Monday, October 21, 2013

4 Questions to Ask About Your Cozy Character’s Job

What your character does for a living is perhaps more important in a cozy mystery than other forms of fiction because it’s often the setting where most of the action takes place. For example, when I decided to write a cozy mystery series about natural remedies, it seemed logical to make my lead character a holistic doctor and for her to run a health food store called Nature’s Way Market and Café, in my hometown of Greenport on Long Island’s East End.
I knew the building where the store would be housed had to serve multiple purposes: a place to live and to work. So I decided on three stories, one for the store, the second for the yoga studio, and the third for Willow’s living space and two offices for her masseuse and acupuncturist friends to work. Now, I’m thinking of adding an office where Willow can see patients on the second floor opposite the yoga studio. But instead of having to call a contractor, I just have to write it! Much faster and less expensive!
Other authors’ characters and fictional businesses evolve in a similar way.
  • Laura Child has an interest in tea and writes tea shop mysteries that take place in the Indigo Tea Shop in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • Diane Mott Davidson enjoys cooking, and her main character Goldy Schulz, who is a caterer, works out of her home in Aspen Meadow, Colorado.
  • Anne Canadeo, a novice knitter, writes about the Black Sheep Knitters, who meet in the shop of the same name in Plum Harbor, Massachusetts.
Basically, it’s the old adage: write what you know, or what you want to know more about.  
What your character does for a living also matters when it comes to character development and the plot of your story. For example, since my character Willow McQuade is a holistic doctor and health food store owner, it makes sense she would be interested in medicinal plants. So in my third book The Garden of Death, which I’m writing now, it’s logical that with her interests, she would turn the lot next door into a garden. Once she does, all kinds of things happen that relate to this project, including murder!
The fun part is that you can make your characters into whatever you want without having to get an education! The only limit is your imagination.

Questions About Your Character’s Job

Use these questions to help you start thinking about what your fictional character’s profession and fictional business:

1. What is your character’s profession?

Shop owner, doctor, lawyer, vet, elementary school teacher, detective, gardener, golfer, pastry chef? For more themes visit Cozy Mystery List. What appeals to you? Writing about animals or writing about holidays or hobbies like needlework?

2. What kind of fictional business does he have?

How does it intersect with others and the community?  What kind of business do you think will provide the most interesting setting for your plots? For example, in my cozies, Willow moves through different venues with ease. In Death Drops, the action is focused around Nature’s Way; in Scent to Kill, she provides services for a movie crew on location; and in The Garden of Death, the action centers around the garden.
All of these are opportunities for murders to happen, plots to develop, answers to be found, and characters to grow, evolve and mature. For example, in my first book Death Drops, Willow McQuade was a novice detective but by book #3 Garden of Death, she is a seasoned investigator. She’s also more confident and in control.

3. Where does the action take place?

Indoors or outdoors? In a sunny climate or in ice and snow? Is it a small town community or big city living? Is she a solo practitioner or does she work with others?

4. Given your character’s profession and business what are the possibilities for interesting plots and murders?

For example, if you choose a scientist who only interacts with algae, your plots might be a bit thin! You’ll want it to be someone who is in a community whatever that means and whose actions, beget action.
Use these questions to get you thinking!

Tell me your opinion: What does your protagonist do for a living and how does his work influence the plot?

 Leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway for two copies of my  latest mystery Scent to Kill: A Natural Remedies Mystery!

Chrystle Fiedler is the author of SCENT TO KILL, (Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster) the second in the NATURAL REMEDIES MYSTERY series, DEATH DROPS: A Natural Remedies Mystery, the non-fiction title THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO NATURAL REMEDIES (Alpha, 2009), co-author of BEAT SUGAR ADDICTION NOW! (Fairwinds Press, 2010), currently in its fourth printing, the BEAT SUGAR ADDICTION NOW!COOKBOOK (Fairwinds Press, 2012) and THE COUNTRY ALMANAC OF HOME REMEDIES (Fairwinds, 2011). Chrystle’s magazine articles featuring natural remedies have appeared in many national publications including Natural Health, Vegetarian Times, Better Homes & Gardens and Remedy. Visit


Linda O. Johnston said...

I absolutely agree that your protag has to have an appropriate career, Chrystle. In my Pet Rescue Mysteries, Lauren is--what else?--a pet rescuer! That series is a spinoff from my Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mystery series and, yes, Kendra is a pet-sitter and also a lawyer who does a lot of legal work in pet issues.

Monica Ferris said...

My sleuth inherited a needlework shop when her sister was murdered. She didn't know a whole lot about needlework - neither did I -- but as I learn, so does Betsy. In the forthcoming book, The Drowning Spool, you may well deduce that I am learning punch needle, since that's the class Betsy is teaching in a senior residence. I'm going to explore crochet lace in the book I'm just beginning.

Rosemary said...

What a helpful list for budding authors. I need to go and rethink the plot of the novel that's been on the go for several years - but I'm definitely keeping the beginning!

Rosemary said...

What a helpful list for budding authors. I need to go and rethink the plot of the novel that's been on the go for several years - but I'm definitely keeping the beginning!

traveler said...

I enjoy reading about a protag with a meaningful career. To me a successful and hardworking entrepreneur is always captivating and fascinating.

Betty Hechtman said...

My whole crochet series started with my desire to learn how to make granny squares. I learned from a kid's kit I found in Las Vegas. And what do you know, that's how my character Molly Pink learned to crochet as well.

Chrystle Fiedler said...

I'm SO glad that you found my post helpful! The week got away from me and I'm just back now! I'll announce the winner next week. Thank you for stopping by! Chrystle