

Writing Exercise #1:  Come up with several different names for a business.  They can be fun, serious, rhyming, whatever.  Think of words that would be associated with that business and see where it takes you.

Today’s writing exercise is a short and fun one.  (No lengthy writing prompts here.)  I completed this particular drill while I was working on a ghostwriting project and I needed to name a flower shop.  I had a lot of fun coming up with business names.  I can’t say that all of them are something I would necessarily use, but here they are:

  • Bouquet Boutique
  • Bloom Room
  • Flower Power
  • What in Carnation
  • Stem Sell (This one cracked me up!)
  • Peony Place
  • Dahlia Depot
  • Dahlia Store (also amusing…it doesn’t take much for me)
  • Convenient Carnations
  • Discount Daisies
  • Daisy Maze

It turns out that I also needed to name a butcher shop.  I don’t have quite as many on this one:

  • Steak Out
  • Brisket Basket (my favorite)
  • Sir Loin’s
  • Sirloin Sam’s
  • Off the Hoof
  • The Poultry Pantry

I think this is a great writing exercise because it gives your mind a break from plot, structure, and dialog and let’s you focus on something a little more fun.  It also allows you to pay attention to word patterns and how different phrases sound together, which can only help with your writing.

What store names can you come up with?  Let me know in the comments.  And you don’t have to stick with just flower shops and butchers. 🙂

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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 Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

 

 

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Filed under Writing Exercises