Today I want to talk about humor in mysteries—specifically cozies—and the challenge of keeping something as serious as murder light-hearted.
It’s a delicate balance.
The death needs to impact the amateur sleuth enough so as to be realistic and so they don’t appear callous, but the story also needs to stay light enough to satisfy traditional cozy readers. After all, we don’t read cozies to feel woefully depressed (that’s what the news is for, ha!).
Here are a few tricks I’ve learned to do this:
- Leverage voice—have the MC make funny observations about her/his world or the investigative process. BUT the catch is to also maintain a depth of emotion between quips.
- Slapstick—put your amateur sleuth in funny scenarios that tend toward hilarity. Consider having her/him trip over the body or act clumsy in some other way (think Stephanie Plum).
- Witty dialogue—even the most intense scenes can benefit from witty dialogue. Plus it’s realistic; we all know those folks who crack jokes as a way to process.
- Comedic relief character—have one character who always seems to lighten the mood à la C3PO in Star Wars.
- Cats—there’s a reason cozies always feature a cat (or other cuddly creature); they’re cute and never fail to lighten every scene they appear in!
Writers, how do you balance humor in mysteries? Readers, can you think of humor in cozies you have especially enjoyed?