Guides to mystery genres are often published–listing many categories, from puzzle-solving and satisfactory endings to horror/violence/sadism that leave you shaking and depressed.
Goodness knows there is enough in the last description in real life today. Maybe someone can explain to me why readers punish themselves by choosing fiction echoing the worst humans can inflict on each other. Is it so those readers can experience this vicariously, and hence avoid practicing it in real life? Or do these novels (plus, it is said, violent video games, movies, and TV programs) present guidelines and impetus to action for some unstable/miserable minds, who then act out their misery using weapons too easily available, as psychologists and others have suggested?
Well, that’s a deep question, but, for my own reading and writing, I choose stories in a category popularly named Cozy. These books intrigue and entertain me. They present characters I enjoy getting to know. They often give a window on human life that, subtly, increases my understanding of others, though a learning experience is not the first reason I choose them. Most of all I want to be entertained–with perhaps a few shivers, but without danger to my general equanimity.
Dictionaries define “cozy” as “snugly, warm, comfortable.” OOOO, snugly. Love that, especially on a cold winter day in my office.
On Writing World.com, Stephen D. Rogers defines the “Cozy” as being “typified by Agatha Christie, containing bloodless crime, and a victim who won’t be missed. The solution can be determined by using emotional (Miss Marple) or logical (Poirot) reasoning.” Well, maybe, though today I think cozy goes beyond that, or at least it does in my own writing. For example, my characters can be subjected to dangerous and vile criminal activity by “bad guys,” and the criminal action can be in full view of readers. It certainly is in my latest novel, A Portrait to Die For, though I admit my sense of humor peeked through in a couple of the tense scenes. In any case, strength, as well as both logic and emotion lead to a solution in all my novels and, in many cases, redemption or a character change in some form.
An inquirer recently asked me if I wrote “Cozy Noir.” That stumped me for a while, especially since Rogers defines “Noir” as ” . . . a mood: gritty, bleak, and unforgiving. The usual brutality is about as far from Cozy as you can get.” So, looking at it that way, I do not write anything near “Noir,” and for that matter would generally stop reading a novel that fit such a description.
I believe all of us–yes, every one of us–need more cozy in our lives. Not just in books, but in real hugs, understanding, thoughtfulness, support, stability and love. Seems to me these things, more than anything else, could begin to address the issue of violence in our real world.
I was recently shown something Barbara Vining, a writer I admire, wrote ” . . . human affections need a tender touch–to awaken desires and aspirations that stabilize the emotions (and) satisfy the deepest longings . . . ” To that I say, “amen.”
Radine at http://www.RadinesBooks.com