One of the tenets of the cozy mystery is that the person who is murdered tends to be a bad person. By bad, I mean, someone who is a nasty piece of work. Perhaps this person is a blackmailer. Perhaps this person is vicious, has fired people unfairly, been a gossip and spread untrue stories ruining people’s lives, or someone who has physically hurt people or animals (though with this latter, obviously, off the page).
In other subgenres of the mystery, of course, the murder victim or victims might be innocent, or partially flawed, or completely evil. But in cozies, in part to ensure that the reader does not have a negative emotional experience, it is important that the victim be someone the reader does not have a deep emotional connection to.
I have various friends who are experiencing negative work places with bad bosses and/or unfair expectations. I’ve certainly experienced my fair share of unjust workplace situations. In other cases, I know stories of sad romances, bad marriages, and angry familial circumstances. I’ve also been binge watching Murder, She Wrote for an upcoming blog post, and it occurred to me that often what happens in these cozy and traditional mysteries is the bad person is killed, and everything changes, usually for the better.
The victim spreading false tales is revealed to be a liar, the embezzler is discovered and the funds recovered, the grasping, narcissistic, and soul-crushing parent dies leaving the inheritance with the kind and benevolent philanthropically minded family members, and the stalking boyfriend is dispatched while the woman he relentlessly surveilled is free to love the gentle guy who will treat her well. Ah! Such wish fulfillment!
So: What situation in your life would change if you could apply a cozy solution? Is there a particular person or situation that is so toxic its removal would change everything? I’m not advocating hiring a hit man (that would be uncozy). I just think this is an interesting mental exercise. As I was saying to a friend yesterday on a long walk, think what can happen if we learn to deal well with toxic people or circumstances rather than allowing them to hurt us or people we care about.
I’m also suggesting using this as writing prompt either for a personal journal exercise or a creative non-fiction story. As an adjunct, I often felt powerless in the schools I was teaching in. Writing murder mysteries with folks that were oppressive as victims was extremely therapeutic, and it kept me out of jail and a sanitarium.
Now you try. Think about your life or the life of a friend or family member who has suffered injustice. What or who is the source of this? In the fantasy realm, or the real one if you know details, has this toxic person or situation made a negative impact on others as well? What would happen if this toxic situation were removed? What would be gained? What would be the repercussions? What does the near and distant future look like for those most closely connected to the situation?
I guarantee that 20 minutes with this exercise will have you smiling and feeling more hopeful and empowered.