Cozy Plot Template
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Projected Word Count: 75,000
Number of Chapters: 30
Template Length: 24 pages, 8,525 words
Title: Should be a quirky play on words
· E.g. – Home for the Haunting, Hexes and Hemlines, Ghouls Gone Wild, We Wish You a Murderous Christmas
Series Name: A <Series Hook> Cozy Mystery
· E.g. Haunted Bakery, Vintage Winery, etc. This is a really important hook.
POV: First Person. Every scene is from the FMC’s POV.
Sample Blurb Outline
See below for a description of each component
When <FMC’s name> <has a problem>, she knows she’s in <some kind of trouble>. <FMC> <does something other people consider suspicious> in front of everyone in the small town of <Small Town Name>. Of course, <murder victim’s name> appears to be innocent, so when she’s found dead <in FMC’s shop> <recent time frame>, <FMC> becomes the prime suspect.
<FMC> is <without an alibi>, and even her <best friend> doesn’t believe her. But <FMC’s> not the only one in town who wanted <murder victim name>—a <reason why they might have been murdered>—silenced for good. To clear her name, <FMC’s> going to need all the help she can get.
With her <#1 helper’s descriptive text and first name>, and her <#2’s helper’s descriptive text and first name> on her side, she’s prepared to <do whatever it takes> to catch the real murderer. She’s desperate to <reason why she needs to solve the murder herself>, but will her quest lead her right into a killer’s snare?
FMC – Female main character. There may be exceptions, but cozies are dominated by female protagonists.
Has a Problem – Something is stolen from them. FMC needs to acquire something. FMC has an upcoming festival they need to participate in or they will lose their store. FMC needs to maintain her reputation for some reason, usually store sales, or pressure from the small town to conform.
Some kind of trouble – You can make this a cute phrase like, “she knows she’s up a creek without a paddle or a boat.” Or something like, “She knows she’s got one foot on the banana peel and another in her grave.”
Does something other people consider suspicious – Confronts the murder victim while they’re still alive. Was at the murder victim’s house the night before. Threatened the victim recently. The victim was protesting something the FMC was doing. The victim doesn’t like the FMC for some reason that everyone knows about.
Small Town Name – Almost all cozies are set in small towns where everyone knows everyone else. It helps to make the town a tourist destination because then you have an endless cast of characters for your series.
Murder victim’s name – I like to use first and last name.
In FMC’s shop – It could be her shop, her house, near either location, or another location entirely. However, it works best if the location is one which the FMC would frequent.
Without an alibi - This is where you can get cute with phrasing. In a cozy witch mystery, you might say something like, “she’s one green eyed toad short of an alibi.” In a bakery mystery, it might be something like, “she’s one muffin short of an alibi.” Try to add some “cutesy” to your blurb.
Best Friend – Usually the cute town sheriff.
Reason why they might have been murdered - charlatan psychic, mean old lady who chased the kids out of her yard, town drunk, etc. It should be a reason that could make a lot of people mad, which makes it easier to create multiple suspects with different motives.
Helper’s descriptive text and first name – In witch cozies, one of the “people” on the list would be the FMC’s an animal familiar. Try to get crafty with the animal type. A very well performing series uses a potbellied pig. I’ve written plots with guinea pigs, owls, parrots, etc. The standard is a black cat, but try to be different. Other possible people are: FMC’s family members (neurotic mother, self-centered sister, crazy aunt, etc.), friends, the cute sheriff, or other members of the town.
Do whatever it takes – tailor this to the sub-subgenre. E.g. Cozy witch: “Cast any spell necessary.”
Reason why she needs to solve the murder herself – This will be the driving time crunch on the book. Without a time crunch, there’s no real urgency to her investigation. Common reasons include: She needs to get her reputation back before she loses too much business and her store has to close. Someone else has gone missing and if they don’t find the murderer, that person could end up dead too. She wants to protect her town. She needs to get her missing item back in time for <some reason>. E.g. – she needs to get her industrial mixing bowl back before the Christmas rush so that she can fulfill all of her Christmas orders.
Example Blurb #1
When Tabatha Mathers realizes that her priceless Van Gough is fake, she knows she’s one brushstroke away from total ruin. Tabatha confronts Abigail Summers, a notorious art forger, in front of everyone in the small town of Painter’s Cove. Of course, Abigail denies everything, so when she’s found dead in the middle of Tabatha’s art gallery the next morning, Tabatha becomes the prime suspect.
Tabatha is one witness short of an alibi, and even her best friend Sheriff Andrew Watkins doesn’t believe her. But Tabatha’s not the only one in town who wanted Abigail silenced for good. To clear her name, Tabatha’s going to need all the help she can get.
With her twin sister Jasmine, and her OCD best friend Brittany on her side, she’s prepared to canvas the neighborhood to catch the real murderer. She’s desperate to find the missing painting, but will her quest lead her right into a killer’s snare?
Series Characters - THIS IS JUST A SMALL SAMPLE OF WHAT EACH CHARACTER WILL LOOK LIKE
First Last Name – FMC
- She’s <years old>
o General at least 30 years old. This genre favors “older” characters.
- A <description of who they are and what they’re good at>
o E.g. A witch skilled at kitchen magic.
- She likes to <something related to her store/hobby>
o E.g. Bake love spell cupcakes.
- Sometimes she can <special abilities>
o E.g. Read the future using her Tarot Cards.
- Reason to like her
o E.g. When the people in her small town are on edge, she likes to spray calming mists around the town square.
- Detail about her store/hobby
o E.g. Her cakes all have special magical attributes.
- Detail about her relationship with her “Helpers” and any potential conflict
o E.g. Her mom helps her at the shop, but she tends to talk to customers so much that she scares some of them away.
- Another reason to like her
o E.g. She loves helping people who are down on their luck by giving them extra cookies for free.
- One of her personal philosophies
o E.g. Although magic is nothing to be trifled with, an extra spell or two never hurt anyone.
- She’s single and although she’d like to fall in love at some point, she doesn’t want to because <reason>.
o FMC’s are almost never involved with someone else.
o This is NOT a romance genre.
o There are romantic subplots, but generally there is more than one suiter and she can’t make up her mind, or isn’t interested in each of them for different reasons.
o E.g. She could cast a love spell, but those can be disastrous. She thinks the sheriff is cute but, but he <has some kind of flaw>.
- Her familiar is a <cute animal> named <name>
o This is specific to witch cozies.
o Always use a cute animal
o Black cats are cliché
o The name should be unique.
ALL OF THE OTHER CHARACTERS AND LOCATIONS APPEAR HERE
Scene 1 (Heroine Name - Heroine POV)
Goal – Solve <has a problem> (from your blurb)
Complication(s) – Heroine realizes she <has a problem> and that the soon-to-be murder victim is involved somehow.
Choice – Should she confront the soon-to-be murder victim?
Consequences – Yes. Everyone in town witnesses the confrontation. Victim is dead by the end of this chapter. Note that in cozies, the murder isn’t generally gory and it’s offscreen. Victim should be found somewhere that the FMC frequents. Her shop or her house would be perfect locations.
POV Character's Feelings – Stressed when she’s trying to solve the problem. Angry at the victim. Shocked by the murder.
ALL CHAPTERS WILL APPEAR IN OUTLINE
Scene 1 (Heroine Name - Heroine POV)
Goal – Talk to the suspect from the clue in Ch 8.
Complication(s) – FMC runs into, or seeks out, the suspect from the clue.
Choice – Should she try talking to the suspect about the clue?
Consequences – She casually asks the suspect something related to the clue. (E.g. She’s talking to the victim’s ex-husband. She casually asks how things are going at his job. He tells her that they’re not going well. He lost a huge contract.) The information the suspect gives her makes her even more suspicious of them. (E.g. The ex-husband lost the contract. Is money so tight that he’s willing to kill to get rid of his ex-wife so he doesn’t have to pay alimony anymore?)
POV Character's Feelings – Nervous. She’s worried that <suspect> will realize why she’s asking the questions. The suspect might even figure it out and get mad at her.
END SAMPLE - But in the actual outline, you get a chapter by chapter breakdown.
Cozy Plot Template