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.
- has an interest in tea and writes tea shop mysteries that take place in the Indigo Tea Shop in Charleston, South Carolina.
- enjoys cooking, and her main character Goldy Schulz, who is a caterer, works out of her home in Aspen Meadow, Colorado.
- , a novice knitter, writes about the Black Sheep Knitters, who meet in the shop of the same name in Plum Harbor, Massachusetts.
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 , 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 . 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 , the action is focused around Nature’s Way; in , she provides services for a movie crew on location; and in 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 , Willow McQuade was a novice detective but by book #3 , 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!
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 www.chrystlefiedler.com.