So you want to write a mystery novel? There is a really simple formula making the rounds now.
Betsy, the heroine (yes it is always a she) just moved to a small town from the big city, leaving her jilted lover behind. He will harass her at some future point by interrupting her new love affair and/or attacking her verbally and/or physically. He will leave in disgrace, having repented and finally seeing the error of his ways.
She struggles to make ends meet in a small newly minted business that in a lifetime could never be profitable. She might have inherited it from Grandma but it never pays the bills and she struggles financially.
Betsy is not pretty. She has ten to twenty pounds to lose, sports mousy brown hair and little fashion sense. She fusses endlessly over how many calories to eat but always succumb to the pizza, cookies, cheesecake or cinnamon rolls at her friend’s bakery.
The local law enforcement guy takes an instant dislike to her but underlying currents tell you that they’ll be matched like candle sticks by book number three.
Isn’t this a simple plot? Copy it if you like. Why not, everyone else is. Be quick though because current books include every kind of Betsy from button seller, organic farmer, crocheting guru to cookie designer. Choose your store carefully because whatever profession you pick, the bad guy needs to drop dead in or near your location.
Meanwhile you live over your store in a small, cold, pathetic apartment reminiscent of Charles Dickens. Oh and you must have a brilliant cat/dog to help you scout out the murderer. Of course you solve the crime but almost lose your life in the process.
Now let’s get down to brass tacks or maybe we should say computer keys. Who do we blame for this copycat scribbling? If it is true that writers must write to an editor’s specifications then we can blame editors. If we are desperate to get published at any cost, maybe we can blame ourselves. However if we as readers continue to buy such replicated material, isn’t it our fault?
Aren’t we shocked to discover that most audiences read at grade four to grade six levels? On the other hand, aren’t we just a little bit responsible? Where is our imagination; our personal flare? Why not sneak a grade seven or eight word into our text once in a while, carefully adding the meaning in another corner of the paragraph? Shouldn’t our aim be higher than mediocre? After all, we are individuals created by God. Even twins have their differences. Shouldn’t we?
With this in mind, let’s tackle that cozy mystery one more time. In our text, heroine Betsy sheds her skirts to become a country bumpkin named Bill. He struggles with the family farm but dabbles on the side as the local law enforcement guy. His girl friend runs the local donut shop and the bad guy drops dead over her coffee machine. Sigh! It’s not as easy as it looks, is it? Don’t let that keep you from trying.
Brenda Wood, author & speaker
Meeting Myself–Snippets from a Binging and Bulging Mind