Do You Know Your Audience? Pt. 13

Sheenah Archive, Writing Advice 0 Comments

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes. Probably the most captivating, memorable, and beloved detective.


The mystery genre could be one of the most easiest genres to discuss, next to romance. Something goes awry (usually somebody is found dead) and through a series of clues and interviews, the person, usually a detective, finds the answer.

Thrillers, whodunits, mysteries, crime fiction, detective fiction: all of these, and more, have been used, separately or interchangeably, to describe basically the same thing. They are all essentially referring to the same overall genre of literary fiction, the mystery or crime story.

The golden age of mysteries happened during the 1920s and 1930s with authors such as Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler paving what mysteries would become known for. The golden age of mysteries also produced long-time running series for children: The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries.

The mystery genre itself has many sub-genres and is relatively new to the scene in literature, having been developed within the past 200 years. People often look to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, as the man who made the genre such a success as it is right now. The genre can often overlap with thrillers and suspense novels and there are many a show on television that follows the typical mystery format.

Red Herring

Red Herring is ALWAYS suspect #1. Don’t you forget that.

A common literary device used in mysteries is the red herring, that is a character or clue that usually leads the reader and character to a false conclusion. A Pup Named Scooby-Doo had a nod to this device with the character Red Herring, who Freddie always assumed did it even though he was never related to the crime (except in one episode!).

The Cozy (or Cosy) Mystery

I’ve often heard the term cozy/cosy mystery and never really knew what it was.

Cozies are basically traditional mysteries featuring an amateur sleuth. The reader receives the same clues as the sleuth and solves the case alongside her. These mysteries are frequently humorous, character-focused, often (not always) set in small-towns, and are part of a series. You’ll never find explicit descriptions of violence, dark themes, or much profanity in a cozy mystery.
— Elizabeth Spann Craig, “What a Cozy Mystery Is and Thoughts on Genre Writing

Which pretty much means that Murder, She Wrote would qualify as a cozy mystery. (If you haven’t seen the series, it’s fantastic; I used to watch it when I was knee high to a grasshopper with my parents.) The key thing to writing a cozy is the focus on the amateur sleuth. He or she can’t be a retired police officer or have any sort of training in solving mysteries.

So you know, if you’re looking for clean reads, cozies seem to be the way to go.

Scooby Doo and Gang

I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids!

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