Creating the Amateur Sleuth
by C.S. Challinor
“Rex Graves, Scottish Barrister: Ms. Challinor has crafted a world class detective, a charming sleuth who uses his prosecutorial expertise to work his way through method and motive. Novels are often compared Agatha Christie.”
“... At times, it seems we are playing Clue or perhaps enjoying a contemporary retelling of a classic Agatha Christie tale with a charming new sleuth. A must for cozy fans." - Booklist (American Library Association)
I’m assuming most, if not all, of you reading this are writing or thinking about writing a mystery. If that’s the case, many of you will already know the basic rules of writing mysteries and I’ll cover that to a certain extent, but what I’d like to focus on, and what I feel might be most helpful, is to discuss writing the whodunit in the context of the amateur sleuth. Much of how you write your mystery will depend on your protagonist—your main character around whom the story unfolds. I shall refer to the amateur sleuth as the AS. The amateur sleuth or AS is typically the solver of cases in cozy mysteries, an exception being M. C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth, a village policeman, or bobby, as we would say in the UK.
Cozy mysteries are most often set in villages or remote areas—an English country house or rural Kansas, for example. The professional private detective or PI belongs to the grittier, hard-boiled mystery genre, more likely to take place in an urban setting, such as New York or Boston: John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee and Robert B. Parker’s Police Chief Jesse Stone, for example. My talk will concentrate on the amateur sleuth, though there will inevitably be some cross-over. I’ll discuss Required Attributes, choice of Profession, pointers on Appearance, whether to have a Love Interest, and basics on Background.
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