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Writing a Christmas Cozy Mystery

Is it too early to think about Christmas? Not if you want to write a Christmas story . . . or a Christmas cozy murder mystery. Today we have cozy mystery writer Elizabeth S. Craig with us to share her experience with and tips for writing one.

For at least five or six years, I’ve been wanting to write a Christmas cozy mystery. I thought it would be fun to explore my recurring characters’ Christmas traditions and how the town celebrated.

A couple of things gave me pause, though. One was my schedule, which never seemed to allow for time to write a holiday-themed book. Another was that I wasn’t sure how to develop the story. I write murder mysteries and I wasn’t sure about combining murders with a beloved holiday.

I explored writing a Christmas novella with a non-murder mystery (missing jewelry, etc.), but I kept returning to a traditional mystery format.

The story is done, and I thought I’d share how I approached the project in case anyone out there is looking to work on something similar.

Tone

Cozies, in general, focus on keeping a lighter tone through most of the story. For a Christmas story, I decided to take it a little farther and bring more focus to the cozy, family-oriented side of the holiday. There’s definitely murder (two of them, actually) and an investigation, but I tried to weave the Christmas theme in between it all.

Humor

One way I accomplished the lighter tone was by using humor. My books usually do have a good deal of humor in them, but I was more thoughtful with the element this time, making sure it helped offset the darker side of the story. As usual, my humor is pretty situational, so I devised a Christmas play with preschoolers as participants and just let the chaos happen.

Motives

In staying with my attempt to keep things from getting too dark, despite a murderous villain on the loose, I tried to keep my motives fairly light. I didn’t throw in the marriage-ending affairs as motives as I usually do. I tried to keep the motives fairly petty and have the first victim’s death be a result of manslaughter instead of calculation.

Longer Transition Scenes

Instead of “transition scenes,” others may call this “the story itself.” 🙂  To me the story usually is the murder, and the character interactions and subplots are very secondary. With a Christmas cozy, I tried to expand on the Christmas theme and the characters relating to each other through the holiday: the parties, the church events, Santa Claus, etc.

Do you write holiday-related themes? What tips can you share?

About Elizabeth S. Craig

Elizabeth is the bestselling cozy mystery author of the Southern Quilting mysteries, the Myrtle Clover Cozy Mysteries, the Village Library Mysteries, and Memphis Barbeque mysteries for Penguin Random House, Midnight Ink, and independently. Follow her on Twitter where she shares writing links @elizabethscraig or at her blog where she offers tips for writers: http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/ .  She lives in Western North Carolina with her husband and is the mother of two. Her latest mystery comes out October 25. You can find out more about it here.