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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Cozy v. Traditional by Kait Carson

In April of 2016 traditional publishing houses attempted murder. Their victim, the cozy mystery. You can read all about this distant, and unsuccessful, crime here. Readers and writers rallied round. Most of the culled authors found homes with other traditional publishers and/or they went indie. Readers kept buying and supporting cozy authors. In the end, the cozy lived. Long live the cozy. This is a good thing because along came the pandemic, and we ALL needed to escape into the cozy world. 

Recently, Becky Clark asked her Facebook friends about the differences between cozy and traditional. There were a number of answers. The general consensus is that all cozies are traditional mysteries, but not all traditional mysteries are cozies. Who else heard a screeching sound similar to a needle skipping over a vinyl record? Who else knows what a vinyl record is? Okay, moving on… 

The cozy, epitomized by Miss Marple featured an amateur sleuth in a small town, violent crime took place off the page accompanied by little blood, and less cussing. The traditional enjoyed a broader definition, could, although not necessarily have a harder edge, and the violence may or may not take place on the page. The traditional is still a mild read, sometimes with saltier language, but It doesn’t impinge on noir, thriller, or suspense territory. Cozies often have recipes at the end, quirky characters, and can be lighthearted and humorous. Traditional mysteries lack recipes, their characters not so quirky, humor is welcome, but it’s rarely laugh out loud. 

One result of the attempted murder of the cozy was to create a semi-hybrid genre. Cozies, that while still softer, featured ripped from the headlines crimes. Their protagonists no longer stumbled on crimes and cringed. They took pride in their crime-solving accomplishments. Instead of accidently discovering clues, they actively pursued them, sometimes working in opposition to law enforcement, but sometimes alongside them. 

These new cozy traditional protagonists are a diverse group. They do not seek out violence, but they do not shirk from it. While they don’t carry guns (yet) they may well have a black belt and are not afraid to use it. Their age groups span the gamut from newly hatched college graduates to retirees. Readers eagerly embraced this new genre. Revamped publishing houses caught on and cozies with a traditional edge (or traditional mysteries with a cozy edge) became the norm. 

Just as protagonists and story lines became more diverse, so too did the cozy genre. It’s an exciting time to be a writer. 

Readers and writers, how do you see the difference between cozy and traditional? Does it matter? 

5 comments:

Debra H. Goldstein said...

Only for how the cover looks and what shelf it is placed on. The distinctions you mention are there, but I think the lines have blurred some.

Kait said...

Good points, Debra.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

The covers are the biggest indicator, followed by quirky characters and, per Jane Cleland, a narrative tone of "whimsical repartee."

I write traditional with cozy elements.

Kait said...

Definitely covers! Have you noticed though, that they are changing, too?

KM Rockwood said...

Just as the English language in general, the definitions of various genre are in flux. Given the overlapping, the quirky originals and the evolving types, putting a finger on any one genre is difficult.

It may be hard to define the categories of crime fiction (I even hate to limit it to specifically "mysteries") but to borrow a phrase from the discussion of another type of literary production, I know what I like.

Covers and blurbs go a long way to helping us sort things out.