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Do I Need to Understand Tropes to Write a Cozy Mystery?

I wish I knew the answer to that question. Maybe by the time I finish my homework, I'll get it.

As a writer who understands rules, guidelines, and beats, I’m never happy when writers and editors come up with new words to describe old concepts. I ignore. I resist. I pretend it’s not happening.

Yes, I do the same thing in life when linguists, academicians, and activists try to alter the language I’m accustomed to. I guess that makes me old-fashioned, stuck in the past, or maybe just plain old.

Regardless of my excuse, I can no longer stick to my guns when it comes to the word “trope.”

Haha, my Word editor just typed “tripe.” 

I’m currently writing a cozy mystery, mindful of the cozy rules: no on-the-page violence, no despicable language, and no graphic sex.


Now must I understand what tropes are to avoid stereotypes in setting, characters, and plot?

If I want to write a series, do I have to learn the difference between novel tropes and series tropes?

Geesh. So be it.

I’m starting with these blog posts to see if I can sort it all out. Wish me luck.

Mystery Tropes I Wish Would Die #2 by T. K. Marnell

Cozy Tropes I Love by Susan McCormick (at I Read What You Write!)

Writing the Cozy Mystery: Series Tropes and Rituals by Elizabeth Spann Craig

Here a Trope, There a Trope, Everywhere a Trope Trope by Maryann Miller


Pat (Patricia) Stoltey is the author of four novels published by Five Star/Cengage: two amateur sleuth, one thriller that was a finalist for a Colorado Book Award in 2015, and the historical mystery Wishing Caswell Dead (December 20, 2017), a finalist for the 2018 Colorado Book Awards. This novel is now available in a large print edition, ebook and trade paperback. Her short story, “Good Work for a Girl,” appeared in the Five Star Anthology, The Spoilt Quilt and Other Frontier Stories: Pioneering Women of the West, released in November 2019.

Pat lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Scottish Terrier Sassy, and brown tabby Katie Cat.

You can learn more about Pat at her website/blog, on Facebook, and Twitter. She was interviewed for the Colorado Sun’s SunLit feature that you can find at the Colorado Sun website.


  1. Interesting questions a writer should ask during the writing process. Thanks for the links to the other blog posts, too. An asset to your post, Pat. I've long been a follower of Elizabeth Spann Craig's blog, always finding good information and advice.

    Did you find your answer?

  2. Sort of! -- I'm especially intrigued by the distinction between genre tropes and the series tropes we need to keep track of to keep our characters consistent from book to book. So yes, I'd say we need to study up on good and bad tropes as well as series tropes no matter which genre we're writing in.

  3. Interesting questions, Pat. I have a couple more.

    Are cozy mysteries a trope all by themselves? Amateur sleuth finds body. Multiple suspects. Killer revealed.

    Are Romantic Suspense novels (standalones) also a trope? Woman meets man. Man and woman hate each other. Crime happens. Woman and man solve crime. Woman and man fall in love.

    Are those tropes, or are they formulas?

    1. Good questions, Polly, especially as my cozy mystery has multiple bodies, none found by the main sleuth character. I'm doomed.

    2. You're not doomed. You're original.

  4. Oh, my goodness! Do I need to understand tropes to write a cozy mystery? In my case, do I need to understand tropes to write anything? Several of the items listed as tropes in these discussions appear in my writing manual under different names, as someone else has mentioned in their case. Like Maryann, I appreciate the links because I need all the help I can get. :-)


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